Chelmsford: Birthplace of radio? Home of great design!

Welcome to Chelmsford

Visitors arriving by road in Chelmsford, the county town of Essex and granted city status in 2012, are currently welcomed by ten brown road signs proudly proclaiming that Chelmsford is the birthplace of radio. Continue into the city centre and a stone’s throw from the Civic Centre is Marconi Plaza with its stunningly symbolic statue of the man at the centre of the debate, Guglielmo Marconi.

The former site of the telecommunications factory in New Street, which opened in 1912 and closed in 2006, is where Marconi pioneered long-distance radio and it became the home of the first-ever commercial entertainment broadcast featuring Dame Nellie Melba, a famous soprano, on 15 June 1920.

So what’s not to believe about the bold claim to fame? At a time when demands to remove the proclamation from the City’s welcome signage on safety grounds were defeated after attracting widespread outrage, we debate in this article whether Chelmsford really is the birthplace of radio and the home of great design?

Marconi versus Tesla

In the late 1890s, the race was really hotting-up between the young Italian aristocrat Guglielmo Marconi who had settled in Chelmsford and the Serbian American inventor Nikola Tesla who, by early 1895, was ready to transmit a signal 50 miles to West Point, New York. Alas, disaster struck and a building fire destroyed his work.

Marconi had taken out the first wireless telegraphy patent in England in 1896 and responded to concerns over its effective range by setting up long-distance demonstrations, using Tesla’s oscillator, to transmit signals across the English Channel. Tesla’s own basic radio patent was granted in 1900 whilst Marconi’s first patent application in America, filed in November of that year, was turned down.

On 12 December 1901 Marconi, for the first time, transmitted and received wireless signals across the Atlantic Ocean. Tesla calmly congratulated him on using seventeen of his own patents, but that confidence was shattered in 1904 when the US Patent Office reversed its earlier decision and gave Marconi a patent for the invention of radio.

When Marconi won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909 Tesla was furious but it wasn’t until 1943, a few months after his death, that the US Supreme Court upheld Tesla’s 1900 radio patent, at a time when The Marconi Company was suing the United States Government for use of its patents in World War One. The court also declared that their decision had no bearing on Marconi’s patent as the first to achieve radio transmission, despite restoring the priority of Tesla’s patent over Marconi.

Whilst there is no doubt that Marconi succeeded in making a commercial success of radio and Chelmsford quite rightly prides itself on being its birthplace, the whiff of dispute will forever remain across the airwaves, irrespective of what the road signage says!

Marconi Evolution

The former Marconi headquarters in central Chelmsford is due to be redeveloped over the next three years to provide over 400 new homes under a highly prestigious ‘Marconi Evolution’ project that includes retention and conversion of the iconic water tower and power house amidst an area of walkways and public spaces encircling a green square at its centre.

Home of Great Design

On the other hand, there’s no doubting that Chelmsford is at the centre of a rich vein of really great graphic design agencies in Essex that have spawned alongside the A12 corridor, stretching from Brentwood at its junction with the M25 in an easterly direction to Colchester and beyond to the county boundary with Suffolk.

Entrepreneurs looking for a graphic design agency in and around Chelmsford, whether start-ups or well-established businesses, are spoilt for choice and a branding agency, such as Dan Summers Design, is delighted to showcase its pride in the City’s industrial heritage with a bold proclamation commemorating Marconi’s legacy on the exhibition banner in the entrance lobby of their design studio.

Contact Dan Summers Design today on 01245 465324 for more information on professional logo, brand, marketing materials and website design and online services and the benefits it can bring your business or organisation.

Dan Summers

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