Ballroom at the Shire Hall, Chelmsford

Ballroom at the Shire Hall, Chelmsford

The elegant neoclassical County Room in Chelmsford's Shire Hall was frequently used for balls throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Walter Bayes depicts one such event, its white-tie-and-tails gentility shattered by the loud laughter of a woman in green in the foreground. Two years before Bayes painted this picture, the same room had witnessed one of the strangest events in the Hall's history. A woman leaving a dance in the summer of 1938 died when her crinoline caught fire on the steps. The Coroner's inquest, however, failed to find the cause of the fire and under subsequent tests, the dress failed to ignite.