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Marconi Premises

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 4 months ago

Organisation

Chronology

Training

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Introduction

The various Marconi establishments occupied many different buildings over the years. See also Locations for full list in Essex

 

London

 

Electra House

Replacing the original Electra House in Moorgate this was located on the Victoria Embankment. !t was the headquarters of Imperial and International Communications (which became Cable & Wireless Limited in 1934) and also the Head Office of Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd, and the Marconi International Marine Communications Co, Ltd. circa 1933. In WW2 it was hit by a V1 flying bomb in July 1944, but did not stop daily operations. It continued to be a hub for telecommunications activities when new owners BT Group took over occupation until its final demolition and replacement by a new building.

 

 

 

 

 

Marconi House


During a period of expansion in Chelmsford, Godfrey Isaacs, Managing Director of the Company, decided that new Headquarters were necessary due to staff overcrowding in their existing buildings in London.

Concurrently, the Gaiety Restaurant and its associated block of luxury flats were vacant. The Marconi Company made an offer to the owners, the London County Council, and a 99-year lease was agreed. The necessary structural alterations were completed quickly and on 25 March 1912, Marconi House was officially opened.

The features in this new building included: 'a counter from which Marconigrams can be received for transmission to all parts of the world. Next to that a public telephone for the use of visitors waiting to keep appointments. The main lift is capable of carrying twelve passengers... on the right hand of the waiting room is a telephone exchange containing three switchboards, one fitted with 100 lines.'

 

(Source: The Marconigraph June 1912)

Following the success of the Melba broadcast from the Marconi factory in New Street Chelmsford in June 1920, Marconi House was later to house the 2L0 transmitter, which began broadcasting for an hour daily on 11 May 1922 before the formation of the BBC. There will be celebrations of these events during 2022 and 2023.

 

It has an interesting history. This picture is circa 1924. Its final manifestation from 2012 is hereherehere and here so it continues at the leading edge of technology but in the residential and hotel context.

 

Dalston Works  

In 1905, Cuthbert Hall, the Managing Director of Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company, decided that a factory was needed in London. Equipment was moved from Chelmsford to a large four storey building at Dalston, North London. In this factory, not only was the Company's wireless equipment manufactured, but also briefly, the manufacture of ignition coils for cars. The Dalston works however began losing money and were eventually closed down in 1908. The original factory at Hall Street in Chelmsford was then re-opened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Premises

Fenchurch Street

This site is mentioned in several places but so far no details have been found. It seems to have been associated with the transmission and reception of Marconigrams, although there are other references to Wilson Street in the City of London as being the address of Radio House the Headquarters of the "wireless telegram" branch of the Company.

Watergate House

This is recorded as located in York Buildings Adelphi from where the Marconigraph was published.

 

Hackbridge

 

In 1935, Marconi bought the Hackbridge site because of its proximity with Croydon Airport, then the main London Airport. Up to that time, the company only had a shed on the airport apron and a small office in the main building. In 1937 the whole Aircraft Department was moved to Hackbridge. The total work force was only 50, all of them men, so a crisis occurred when a female secretary was appointed, this was solved when a local cottage agreed to allow her to use their toilet!

 

The factory was later used for the production of quartz crystals and finally became the HQ of Specialised Components Division.

 

 

 

 

Parsons Green

Parsons Green factory, in Fulham, London during WW2 manufactured wiring sets called “connector sets” for aircraft. It was also used to manufacture radio suitcases to be used by agents after they had been dropped behind enemy lines. Established in an old bakery it replaced a factory in Vauxhall, on the Albert Embankment, which had been bombed in 1940 and partially destroyed, being completely destroyed later that year. In 1944 the Parsons Green factory took a direct hit from incendiary bombs. The work was then transferred again, this time to Romford.

 

New Malden

Marconi Sports Ground and Pavilion, the sports facility for all staff based in London.

 

Brooklands

In 1911 an Experimental Marconi Company section had been set up at Brooklands in Surrey. It was taken over by the RFC in 1914 and turned into a wireless training school for pilots and engineers as it was already established as the ‘home’ of British aviation. The first ever aeroplane flight in England had been made there by A.V. Roe in 1908.  

 

Captain (later Major) C.E. Prince, then serving with the Westmoreland Cumberland Yeomanry, was sent to Brooklands to ‘co-operate’ with the Flying Corps. He had excellent credentials for the job; having joined the Marconi Research staff in 1907 he had organised the first demonstration of telephony for Marconi in 1910, and later demonstrated telephony using valves between the Marconi New Street works and his Chelmsford house in 1914.

 

Under Prince’s command on 1st April 1915 No. 9 Wireless Squadron was re-formed at Brooklands. This squadron would subsequently form the basis of the Royal Flying Corps School of Wireless. The Brooklands ‘Wireless Testing Park’ was formed with the prime aim of developing practical wireless telephony (speech transmission instead of telegraphy - Morse code) for ground-to-air wireless communication and a team of engineers was assembled to find a solution to overcome the barrage of cockpit noise.

 

Prince decided that he had to bring in the best men he could find, working under his control for which the Marconi Company was the only source. To speed the development process highly qualified and talented wireless engineers from all over the country were commissioned as officers and Prince was soon joined by Captain Whiddington, Captain J.M. Furnival, Lieutenant (later Major) R. Orme and Lt Edward Herbert Trump. Another young military engineer who joined Prince later went on to play a key role in the birth of British Broadcasting. His name was Captain Peter Pendleton Eckersley.

 

Brooklands Wireless Communications Collection

 

 

Chelmsford

Several major sets of premises were used by Marconi in the Chelmsford area over the years.

 

 

Hall Street 1898 - 1921+

First factory in the world for manufacturing wireless equipment. Also housed  the School of Wireless Communications from 1904 to 1911. In 1912, following the transfer of the manufacturing facilities to the new works in New Street, a Research Department was formally constituted under Franklin in Hali Street, which with the outbreak of the First World War came under the direction of the Admiralty, to whom all the Company's activities were largely devoted until 1919.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wireless intercept station was set up, still in use in 1921. Local citizens recall that there was until the outbreak of WW2 the mast still located on the other side of Hall Road. Of a tubular construction it was held up by guy ropes and estimated to be several hundred feet tall. It is said to have had an oil lamp at the top which was accessed for maintenance by a sort of bosuns chair. It is remembered being dismantled, probably at the start of WW2, because of the hazard to

aircraft.

 

Three pictures taken in 1935.

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a period of three years from 1905 to 1908 there was a move to the factory in Dalston as outlined above, but when this was closed Hall Street was reopened.

 

Prior to use by Marconi, was a silk mill of Courtauld's.

 

Became Essex & Suffolk Water site until 2010. When they moved out there was an opportunity to create a Marconi heritage centre but this was not followed up 

 

Marconi Hall Street Works leaflet and also a new book - Tim Wander

 

Later status   1.    2.

 

Current status

 

Broomfield Research Station

In October 1911 the School of Wireless Communications was re-established as a separate department, this time at the Broomfield Research Station. This was off the Broomfield Road about one mile north of Chelmsford city centre, and actually well to the south of the Broomfield parish boundary, and also known as Pottery Lane. It was established as a receiving station in 1903. By 1911 it had become a research station and also  part of the Marconi Apprentice Training Centre (ATC), until this moved to New Street Building 720. In 1912 it consisted of a single hut and several aerials on masts. The site was bombed in May 1943, and nearby houses damaged. The site had been manufacturing CR 100 receivers. By 1946 it was a group of Nissan huts. The site was the home of the Radar Development Group from 1949/50 until 1959 when the staff swapped sites with the Broadcast Division TV Development Lab at Gt Baddow.

 

Church Green

This site in Broomfield was in a large house on Church Green opposite St. Mary's Parish church about two and a quarter miles north of the city centre and housed a fairly large Radar Systems group consisting of Field Services and Installation Design; Installation Planning and a Drawing Office were also on site. It had its own canteen. It supported the laboratories/workshops at Pottery Lane. It was demolished c.1970 and twenty-two modern residential houses were built on the site. 

 

New Street 1912 - 2008

The Marconi Works at New Street were designed and erected in 1912 in Chelmsford. It was built to replace the works at Hall Street, which had become inadequate for the needs of the growing Company. New Street was the first purpose-built radio factory in the world and ultimately became the Marconi Company headquarters. From conception to completion, the project took only 17 weeks. Built on part of the old Essex Cricket Ground, the new works were modern and equipped with the latest tools and laboratories. The changeover between Hall St. and New St. happened in just one weekend. The Works were ready for inspection in June by the suitably impressed International Radiotelegraphic Conference delegates on 22 June 1912.


Site of first public radio broadcast by Dame Nellie Melba on 15th June 1920. The original buildings were designed by the architects W Dunn and R Watson. By 1920 two 450' masts had been raised, and these remained a Chelmsford landmark until c.1935.

 

The factory was extended in 1927 and again in 1936. 1937 saw the construction of Marconi House to accommodate the main company offices. Building 46 was constructed in 1941, and Building 720 (the Canteen) in 1949. In 1960s, Building 720 second floor housed a works canteen (queue and collect), silver service canteen and possibly a third one (executive restaurant was in building adjacent New Street); on the first floor was the Apprentice Training Centre Admin offices and outside 30ish clerical/secretarial trainees and their typewriters (The annual apprentice/graduate/clerical intake was of the order of 400) and on the ground floor where production of large system racks occurred and, down a ramp, the infamous 'PIT' where apprentices all learnt in year 1 the basics of the machine shop's tools.

 

 

In 1995 Building 46 and various others were demolished and    

replaced by Eastwood House, intended for Comms but actually occupied by Radar who moved there from Writtle Road in 1998. It was occupied by their successor unit, BAE Maritime Systems, until 2018 when it was vacated and the remaining staff moved to the Great Baddow site.

 

The major part of the site, the main building of which faces onto New Street and is Grade II listed, remained an operational Marconi-related site until mid-May 2008. Following a final staff look-round on 6 June the site was completely vacated, and then fell into dereliction. One attempt at redevelopment fell through during the economic crisis and further deterioration occurred until a second developer, local company Bellway, successfully obtained planning permission - see Current Status link below for subsequent history.

 

One contemporary newspaper report

 

 

 

Inauguration and Souvenir Booklet

 

Marconi’s New Street Works - Tim Wander - 2012 - Authors Online

 

Several series of photographs circa 1912   1.   2.   3.

 

Sequence of drawings showing build-up of site over the years   1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.  7.  8.  9.  10.

 

Wikipedia

 

Under development  and circa 2020

 

 

Writtle Works

Established in Lawford Lane in 1919 to look at use of radios in aircraft. 2MT began scheduled radio broadcasts in February 1922; displaced by the BBC. During WWII Writtle developed the famous T1154 transmitter and R1155 receiver sets which were fitted to every British bomber. Extensive rebuilding scheme in the 1950.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marconi College

In 1920 a property known already as Chelmsford College, situated in Arbour Lane, Chelmsford, was acquired and fitted out with the latest apparatus. Under its Superintendent of Instruction, A. W. Ladner, a scheme of training was instituted which encouraged the Company’s graduate probationers to develop their powers of initiative.

In 1935, as part of the Company’s new expansion policy, the Directors decided to increase the College facilities in every way. The original building was modernized, extended and converted into a residence for about twenty students, while an entirely new college building was erected in the grounds behind it, together with huts for the accommodation of transmitters and complete equipments. The new building contained a main experimental laboratory, two smaller research laboratories, a Standards room, double-screened and provided with a double-screened constant temperature cellar, a lecture theatre, a vacuum laboratory, a common room, a library, photographic rooms and workshop, staff and administrative offices. The new College came into use in October 1936. Closed in 1997. Demolished in 2001 and replaced by a housing development known as Telford Place.

 

 

 

 

Writtle Road - Crompton Works

 

A former Crompton Parkinson factory, known as the Arclight Works, which had been established on the site c.1896, closed in 1968. It was then bought by GEC, and Marconi Radar Systems Limited moved in as GEC split Marconi and other constituent parts into self-administering companies. Closed in 1998 when Radar moved to Eastwood House.

 

There was an earlier set of buildings known as the Anchor Works.  

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current status

 

Elettra House

1.   2.        

On Westway, Chelmsford, was the HQ of the Marconi International Marine Company for many years. After the Marine Company left it lay empty until it was refurbished and became the HQ for the Support Division of Alenia Marconi Systems - essentially the old Radar Support Division.

It  is currently Beadles Volkswagen, part of the American Group 1 Automotive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waterhouse Lane

Television development

 

 

 

 

 

English Electric Valve Company

 

1.  2.

 

Established in 1942 as a Marconi factory to make magnetrons for radar. In 1947 English Electric Co renamed it to hold the valve business it acquired in taking over Marconi. Following a period as Marconi Applied Technologies, on the breakup a management buyout created E2V Technologies which following an American takeover became TELEDYNE E2V.

 

Photograph is aerial view in 1997.

 

Wikipedia entry

 

 

Current status

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marconi Athletic and Social Club - Victoria Road  

Input from Martyn Clarke

The building back right was the home of TDU it had the nickname The Wigwam  it was there that Close Circuit Television began life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Essex sites  

 

Great Baddow, Essex - The Marconi Research Centre   1937 - 1999

 

Under construction 1938

 

Baddow at war

 

 

 

 

In 1936 the decision was taken to draw together the various research teams located in and around Chelmsford into a single laboratory, and a site was purchased at Great Baddow, sufficiently far from possible sources of electrical interference to permit research work to be carried out on the detection and amplification of very small signals.

 

Building work began ln 1937 and as it progressed through 1938 research staff were brought from other sites in and around Chelmsford, some into temporary hutted accommodation and others into the new building as areas were made available for occupation.

 

Current status

 

    

Acquired by BAE Systems, later sold with front building leased back by BAE AI Laboratories, now known as Chelmsford Technology Park.

 

Bushy Test site

 

         

 

Basildon

Factory opened at Christopher Martin Road on the No.1 Industrial Estate at Nevendon in 1953

 

Microelectronics Factory Witham

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frinton Wireless school in 1902

We have received comments as to the attribution of this picture which has led to fascinating additional research which is being recorded here.

More snippets from Michael Kirwan - 12.  3.

 

Recently received information

Items from a local newspaper “East Essex Advertiser and Clacton News”

 

1900

10th Nov page 3, had a topic on the War Office installing Wireless Telegraphy between Shoeburyness and Sheerness.

 

1901

19th Oct page 3, long piece on the ‘Instructional Station’ being established at Frinton supervised by Mr T Bowden.

 

30th Nov page 3, Parish/District council news was publicising the coming lecture by Mr T Bowden at the Social Club on 6th Dec about the first such school being established “for students in Marconi’s wonderful invention”. It encouraged all to attend.

 

14th Dec page 3,had a full front page on the lecture. It said amongst much more “Mr Bowden had been besieged by an army of pressmen” (it didn’t use the term ‘near and far’ but suggested local and further afield). Here men are given several weeks training in all of the work appertaining to exciting workings of Marconi’s telegraph station.

 

Overseas locations

Marconi Wireless School New York 1912

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments (1)

neilfriday@gmx.co.uk said

at 9:55 am on Sep 13, 2017

On the Waterhouse Lane site, the offices on the road side were occupied by administration, the offices farthest from the road side (internally side) were occupied by the "Secret" Broadcast Development projects. This was to prevent anyone looking in to the building from the road with binoculars.

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