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Marconi College Closure

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 10 years, 10 months ago



GEC to close world's oldest telecommunications college

Chris Godsmark Business Correspondent

Tuesday, 17 June 1997


GEC is to close the world's oldest telecommunications training college, bringing to an end more than 90 years of history and casting doubts about the electronics giant's commitment to investment in education and training.


Staff at the Marconi College, part of the GEC-Marconi defence division, were told about the closure plans in an internal memo last week. It said that up to 36 jobs at the college in Chelmsford were "at risk of redundancy". The company blamed the decision on falling orders for training from within GEC and from outside clients. It emerged last week that GEC was cutting 535 jobs at the site, though the group did not reveal at the time that part of the cuts involved closing the residential training site.


According to the memo, orders for training work at the college were predicted to be pounds 245,000 below the budget plan this year. It continued: "Clearly this situation cannot be sustained and as a result the Marconi Simulation and Training management have been obliged to take action to contain the loss."


The operation was the world's first telecommunications training facility, established by the Marconi company in 1901 as the Wireless and Telegraph Training College. Students are offered courses including radar, radio and thermal imaging.


The closure sets GEC against a recent industry trend towards greater investment in training. Multi-national firms including Ford and Motorola have invested heavily in UK training recently, while Unipart, the car components company, has built its own employee "university." GEC has frequently been criticised for its research and development record, charges rebuffed by the former managing director, Lord Weinstock.


Sources blamed GEC for failing to invest in the college to update facilities. Staff were told improvements costing more than pounds 900,000 were needed, including improving hotel accommodation. The memo said: "This investment cannot be justified with the current level of predicted sales and margins."


Monument Name

Site of Marconi School of Wireless Communications


SMR Number




Late C19 villa converted to training college with large scale 1930s and 1950s additions.



None Available



Associated Media

None Available




The Marconi School of Wireless Communications (Th 71800757), was established in 1921 in a pre-existing Victorian villa, Telford Lodge, which had formerly been occupied by Chelmsford College - a private secondary boarding school known as Botwrights. Ordnance Survey maps indicate that the villa was built between 1873 and 1897 (0S Essex LIV.4, 1873 and 1897). The site was considerably expanded during the mid-i 930s with the construction of a new double storey, Modemist style accommodation block to the rear of Telford Lodge, which replaced an earlier rear extension. Adjacent to this was constructed the new purpose-built Marconi School of Communications. This double-storey brick building was built in Modernist Deco style with a projecting semi-circular turret at its western end; facilities inside the college included a library, teaching and research laboratories, and offices. Over the main entrance a stone plaque read MWTCO (Marconi Wireless and Telegraph Company), set in relief. This building, and the extension to Telford Lodge, was designed by William Walter Wood FRIBA and erected by Messrs H Potter of Chelmsford. It was also around this time that three timber huts ere built in the grounds, to house radio transmitter and receiver equipment, one of which survived until the time of closure (Baker 1970, 275). During the Second World War a reinforced concrete air raid shelter was buik at the rear of Telford Lodge. Linked to Marconi's post-war business expansion and the need to train customer's engineers the college was considerably enlarged during the early 1950s. Starting in 1950 asingle storey drawing office was added to the rear of the 1 930s school building. Three years alter a new double storey and single storey technical block covering 20,000 sq ft was begun, when completed it couldaccommodate 100 students, and included two lecture rooms, ten laboratories, aworkshop, a technical library, a quiet room, and rooms for teaching staff. By the mid-i 950s the 1930s training block had been converted into flirther accommodation and the 1950 drawing office converted into a dining room. Duringthe 1960s the two pre-fabricated huts were added to the site, other minor buildings on the campus included a bicycle shed and store shed. The college closed in the late 1990s. In March 2000 the site was cleared with the exception of Telford Lodge, prior to demolition a lull survey was undertaken by Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit (for the full report see Garwood 1999). <1>.


Monument Type(s)

VILLA (Dated 1873AD to 1897AD)
TRAINING COLLEGE (Dated 1935AD to 1935AD)
TRAINING COLLEGE (Dated 1953AD to 1957AD)


Monument Class(es)




1873AD to 1897AD Modern



Not Known


Administration Area



National Grid Reference

Square: TL70NW
Ref: 718075



None listed



Buildings of the Radio Electronics Industry



Desc Text : Buildings of the Radio Electronics Industry in Essex (English Heritage) p33-34 Dated : 2001






Comments (1)

Ian Gillis said

at 12:53 pm on Feb 12, 2016

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