Wireless Telegraph Trading Signal Company

This article is about the consolidated history (1897-2006) of the 1963 established British telecommunications company acquired by GEC in 1968, founded originally in 1897 as the Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company. For the consolidated history (1886-2006) of its parent company - GEC, see General Electric Company plc. For the 1999 evolved telecommunications company from GEC, see Marconi plc.
"Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company" and "Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company" redirect here. For the other businesses named Marconi, see Marconi.
Marconi Company Ltd
Former type Private
Industry Telecommunications
Fate Acquired by GEC
Renamed to GEC-Marconi Ltd
Predecessor(s) Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company
(1897 - 1900)
Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company
(1900 - 1963)
Successor(s) GEC-Marconi Ltd
(1987 - 1998)
BAE Systems
(1999 to present)
Marconi plc
(1999 - 2003)
Marconi Corporation plc
(2003 - 2006)
(2005 to present)
(2005 to present)
Founded 1897
(as Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company)
(as Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company)
(as Marconi Company Ltd)
Defunct 1987
(as Marconi Company Ltd)
(as Marconi Corporation plc)
Owner(s) English Electric
(1946 - 1968)
General Electric Company plc
(1968 - 1998)
Marconi plc
(1999 - 2003)
Marconi Corporation plc
(2003 - 2006)

The Marconi Company was a British telecommunications and engineering company that existed from 1897 until 2006, undergoing numerous changes, mergers and acquisitions during that time. The company was founded by the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi and was originally known as The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company. The company was a pioneer of wireless long distance communication and mass media broadcasting, eventually becoming one of the UKs most successful manufacturing companies. In 1999, its defence manufacturing division, Marconi Electronic Systems, merged with British Aerospace to form BAE Systems. In 2006, extreme financial difficulties led to the collapse of the remaining company, with the bulk of the business acquired by Ericsson.


Naming History

1897-1900, The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company
1900-1963, Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company
1963-1987, Marconi Company Ltd
1987-1998, GEC-Marconi Ltd
1998-1999, Marconi Electronic Systems Ltd
1999-2003, Marconi plc
2003-2006, Marconi Corporation plc

Early history

Marconi's "Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company" was formed on 20 July 1897 after the granting of a British patent for wireless in March of that year. The company opened the world's first radio factory on Hall Street in Chelmsford in 1898 and was responsible for some of the most important advances in radio and television. These include:

Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Training College was set up in 1901. The company and factory was moved to New Street Works in 1912, to allow for production expansion in light of the RMS Titanic disaster. Along with private entrepreneurs, Marconi company formed in 1924 the Unione Radiofonica Italiana (URI), which was granted by Mussolini's regime a monopoly of radio broadcasts in 1924. After the war, URI became the RAI, which lives on to this day.

In 1939 the Marconi Research Laboratories at Great Baddow were founded and in 1941 there was a buy out of Marconi-Ekco Instruments to form Marconi Instruments.

Operations as English Electric subsidiary

English Electric acquired The Marconi Company in 1946 which complemented its other operations; heavy electrical engineering, aircraft and its railway traction business. In 1948 the company was reorganised into four divisions:

  • Communications
  • Broadcasting
  • Aeronautics
  • Radar

These had expanded to 13 manufacturing divisions by 1965 when a further reorganisation took place. The divisions were placed into three groups :

  • Telecommunications
  • Electronics
  • Components

At this time The Marconi Company had facilities at New Street Chelmsford, Baddow, Basildon, Billericay, and Writtle as well as in Wembley, Gateshead and Hackbridge. It also owned Marconi Instruments, Sanders Electronics, Eddystone Radio and Marconi Italiana (based in Genoa, Italy). In 1967 Marconi took over Stratton and Company to form Eddystone Radio.

Expansion as GEC subsidiary

In 1967 or 1968 English Electric was subject to a takeover bid by the Plessey Company but chose instead to accept an offer from GEC. Under UK government pressure, the computer section of GEC, English Electric Leo Marconi (EELM), merged with International Computers and Tabulators (ICT) to form International Computers Limited (ICL). The computer interests of Elliott Automation which specialised in real-time computing were amalgamated with those of Marconi's Automation Division to form Marconi-Elliott Computers, later renamed as GEC Computers. In 1968 Marconi Space and Defence Systems and Marconi Underwater Systems were formed.

The Marconi Company continued as the primary defence subsidiary of GEC, GEC-Marconi. Marconi was renamed GEC-Marconi in 1987. During the period 1968-1999 GEC-Marconi/MES underwent massive expansion.

Acquisitions which were folded into the company and partnerships established include:

Other acquisitions include:

  • Divisions of Plessey in 1989 (others acquired by its partner in the deal, Siemens AG, to meet with regulatory approval).
    • Plessey Avionics
    • Plessey Naval Systems
    • Plessey Cryptography
    • Plessey Electronic Systems (75%)
    • Sippican
    • Leigh Instruments

In a major reorganisation of the company, GEC-Marconi was renamed Marconi Electronic Systems in 1996 and was separated from other non-defence assets.

Marconi name today

In 1999 GEC underwent a major transformation. Marconi Electronic Systems which included its wireless assets was demerged and sold to British Aerospace which then formed BAe Systems.

GEC, realigning itself as a primarily telecommunications company following the MES sale, retained the Marconi brand and renamed itself Marconi plc. BAE were granted limited rights to continue its use in existing partnerships, however by 2005 no BAE businesses use the Marconi name. Major spending and the dot-com collapse led to a major restructuring of that group, in a debt-for-equity swap shareholders were given 0.5% of the new company, Marconi Corporation plc.

In 1999 Reltec and Fore Systems were acquired at the height of the "dot-com" boom. With its subsequent collapse the Marconi Corporation got into financial difficulties.

In October 2005 the Marconi name and most of the assets were Telent.

See also


  • Baker, W. J. (1970, 1996) History of the Marconi Company 1894-1965.

External links

  • Ericsson press release about the acquisition
  • Catalogue of the Marconi Archives At the Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
  • Marconi Calling The Life, Science and Achievements of Guglielmo Marconi
  • History of Marconi House

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