Newsletter 2009

The Guglielmo Marconi statue

Peter Turrall

Having sat in the foyer of the Essex Record Office for the best part of four years, the life-size statue of our founder Guglielmo Marconi has finally been erected on a pedestal in the west end of Chelmsford. At a ceremony held last May, the statue was officially unveiled by the Mayor of Chelmsford with support being given by Lady Telford, and with speeches by the mayor, the sculptor Stephen Hicklin, and MVA Chairman Peter Turrall.

To view the statue, from Duke Street one must walk down Fairfield Road alongside the entrance to the Chelmsford Civic Theatre and then behind the new bus station.  Unfortunately there are no directions from Duke Street or the bus and railway stations to advise visitors to the town where the statue is situated. It is in an area known as Marconi Plaza, with views across Parkway and the railway viaduct – an area where it is unlikely to be seen by the majority of visitors to the town and therefore will not become a talking point. It should and could have been in the town centre, in the High Street if a little forethought had been given to it as a visitor attraction, honouring as it does the one man who put Chelmsford on the map and raised it from a sleepy market town with 30,000 inhabitants to one that is known worldwide through the very products produced by Marconi’s in the New Street factory. At one time over 10,000 people worked there, giving Chelmsford an uplift through purchase of houses, supporting businesses and shops and other offset trading taking place. Chelmsford grew to what it is today, a town with over 150,000 inhabitants.

It is a great pity that the previous industrial wealth created by Hoffmann, Crompton, Christy and Marconi is not more recognised by Chelmsford. Where woul we be without the inventiveness of Marconi who gave the world wireless, broadcasting, television, radar, computers and all the other associated communications which we enjoy today. And without Hoffmann, who invented ball and roller bearings, Crompton, who equipped the first city in UK and then worldwide with electric lamps and generators, and Christy, with its many manufacturing outlets for agricultural and electric equipment. There is also Clarkson, who invented one of the earliest steam buses in a factory in Anchor Street.

Chelmsford seems reluctant to highlight these achievements: most other towns on the continent and in the USA would give their eye teeth to have such a wonderful heritage. It feels as if it is still living in the past without any thought to raising its profile. The county town should be pushing hard to become a city, one with a modern outlook and pride in its heritage.