There was, of course, a close connection between Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company's requirement to set up a new offshoot, Marconi Instruments, and the national need for new technologies as the Second World War approached. Two obvious problems presented themselves: the scrabble among hundreds of firms to relocate as war loomed; and the need to collect in one place a number of the best qualified staff, irrespective of their current home towns.
St Albans came to the rescue for a location. Longacres came a little later; initially a small building would do – this was setting up time, or planning. A building in Ridgmont Road sufficed, but the author admits to not knowing which building and would be grateful for further information on this matter. It was the home of Marconi's formative Special Products section, before moving to Elmhurst, 29 Hatfield Road, which thousands of early students of the College of Further Education will recall in its early days.
Finding accommodation for all of MI's staff was also a headache. As the company's Longacres premises, albeit initially in temporary buildings, ramped up, the temporary High Wycombe site was closed, and because there was so little appropriate housing in St Albans, many High Wycombe staff were brought to St Albans each day by coach from their High Wycombe homes 30 miles away.
Meanwhile, the company worked with government to supply metal bungalows – prefabs – for staff members at Lectern Lane, Holyrood Crescent and Creighton Avenue.
|The first Marconi homes in Charmouth Road,|
photographed in 1949 by Marconi Instruments Ltd.
By 1949 a site at the northern end of unfinished Charmouth Road, where new house-building had stopped in 1940. St Albans Council allocated 19 licences (the method then used to control the supply of vital building materials and labour). The first seven were for an arc of homes on the west side (one detached home was included as the number of licences was odd). A start was then made on the remaining twelve on the east side, to the north of where Charmouth Court was later laid out.
|The same houses today.|
The company expanded quickly into its new technological world and homes in other locations were also sought, including on the London Road estate. The 1940s and 50s must have been an exciting, if frustrating, time for the company and its fledgling employees.