Chelmsford - Marconi Sports Ground

Waterhouse Lane : CM1 2QX Chelmsford - Marconi Sports Ground : Image credit Wiki Commons
Guglielmo Marconi shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics and he founded the Marconi Company which specialised in radio technology. Marconi established the world's first wireless factory in a former silk mill in Hall Street, Chelmsford in 1898. Marconi was probably the largest employer in Chelmsford.

In March 1905, several Marconi employees set up Chelmsford Cycling Club and they organised bicycle races on the local tracks. The Marconi Social Club was founded in 1910 for employees. The sports field at Waterhouse Lane was used from the 1920's and it had a grass track, 4 laps to the mile.

The Marconi Athletic Club held their own sports meetings at Waterhouse Lane and also hosted the Chelmsford United Works Sports* in rotation with the other big Chelmsford employers, Crompton's and Hoffmann's. Both of these annual sports meetings ran from the 1920's until the outbreak of World War II. Marconi also ran the Scouts sports days at Waterhouse Lane.

The Marconi works annual sports were started around 1920 and became well known for championship running races but also included bicycle events which were generally; ½ and 1 mile handicap races for employees, a ½ mile handicap race for Chelmsford riders and the Chelmsford Cycling Club's 1 mile championship.

Marconi hosted the 1926 Chelmsford United Works Sports for the first time, on Whit Monday as usual, with a large crowd of 5,000 people. The works competition was run on a points system for all the events in the sports and that year, Marconi won with 36 points, followed by Crompton's 26 and Hoffmann's 16. There were four bicycle races in the program, ½ and 1 mile bicycle open handicap and ½ and 1 mile works handicap. Admission to the event was 6 pence. In the evening there was a fete, dancing with a band and a concert party.

Marconi hosted a wartime United Works Sports in 1943 when a Holiday-at-home war initiative saw a crowd of 5,000 people attend the meeting. There does not seem to have been any bicycle racing at Waterhouse Lane after 1943.

The site of the athletics ground was developed in the 1960's and an electronics factory was built there. The site is now a Homebase store on Cromarty Way.

* The Chelmsford United Works Sports was the name given to the sports meetings for the works employees of the major companies in Chelmsford. The original companies were Marconi, Hoffmann, Arc Works, National Steam Car and Christy's and they held annual sports from around 1909. The venues for the sports rotated between the sports grounds of the three companies. Arc Works became Crompton's, the National Steam Car Company fell victim to petrol engines and Christy's was too small. By 1913, the participating firms were Crompton's (Wood Street ground), Hoffmann (Rainsford Road ground) and Marconi (Waterhouse Lane ground).

The sports were held annually on Whit Monday and the meetings generally consisted of running races and ½ and 1 mile bicycle handicap races. In most years, there were open and works races but in some years (eg 1933) the events were works only, restricted to employees of the three companies. Attendance at the sports was high; in 1925 there were 5,000 spectators. The sports were followed in the evening by a fete and entertainments. The sports donated the nett proceeds to charities like the Chelmsford Hospital and Chelmsford YWCA.

After difficulties in holding the sports during the Second World War, they were not revived post-war. The Chelmsford Chronicle reporting in 1948 that the problem was financial.


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Photos : Wiki Commons