95 YEARS – A CELEBRATION OF RADIO STATION 2MT

February 14th 2017 marks the 95th anniversary of the start of Britain’s first ever regular, advertised broadcast radio station, 2MT, which came live from Writtle in Essex.

To commemorate this anniversary, and to celebrate the young, pioneering team of engineers, the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society will be transmitting from the same building from where the original broadcasts commenced.  One of their members, Jim Salmon, will also be operating a three-day internet radio service, Radio Emma Toc, featuring radio related documentaries, vintage comedies and live programmes from various locations.

The first 2MT broadcast started at 7.15pm on 14th February 1922 from an ex-army Marconi hut – a ‘Long Low Hut’ – sited in a waterlogged field in Lawford Lane Writtle. This famous hut is now on permanent display at Sandford Mill, Chelmsford, and can be visited during the summer open days at the Mill.

Members of the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society – CARS – regularly transmit to fellow amateur radio hams from this historic hut and, for this celebration, a team from CARS will be making contact with fellow amateurs on the 12th and 14th February. A special event call sign, GB95 2MT, will be used to mark this occasion.

Tim Wander, Consultant at Sandford Mill and Chelmsford Museums, describes the original 2MT broadcasts. He says: “The 2MT team offered its listeners impromptu comedy sketches, the first ever broadcast radio play, dedicated children’s five minute spots, impersonations, guest artistes, burlesque entertainments and even parodies of grand opera.  Nothing like it had been heard before – it was a new type of entertainment and it made history.

“The power behind the microphone was Marconi engineer, Captain Peter Eckersley, who as Britain’s first ‘DJ’ brought an amazing light-hearted spirit and comic skill to the new art of radio broadcasting. His sheer joie de vivre bubbled across the ether and he was not only the first, but also talked to his listeners as if they were in the room with him – and his listeners, estimated at over 20,000 people, loved him and the station.

“Often a one-man show, but always a team effort, 2MT at Writtle wrote a crucial chapter in the history of radio and broadcasting and directly led to the formation of the BBC in 1922.”

Jim Salmon, of Radio Emma Toc, says: “We will not try to recreate station 2MT – how could we?  We live in a very different age.  What we would like to recreate is the spirit and adventure of 2MT, to be ‘born in laughter and nurtured in laughter’.”

He continued: “If all goes to plan, our online radio station will be available to a worldwide audience via the internet, and the amateur radio transmissions will hopefully be beamed across the ether to distant shores. Of course, as with the best laid plans – there is a vast potential for things to go wrong, however this would be in keeping with the pioneering character of radio experimenters of the time!”

The team is also planning the centenary celebrations of the birth of British broadcasting in Chelmsford, and if you would like more detail please visit www.emmatoc.com.

For a programme schedule and information on Radio Emma Toc, visit www.emmatoc.com.

For details on the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society and training courses provided by them, visit www.g0mwt.org.uk.

Sandford Mill will be open to the public on Sunday 9 July for the Science Discovery Day: The Great Outdoors!, which will give school children the chance to experience the Long Low Hut and view Marconi’s radio technology and TV cameras. To discover more, visit www.chelmsford.gov.uk/museums .

Elettra III

We have received the following information from Seth Muir in Seattle.  The pictures and drawings have been augmented by additional material from Marconi Marine 

Webmaster

My name is Seth Muir and I’m the Executive Director of Salish Sea Expeditions, a Seattle Washington USA based non-profit charity. For 20 years we have been engaging middle and high school students, primarily from public schools, in science research and maritime skills programs on Puget Sound aboard a 61′ sailing research vessel.

I’m writing because in 2015 we purchased the M/V Elettra III (o/n 694607; BRIT304285) from a private owner here in Seattle. We have begun to retro-fit and plan to relaunch her as our region’s first science and marine technology laboratory and research vessel for kids.  We have made great progress and I thought you might be interested in our exciting new plan for this historic vessel built to Lloyd’s class for the Marconi Company.

Some materials about our progress (including the Act of Congress we received) and the campaign underway to relaunch Elettra III as a student lab can be found here. I also recently won a prize pitching this idea, and a short video can be seen here which tells the story and highlights our plans.

If this is of interest at all to you, I’d love to talk more. If you ever happen to be in this area we’d love to show you around and might have some original equipment coming off the boat that could be of interest too.

My information is all below, and I thank you for your interest.


The original order and the shipyard


The launch of Elettra III


Fitting out Elettra III

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Description of the vessel 1962


Plans of the vessel as built 1962

 


Elettra III from above 2016

 

Sandford Mill News

News from the Mill

from  Tim Wander

A busy summer! Having stepped into the breach (so to speak) at the Mill to help Nick and the team after Nick Sturgess’s departure earlier this year – this summer has been both fascinating, interesting and all times a little frustrating – but a lot of progress has been made.

Firstly thank you to all the volunteers from all the different  groups whose efforts continue to make Sandford Mill a unique and inspiring building – part museum, part store, part repository, part classroom, outward bound centre, school and many other things – hence the new signs I put up for open day – that just say…Sandford Mill.

You have to be there for a while to even work out the many different things that go on. On the building side I have been able to lend my support to push on with a series of building and site checks – all have gone well and the electrical fault in the classroom pump room has now been resolved.

On the museum front,  in the short time available, I have managed to reorganise parts of the collection and document, reclassify and move around other parts into logical groups. This along with several clear outs has made some limited space – (which seems to be filling rapidly even now).

Some fascinating museum finds have been identified – the YB1 radio from 1918 (but with a ‘needs more research’ provenance associated with the first BBC broadcasts through early 1923) and the HS55A amplifier (1917) are very rare items and both are planned to be gently restored. We have managed to restore the original 2MT Piano stool and Peter Bridgeman has done a fantastic job with the T1154 and R1155 refurbs – now on display at Oakland’s. Colin Page is also working on one of the Marconi Mores code inkers which is in an very poor condition.

Other projects now ongoing include the 1971 LOCUS 16 Computer – the world’s first 16 bit minicomputer donated last year by BAE systems which has been installed and is now being rebuilt at the Mill. This is the only surviving complete example in the world. The Television volunteer engineering team has grown and sound and vision seem to have been restored …..there is even a rumour that one of the new volunteers has just fixed a design fault on a circuit board on a Camera that was shipped in 1966 – 50 years on – now that is proper after sales service.

We have also started an internal revamp and reorganisation of the famous 2MT Writtle Hut, working toward  the rapidly approaching centenaries  – January 2020 through to November 2020 for the  Chelmsford Broadcasts, (June 2020 for  Dame Nellie’s Concert) and of course February 2022 starts the 100th anniversary year of 2MT. A lot of planning is already underway including a planned 95th trial celebration/broadcast from ‘2MT’ in February 2017 – we hope to produce actual concerts and broadcasts at the correct time and place – 100 (and 95) years on. Watch this space for future updates.

As part of all this I am attempting to find time to rework the 2012 New Street Works book into a 2020 Centenary celebration for the New Street works and Melba’s broadcast – so if you have any memories or anecdotes or photographs of the factory that didn’t make it the first time, please send them in. I have received many since it first came out and many found new photographs, including a large section, sadly, on the sites recent demolition and “rebuild” – photographed and recorded over several years by Susan and Richard Wilson.

I also hope to rewrite the 2MT Writtle Book in some form for the centenary– (yes again) Since the 2010 edition much more research has come in (especially re the RFC origins of the 2MT team) and many more photographs have turned up. If you have anything to add to the 2MT story please email me – indeed if you would like to help email me!!

As per Hall Street this spring, any proceeds from these hopefully ‘fascinating reads’ will go toward the Centenary project funding. There will also be a dedicated website to the centenary plans and we are hoping to produce a short video or two to promote the events. Watch this space!

And now some appeals for the Museum:-

  1. Does anyone know of – or can you guess from your career history – where we might find a Marconi Myriad Computer? Today we (i.e. the National Computer Museum, Leeds University, Sandford Mill et al) cannot find any surviving example: I have vague memories about AFTN Switching in Cyprus (FLIGHT report confirms installation in 1967) and South Africa military switches – can you help?

myriadbaddow-tower

  1. We are trying to get the important Great Baddow Chain Home Radar Mast listed – you may be surprised to know that due to several ‘technical’ reasons this unique and only complete surviving CH radar mast has effectively no statutory protection. I have to assemble a report about its use from 1954 until today. This history, when coupled with its important wartime history, will allow us to have another go – so any information please email me – I need to cover all its uses – for radar, TV, microwave projects etc. Thanks.
  1. As the Centenary fast approaches we are urgently seeking the loan of any early wireless equipment from WW1 and RFC use designed by the Brooklyn/Joyce Green RFC and later Writtle engineering teams. So can anyone loan us a Sterling W/T set or one of the early AD series of equipment designed, built and tested by Eckersley and his team between 1919 and 1922?

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  1. The Hut now has an original 1916 tortoise stove in place and a correct Cliftophone gramophone on its way. We are looking for a 78 RPM record of Robert Howe singing the ‘Floral Dance’ – the first record to be played on 2MT.
  1. We are still looking for an elusive picture of the Hall Streets Works wireless station – the one across the road from the main factory site…anyone seen one?
  1. We are looking for more information on the Broomfield Wireless Station – formed in 1903 and badly damaged in WW2 – does anyone have any pictures or can point me to a source?

The 2MT transmitter rebuild is also gathering pace – through a generous donation to the museum we have now been able to provide all the original Marconi valves and new displays are being planned including a history the valve from ‘Fleming to Acorn’ – and a new display dedicated to the career of Peter Eckersley. Indeed a huge amount of volunteer effort has gone into sorting out the Mill’s huge valve collection and there have been some very early and possibly unique finds that we hope to display soon.

So while working on the future centenaries of British Broadcasting at the Mill – we were also pleased to accept on long term loan the amazing recreation of the Titanic Radio Room built by Ted Sinclair and first seen at the successful Hall Street exhibition earlier this year. I have also managed to have a first pass revamp of just some of the displays at Oaklands Museum – more planned in January.

The Sandford Mill Museum area has also had its own ‘revamp’ of some of the displays – much more work needs to be done – interestingly the Museum holds potentially the largest collection of original MIMCO equipment in the world – now being documented in a separate project.

The two Mill ‘open days’ were very well attended with numerous museum tours and hut tours telling the story of Marconi, Crompton’s, Safety at Sea, the Titanic and, of course, the birth of British Broadcasting. Thanks to all who those who came and those who helped.

A new line of research has been the Mill’s Filter House – with each tour attracting 60 plus people. The story of Chelmsford’s turbulent and, at times, difficult water supply from 1815-1984 has met with a lot of interest and several new projects are being based around this unique building and indeed the history of Sandford Mill itself. The Filter House is probably the last of its type in the world that went from “black” river water to chlorinated/softened/Ph controlled drinkable water in one building – producing some 3 million gallons everyday.

On a slightly smaller scale Jim and the team have nearly rebuilt the water wheel and the volunteers continue to support the education team with their many “hands on” working displays and demonstrators. Even some horses harnesses  from an earlier century are being restored – proving it’s not all science and engineering based here at the Mill!.

Best Regards,

Tim Wander (G6GUX yes offcom just gave it back -)

timwander@compuserve.com

 

 

 

Clifden Marconi Project – opening 18 September 2016

This is an update to the earlier post of 26 August with pictures from Shane Joyce showing the opening event on 18 September.

2191-opening-derrygimlagh-loop-connemara-michael-kirwan-michael-gibbons-shane-joyce 2190-1-opening-derrygimlagh-loop-connemara-michael-gibbons-and-shane-joyce-with-radio-people 2168-opening-derrygimlagh-loop-connemara 2180-opening-derrygimlagh-loop-connemara 2181-opening-derrygimlagh-loop-connemara 2178-opening-derrygimlagh-loop-connemara

There have been several references to the Marconi radio site at Clifden in Connemara on this site and in the annual newsletter.  This is the latest information we have received from Shane Joyce who has done much to publicise the site and the Marconi connections.

You are all cordially invited to our local opening of the recently completed Clifden Marconi Project which consist of a 4.6km walking trail over the original pathways used by the Marconi personnel.

There is a large number of information panels, “Photoscopes” and Audio devices amongst many other items along the trail.  Alcock & Brown, being a major  part of the story of the site, feature prominently, of course.

The opening has been scheduled to be on during Clifden Arts festival which is a brilliant event in its own right, now in its 39th year.

This alone is well worth a visit to our town.

https://www.clifdenartsfestival.ie/

Clifden Chamber of Commerce were the key local partner which made the project possible.  This is their formal invitation

Chamber Invitation

The other key partners are Failte Ireland and Galway County Council to whom we are very grateful.

As a lead-in to this event there will be a party on Saturday the 17th  under the auspices of the Clifden Chamber

Anyone with Marconi connections will be very welcome to join Shane at this event.  If anyone is considering travelling to Connemara they can contact Shane via the comments field below.

These two pictures are the latest we have received

Power House Photoscope Then & Now

Articles about Clifden were published in the Newsletters for 2008, 2011 and 2013

Below, as a reminder, are some pictures of the site that were published in 2013

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Hall Street Exhibition 2016

Guglielmo_Marconi_1901_wireless_signalFor the last day of this exhibition a display of the equipment shown in this well known photograph from 1901 has been arranged.

This will include the coherer receiver and spark coil, both originals and would have been manufactured at Hall Street, a Siemens morse inker that was badged and sold by Marconi, a grasshopper key and a Marconi galvanometer.

Update from 29 May

The nearest we can get to the original photograph

Original equipment, generally from around 1901. Here in spirit

Equipment details

P1010148A P1010150A P1010151A P1010149A P1010152A

Here is an interview by Steve Clow (ex Essex Chronicle) of the two gentlemen who brought this equipment to Hall Street for the last day of the exhibition

Marconi Hall Street – March 2016

This page was updated on 26 March 2016

The Marconi exhibition in the original company works in Hall Street, Chelmsford was opened on Friday 11 March by the Chelmsford Town Crier Tony Appleton

Below are pictures to give a flavour of the exhibition.  On this opening day some exhibits had not yet arrived and BBC Essex had not completed their display.  Further pictures will be added in the coming weeks.

Opening of exhibition by Chelmsford town crier Tony Appleton P1000252A East wall of the exhibition area P1000263A P1000262A P1000259A P1000265A P1000266A

Pictures taken on the evening of 18 March when Tim Wander spoke on Hall Street and Marconi: Building the wireless age.

Tim Wander signing books Alan Hartley Smith, Marconi Heritage Group Chris Neale, exhibition organiser Part of BBC Essex exhibit

Pictures taken on the evening of 25 March when Dave Monk from BBC Essex gave a presentation titled The BBC and Me and my life behind the Mic.

Dave Monk, BBC Essex Dave Monk, BBC Essex Dave Monk, BBC Essex Dave Monk, BBC EssexDave Monk, BBC Essex Dave Monk, BBC Essex Dave Monk, BBC Essex Dave Monk, BBC Essex Dave Monk, BBC Essex

The Easter Bunny was in the audience.

The Easter Bunny The Easter Bunny

Marconi Hall Street works – exhibition

This is a short reminder that the public exhibition at Hall Street, Chelmsford opens this Friday 11 March at 11.00 am.

The event will formally be opened by Chelmsford’s town crier, Tony Appleton and Peter Turrall, chairman of the Marconi Veterans Association will be there to show visitors around until midday and to answer any questions. The exhibition will be open every Saturday & Sunday from 11.00am – 3.00pm with Free Entry, finally closing on Sunday 29th May 2016.

Special events planned during the open period include:

Friday 18 March at 7.00pm Tim Wander, curator, Marconi historian, author – will speak on ‘Hall Street and Marconi: Building the Wireless Age’. Tim’s book ‘Marconi’s Hall Street Works: The World’s First Wireless Factory’ is made possible by a grant from Essex Heritage Trust with proceeds from book sales going towards the exhibition. Entry £5.

Friday 25 March at 7.00pm Dave Monk, BBC Essex well known broadcaster, will speak on The BBC and Me and his life behind the microphone. Entry FREE.

Friday 1 April at 7.00pm Ray Clark, broadcaster and author – All at Sea – the exciting story of offshore radio – ‘Radio Caroline’ the true story of the boat that rocked. Entry FREE.

Thursday, 14 April 2016 at 7.00pm Tim Maitlin, Titanic historian, author and broadcaster, will speak on The Role of the Wireless in the Titanic Tragedy on the 104th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Entry £5.

Friday, 22 April 2016 at 7.00pm Dr Elizabeth Bruton from the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford will talk on The Battle of Jutland. As we approach the centenary of the battle, she will reconsider and re-evaluate the use and impact of wireless communications upon the battle, in particular decisions made by the British commanders. Entry £5.

Please book all these talks on the Chelmsford Civic Society page of Eventbrite. http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/chelmsford-civic-society

Marconi’s Hall Street Works: 1898 – 1912

by

Tim Wander

 

Book cover

By the end of 1898 Guglielmo Marconi’s fledgling new Wireless Telegraph Company was just over two years old. The young Italian engineer was exhausted from endless months of intense testing and developments, trying to prove that his system of wireless communication was a viable commercial proposition. But Marconi had no customers and his company was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. However Marconi was no ordinary man. He believed in his system and he believed that the orders would come and that he would need to fulfil them.

In January 1899, in a brave, perhaps even reckless move, he opened the world’s first wireless factory in Chelmsford, employing 20 people. For a time his new factory had to scramble for sub-contract manufacture, but over the next 13 years the Hall Street Works engineers, technicians and staff were to build the foundations of a new wireless age.

Soon the Hall Street Works would send equipment to the Boer War, the Chinese Boxer Rebellion and supply the huge Poldhu and Clifden transatlantic stations. In December 1901, against all the odds, Marconi managed to receive a wireless message sent across the Atlantic Ocean, over 2,170 miles, and much of the equipment was built in the Hall Street Works. Despite Marconi and his Company becoming world famous it was still a desperate struggle to find paying customers for his new ‘wire-less’ system. On 8th May 1901 the Royal Navy would place the first order for 32 sets, which was increased to 108 sets by 1905.

The Hall Street Works then supplied all the equipment for Marconi’s growing network of coastal wireless stations and started to equip increasing numbers of civilian ships. The factory supplied customers across the globe including the Amazon Basin, Hawaii, Congo, Thailand, South Africa, India, Canada and even to both sides in the Balkan War of 1912. It was Marconi wireless equipment manufactured in Hall Street installed aboard the ill-fated RMS Titanic that saved over 730 people when the great ship was lost in 1912 and over 760 people when the RMS Lusitania was sunk in May 1915. This successful use of wireless for safety at sea effectively generated a new and vast market for Marconi’s equipment.

In the same year the Hall Street Works officially closed its doors as the huge New Street Works took over the workload and the world’s first wireless factory fell silent, apart from its wireless station across the road that continued to eavesdrop on the German fleet feeding vital intelligence to the Navy’s top secret Room 40 code breakers. It was this and all the work done at Hall Street that ensured that Britain and the Marconi Company were ready to face the extreme demands of a world now at war.