New Street Marconi Factory, Chelmsford, October 2009

This report is compiled over two visits. In total I have spent almost 12 hours in there. The place is simply epic and far exceeded all my hopes.

History

Chelmsford’s New Street Marconi factory was built in 1912, 14 years after the establishment of Marconi’s first factory in the town, at Hall Street. Marconi commissioned the architects W Dunn and R Watson to design the new factory on New Street, work began on 26th February 1912. The factory is credited with being the world’s first purpose-built radio factory, giving Chelmsford the worthy title of: ‘Home of the radio’.
In 1919 two 450ft aerial masts were added to the site, providing a new town landmark.

1936-39 saw the addition of the art-deco factory extension and Marconi House, which now stylize the inner elevation of the factory. Marconi House is an impressive 5 storeys high and housed the majority of the site’s offices

In 1949 building 720 was added, which at the time boasted the largest unsupported roof span in the country, and housed the canteen.
In 1999 the defence arm of Marconi was bought by British Aerospace to form BA systems, who still occupy the new building to the west of the site. Evidence I found inside the building suggests that operations at the New St factory were consequently reduced in 1999/2000; however I have found little interweb information to support this. In 2008 the last occupants of the site: Selex Communications moved out, ending nearly 100 years of communications industry on the site.

 
Future

Sadly only 4 of the buildings on site: The 1912 New St building, New St Cottages, the powerhouse and water tower are listed. Consequently the future looks rather grim for the massive art-deco factory, with development work to begin in 2010. No prizes for guessing what the fate of the site will be!

For more information on the history please visit this very comprehensive website: http://homepages.tesco.net/~martin.batesuk/marconi/sections_added_1912-1980.htm

 

The 1936-39 Office and new factory building

Marconi New Street Art Deco Factory

Marconi New Street art deco Stairs

 Marconi New Street art deco Stairs upwards

 The 1912 factory roof, the water tower centre left and clocktower centre right: Marconi New Street Factory Roof

 Marconi New Street shop floor sign

Even in the 1940s there were  those who spoilt it for the rest of us: Marconi New Street Poster

 One of my favourite spaces, this used to be the loading bay, where finished radios and TVs were loaded onto the train:Marconi New Street Packing Room

 The two massive generators which used to power the site:Marconi New Street Generators

 Marconi New Street gague

 

The clocktower which adorns the 1912 office building:Marconi New Street clocktower

 Copies of the orriginal details of the clocktower, drawn in 1912 by W Dunn and R Watson of London

Marconi New Streetclocktower Elevations

Inside the clocktower, sadly replaced by an electric mechanism:

Marconi New Street clockface inside

The grand staircase of the 1912 office building:

Marconi New Street 1912 Stairs

Copies of the original elevations of the 1912 office block, which still stands on New Street

New Street Elevations

Marconi New Street inside

Leave a Reply

  1. Love these photos. Were you granted access? or did you find a way in ?
    I did a reccy this morning but could find no obvious entry.?

  2. Fraser, Thanks for the feedback. I was not granted access. Is this the first time you’ve tried to explore a place? I’d be surprised if the entry point I used has been closed.

  3. I used to work there from Sept 1983 for around four years, there were around 4,500 people working there then. I still work for BAE Systems 26 years later.I find it sad that the building seems neglected now.

  4. Thank you for these, it’s always a delight finding an article like this by complete chance. I live locally and have always admired the new street building from afar and I’m actually rather jealous that Mr Harris had the opportunity to work there. (” ,)

    Architecturally I think the site is amazing and I think you have given me the courage to explore further!

    Thanks again, the pictures are fantastic.

  5. I go through Chelmsford every morning on the train and have been in love with the art deco part of the buildings for many years. The taller part of the 30′s section looks like the prow of a ship and the rippled grey of the lower buildings in front of it like waves under the ship.
    Horrified by the prospect that we may lose such a beautiful building, especially now I can see some of the wonderful interior (thanks for the pics on this site).
    Seem to recall there was a “20th Century Society” or something that aims to preserve contemporary, non-listed buildings. I will look them up. Damn phillistines in this country………..

  6. I worked at New Street as an apprentice for five years from 1957 and want to build a model of Marconi House for my model railway here in Canada. I see there are a couple of photos of part of the building but does anyone know where I can find some drawings of the building and more photos of the workshops to the east of Marconi House?
    Many thanks
    Hugh

  7. thank you very very much for bringing back nice memories . i had my apprenticeship and training with marconi 1966-1969 . then i came back from jordan and worked for marconi 1974-1978 .
    Thank you again.
    nidal dalgamouni
    Amman – Jordan
    5-2-2011

  8. I came across this site last year, when trying to find information about this building. The photographs you took stayed in my mind and , when talking about the building with other Chelmsford people who want to be proud of our industrial heritage, realised how good an asset this site would be in showing what was in danger of being lost. Thanks.

  9. i did my apprentership at new street
    i enjoed working for marconi and meet a lot of very
    interesting peple .

  10. one of my fathers brothers went to work at Marconi, I don’t know dates but would like to know if there is any way about finding information about workers over the years.
    con phillips.

  11. Pure nostalgia, those photographs bring back memories!
    The “ripple roof” building housed the canteen and the apprentice training centre.
    My 5 year apprenticeship began in Septmnber 1951 at the old factory in Waterhouse Lane (2 miles to the south) and then transferred to New Street after a few months. My time in the training centre finished around February 1952 and I went on a round of departments in the main factory, (“Art deco building”) to obtain varied experience in mechanical work. This was mainly on production of radar equipment before going onto medium wave installations in other departments near Chelmsford. Towards the end of my apprenticeship I spent 2 years in the Mechanical Research Labs, West Hanningfield Road, Gt. Baddow before my National Service began in 1957.
    Hugh,
    There used to ne a fine, detailed model of the works in the entrance hall of the “main building”. Thsi model was made by the German Luftwaffe in order to select and recognise their “target for tonight”: no doubt their “Ziel fur heute Nacht”! I believe this may be in the Chelmsford museum now. Part of it would comprise the rail siding into thr northern end of the site.

  12. Hi, i found this building when visiting a nearby shop. I wondered what it was and went around the front and saw the Marconi sign and Goggled it when i got back. It turns out that building has had a lot of activity over the years, and most of it all telecommunications and radio work being done there. Its interesting but i would like to know did you break in? As they are trying to stop this happening so please don’t in the future as that means the building has more of a chance of being fixed and used by another company. Marconi are now E2V and are down Waterhouse lane which backs on to some woods where there stands a old shed with a radio transmitter and i read on some site that Marconi is still there trying to receive the signals from the Titanic. If you don’t follow what i say and keep going in there please help me find the real meaning of that pool of water at the view from Marconi RD as it looks like some area to hold water as it is sealed and has pipes leading into rooms. I would like to know what it is but cant work it out! I love that building and i don’t know why! ( I have a passion for old buildings like that)

  13. Thanks for posting these, really weird to see the place still exists.
    I did an apprenticeship there from 1980 and have mixed feelings about the place, to find that the skeleton still exists in virtually the way I remember was almost shocking. Life has moved on in so many ways but the walls I touched then seem to have refused time itself. I realise much must have changed after my employment but with the equipment and signs of progress removed it is like a location from a vague dream turned to stone.

  14. Watching then demolish the 1936-1939 office building as I type this message. All that will be left soon is the Power House, Water Tower and the 1912 office block on New Street.

  15. I believe the ‘ripple roof’ building was the first in the world to be installed with fluorescent lighting. The older, zig-zag roof of the main shop floor was apparently designed like that so as to look like terraced houses from the air – I believe that house fronts were even painted on the side of the building.

    I worked there for about ten years, and find it a crying shame that these beautiful buildings have been destroyed.