Marconi Newsletter 2016 – edition number 18

Please click on the title Newsletter 2016 above to open the full document with the index and on any picture in this newsletter to open a larger image.

Peter Turrall, MVA Chairman

Essex Chronicle photograph
Essex Chronicle photograph

Following the presentation of an Honorary Degree of Technology at Anglia Ruskin University on Wednesday 7th October, Princess Elettra Marconi Giovanelli, the daughter of our founder Guglielmo Marconi, accompanied by her son and daughter-in-law Prince Guglielmo and Princess Victoria Marconi Giovanelli with hosts Chairman Peter Turrall and his wife Jean toured various establishments in the Chelmsford area which had some connection in the past to Marconi’s.

At a dinner on Wednesday evening at the University where the Vice Chancellor and learned Professors together with the directors of Anglia Ruskin were present, Princess Elettra thanked all concerned in honouring her with the degree which she accepted with great pleasure.

The following day a rapid tour took place.  First stop was the Marconi building in New Street, now the home of Benefit Cosmetics, an American-based organisation selling various cosmetics in the UK.  We were received here by Ian Marshall the MD and his staff who gave us an excellent tour of their building.  The original front reception area together with the Edwardian staircase is still present, but the whole of the inside has been completely brightened with light walls/ceilings etc.  The front offices depict many wireless set replicas and photographs and it was a real pleasure to see how much recognition of the work of Marconi’s has been displayed.

All the staff were anxious to know the history of the Company and what took place in the building.  Photographs and more details of our history will be given to the Benefit company which they will gladly display in one of the rooms.

There is a number of modifications inside the building. The Directors’ Luncheon Club has been completely renovated and the partition at the rear where small dining rooms were situated, together with the kitchen area, has been removed.  The rear area has been blocked off and a small entrance door adjacent to the old surgery has been installed.  The area where the old organisation for travel arrangements and part of the photographic department is now one very large room.

My old office, once used by Marconi himself, is a reception area and on the wall various wireless sets are arranged.  The whole organisation from MD down were delighted to see the Princess and are eager to learn more about the work of the Marconi Company.

The next visit was to All Saints Church Writtle where Princess Elettra saw for the first time the Marconi/Platt coloured glass window which was opened by her son some fifteen years earlier.  Due to a broken ankle at that time she was unable to come to the UK herself to perform the opening ceremony.  Following this was a visit to Melba Court Writtle where Marconi had his experimental laboratories and where work started on what became wireless broadcasting.

Then a quick visit to Chelmsford City Museum in Oaklands Park where all the Marconi equipment including cameras, and other communication items were on display.  It was then a short journey to BBC Essex in London Road to visit the plaque depicting the opening of the Chelmsford Station by Princess Elettra’s Mother, Maria Cristina Marconi. A final trip to the Marconi statue at the rear of Chelmsford bus station ended the very quick tour of Chelmsford before the Marconi family were driven to Heathrow Airport for their flight back to Rome.

Marconi’s Hall Street Works: 1898 – 1912


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.


In Memoriam

We regret to report the death of the following Veteran and extend our sympathy to the family.

The date column shows the year when the person joined the Company.

H.N.C. Ellis-Robinson OBE1949

This list was correct on 1 February 2016  and supersedes the list published on 9 December 2015

Biographical details of Mr Ellis-Robinson and funeral details are published under the Notices tab above.