CSES is officially known as the Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society, founded in 1920 as the Chelmsford Engineering Society (CES), but its roots go back a little before this time.
Since the end of the first world war, engineers from local companies (Marconi, Hoffmann, Crompton-Parkinson, Christy Norris etc – then all major players) would gather to discuss their interests and relevant technical matters. This group was known as the Chelmsford Junior Society of Engineers (CJSE).
Following a determined effort, apprentices from Crompton-Parkinson formally joined forces with Hoffmann and Marconi, and on Wednesday 13 October 1920, the Chelmsford Engineering Society was launched with a talk at the Institution of Agriculture by Tom Dann, works manager of Crompton-Parkinson, on Electric Traction. Tom also became the Society's first president.
With more than 100 members by its second year, the Society became – and remains – the hub of engineering, technology and science in Chelmsford. The 'parent' companies, now part of Chelmsford's illustrious history, have undergone many changes but keen engineers continue to meet to this day.
One of the Society's principal aims has always been to further the understanding of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) both within its members and to the wider world. Since its inception, the Society has held regular meetings to educate, excite and enthuse.
These were held at various venues, including the EEV (now Teledyne e2v) site for over 30 years. In the mid-90s the talks were rehomed to take advantage of the Telford Lecture Theatre at the Marconi Research (now BAE Systems) site in Great Baddow. As that era closed, the Society's relationship with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) strengthened significantly and the majority of CSES activities started to take place there.
In the 1970s, the Society began to hold an annual Schools' Competition. This marked the beginning of an expansion of the Society's remit to include the encouragement of young people to develop their skills in STEM subjects and to consider careers in relevant industries. CSES is now a key provider and coordinator of STEM education activity in Essex.
In 2012, CSES launched Engineering Our Future (now part of My Smarter Essex), a series of mini-conferences aimed at students. Each event focuses on a particular topic, and explores how developments in science and technology apply to it. This marked the start of the latest chapter in the history of CSES: becoming a facilitator and technical authority for key stakeholders (local government, businesses, the education sector and the public) to collaborate on the issues, sectors and technologies that drive innovation and industry in the region, whilst retaining our core purpose to reveal and promote awareness of STEM in people's everyday lives and excite young people to build careers in STEM.
Underpinned by sponsorship and in-kind support from organisations across Essex, and with a dedicated and growing membership, the Society's mission remains the same. However, its delivery has moved with the times, taking advantage of technology developments, as would befit an engineering society!
If you'd like to find out more about Chelmsford's industrial history, here is some excellent material created by CSES members and frequent collaborators Tim Wander, Alan Hartley-Smith and Alan Pamphilon:
And we are pleased to advise that the tradition of local radio is very much alive in Chelmsford today, including the world's first radio station: