Marconi New Street Works 1934
The Marconi New Street Works in Chelmsford Essex was the world’s first purpose built wireless factory, and it became the world’s first electronics factory to use mass production techniques. For well over ninety years the huge factory was the manufacturing centre of the massive Marconi Company, that stretched across the world. It’s success and growth gave Chelmsford the worthy title of ‘Home of Radio’ although perhaps a better title would be the ‘Home of Wireless’, for this is where wireless was born and the radio age was built.
However, the disastrous collapse of The Marconi Company in the first part of the 21st Century prompted the eventual abandonment of the huge complex of offices, workshops, laboratories, test areas and manufacturing lines that alone once employed each year well over 10,000 people.
The New Street factory opened in 1912, the year the SS Titanic was lost in the middle of the Atlantic. The 730 lives that were saved were solely due to the use of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention and the brave Marconi Wireless Operators aboard, one of whom gave his life.
The New Street Works should be one of this country’s, if the not the world’s, most important sites of industrial heritage and archaeology. But only a fraction of the facade and buildings are protected by listed status and the rest was soon swept away. Like so many other industrial buildings and areas that gave birth to the modern age, it is lost forever beneath housing estates, flats and car parks.
Without any doubt, within those factory walls, the science and art of wireless communication was started. I firmly believe that this is also where the modern electronics age, be it radio, television, radar, satellite or even mobile telephones was born. Britain lived and prospered through the revolutions bought by the age of steam and the age of steel. Marconi’s New Street Works from 1912 to 2012 was, and still is, the birthplace of Britain’s last industrial revolution.
The age of wireless.
There are very few films of the New Street works. This recently restored short amateur film was shot, without sound, in 1934. It features, among others, W.T Ditcham, pioneer of the 1920 telephony experiments that led to Dame Nellie Melbas’ famous concert on 15th June 1920.