Newsletter 2015 – Edition number 17

Marconi in the City of Chelmsford

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Peter Turrall, MVA Chairman

New Street
New Street, January 2015

According to recent reports from our local newspaper The Essex Chronicle, Chelmsford City Council is contemplating changing the dozen or so large brown signs on all the entries to our county town of Chelmsford which state ‘Chelmsford the Birthplace of Radio’. These signs of course refer to our own Marconi Company and certainly make visitors and residents aware that history was made in this city many years ago.

The suggestion is for new signs to portray Hylands House, a good mile out of the city, which does not give any indication of Chelmsford’s major industrial past. It was Marconi and other major industries such as Hoffmann, Crompton, Clarkson and Christy who put Chelmsford on the map, fostering its development from a sleepy market town with a population of 30,000 citizens in the early 1900s, to a major industrial centre. This gave employment to thousands and a start to other enterprises to set up shops and offices to cater for the needs of an increasing population which has now reached nearly 200,000.

Already strong comments have been made by local residents and ex-Marconi personnel to both the city council and the local newspapers stating that the signs should cover Chelmsford’s industrial achievements especially as Marconi in Chelmsford was the start of worldwide wireless communications and other associated engineering achievements.

It is unfortunate that our city council does not highlight the industrial past of Chelmsford, which in itself, if portrayed correctly, is an enormous tourist attraction. Apart from the museum in Oaklands Park and, way out of the city, Sandford Mill, and a Marconi statue hidden behind the local bus station, there is nothing in the city centre illustrating the achievements of these world renowned organisations. It has been suggested to the city council that a kiosk giving information about local attractions of historical interest and where to find them could be sited opposite the Shire Hall in the city centre. At the moment this suggestion has not been acted on.

The Marconi New Street building, which has for over one hundred years been the centre point of all major visits to the company, is now in good shape having been modernised and the front gardens spruced up. This building will shortly be used by an unknown pharmaceutical company as their headquarters. To date it has not been possible to contact this organisation with the hope that the Marconi Veterans Association could utilise one of the areas to portray the history of the company and/or display some of the products manufactured in the original factory. (Photo taken on 29th January, just before four workmen in hard hats and grubby high-vis jackets together with a heavy load fork-lift carrying a mini-skip turned up at the front door)