The Marconi Heritage Group - how it came into being and operates

In 2001 the Marconi Old Geezers Society - MOGS - was formed by Ian Gillis as an informal group of former employees, most of whom worked for Marconi Radar Systems. They use an online forum to exchange memories and news of personal doings, currently with over 120 members.

As a result of the accumulation of messages, in 2010 it was decided to record the contribution made by Marconi Radar to the history of radar while those with first-hand experience are still alive. In addition, to record the stories and anecdotes and sadly the obituaries of those people who supported that contribution.

Following the success of the forum it was decided that an online wiki format was the best method to allow the addition and modification of content by suitably experienced contributors, with an overall editorial control. Currently access is restricted to members, but the intention is to make the site public on the internet, to disseminate the fascinating history of the Company to those who will appreciate it.

This wiki grew to be a substantial record incorporating text, graphics, photographs, audio and video clips, drawn from personal inputs and material collected and currently held in an archive stored in the Chelmsford Industrial Museum at Sandford Mill.

As the content includes factual material from company publications and records, to be made public requires authorisation by the present copyright holder, which is BAE Systems, so cooperation is being organised through their Heritage Product committee on which there is a local member. It transpired that what we are trying to achieve matched well with their existing activities. Based on similar situations at current and former sites, it became a possibility, with a viable and sustainable business plan, to establish a Marconi Heritage Centre in Chelmsford.

For added emphasis, as a result of the success of the Radar wiki, interest grew in undertaking similar activity for other product areas. Currently these are ongoing for eleven divisions and companies. There is also a generic Marconi wiki which covers such as the college and research establishments. This meant there became the need for coordinated input from the wider community and this has drawn in many more individuals.

During the same time period there has been the eventually successful campaign to rescue the New Street site from dereliction, in which the Marconi Veterans Association was involved. This led to the possibility of a renewed physical presence in Chelmsford for Marconi interests. It also created a local upsurge of interest, through the Changing Chelmsford initiative, the Essex Record Office event to make an aural record of Marconi employee’s stories, the public meetings of the New Street developer, Bellway, and over the coming four years the commemoration of the centenary of the First World War in which Marconi wireless played on important role.

The consequence of these concurrent events is that there became a need to organise the participation of suitably interested individuals, likely having some former association with Marconi and resident reasonably close to Chelmsford. This led to the formation of the Marconi Heritage Group, to organise the establishment of and then arrange manning for a physical Centre to accommodate archive material, mount exhibitions and to enable volunteers to act as presenters for public involvement, which would include online facilities to show the content of the wikis, to carry promotion into local schools and seek to support from other organisations. This is how similar services at other heritage sites round the country are provided and supported. This resulted in the current project centred round the original Marconi factory in Hall Street as described elsewhere on this MHG website.

The current members of the Group, mostly formerly senior staff members of Marconi interested in the preservation of its history, are now working steadily to achieve the aims and objectives and to welcome other colleagues wanting to become actively involved. In the first instance anyone interested please contact Alan Hartley-Smith by email – or by telephone – 01457 874548. Local contacts are also being established through related organisations as follows:

The Marconi Veterans Associationcommittee has expressed full support for the appeal for volunteers to assist the Marconi Heritage Group. Veterans can enroll to help by contacting any committee member.

The Chelmsford Science and Engineering Societyhas also endorsed the initiative. The Chelmsford Industrial Museumat Sandford Mill currently holds a lot of existing archive material. Both can be contacted.

To promote the formation of the Centre the Group will work with the Essex Record Office, Changing Chelmsfordand the newly formed Industrial Archaeology sub-group of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History.