Newsletter 2012

One hundred years ago

Peter Turrall, MVA Chairman

The annual reunion to be held on 14th April at the MASC will centre on two major events which took place in 1912: the opening of the new wireless factory at New Street, Chelmsford, under the name of Marconi’s Wireless and Telegraph Company Limited, and the sinking of the White Star liner SS Titanic on its maiden voyage to the United States.

The New Street factory was built in a record fourteen weeks and was producing equipment for both the Royal Navy, the army and commercial ships, as well as transmitters and other communications equipment for many countries throughout the world.

The Titanic, which was constructed in Belfast, was equipped with wireless telegraphy equipment built at the Marconi Hall Street and Dalston factories. Two Marconi wireless operators, Messrs Phillips and Bride, were trained at the Marconi Wireless School in Liverpool and joined Titanic for its maiden voyage. Unfortunately Phillips went down with the ship but Bride was saved and was able up until the last minute to help Phillips send distress signals to other ships.

This year the Marconi Veterans Association President is Ron Stringer, himself a Marconi-trained Marine Wireless Officer who had many years at sea as part of the crew on various commercial ships. He later joined Marconi International Marine Company in a civilian capacity in Chelmsford.

Joining the reunion as our Honoured Guest is Tim Wander who, for many years as an engineer, was employed by Marconi Communication Systems at Writtle and New Street. He is an historian and has written a number of books including ‘Writtle 2MT’, the story of how Marconi started the wireless age. He has recently completed another book covering the early history of Marconi’s with many interesting stories from people who were employed in the company during the years of its existence (further details on page 12). Copies of this book will be available for sale at the reunion or at a later date direct from the author.

Marconi factory, New Street

Each year we try and keep Veterans up to date with the situation concerning the Marconi factory at New Street which this year celebrates one hundred years since its construction in 1912. Since the last inhabitants moved to Basildon some four years ago the factory has remained completely empty, although on the odd occasion the concrete yard has been used by Essex Police for various training exercises.

With nobody using the site, there have been break-ins and a lot of damage has been done to the fabric, including the front building. Attempts have been made to shore up the areas where break-ins occur but nevertheless the site looks very desolate. Buddleias have grown everywhere and the windows on the front building have been boarded up to prevent further damage to the glass. The lovely front rose garden has been completely neglected and is very much overgrown.

We understand that Chelmsford Borough Council has made various attempts to tidy up the front but it is still in a very neglected state. Ownership of the whole site is with the administrators who, a few months ago, advised that a purchaser had been found. Apparently the purchaser dropped out at the last minute. Recent enquiries to the council have not come up with any new information on what will happen to the site.

Rumours always abound and one of these was that a major food store was putting in a bid. This we understand was not confirmed so we still await a decision on its ultimate fate.