WHEN Nigel Fitch received an unexpected telephone call he had no idea it would provide a major link to the history of his family.

Businessman and former parish councillor Nigel is well known for having run Marks Tey Radio for more than 50 years but his connection to the village began decades before that and started with the fascinating story of his grandparents Fred and Florence Fitch.

Among his many talents Fred tapped into the advent of radio and began building crystal sets which he sold to high demand.

And almost 100 years on Nigel was delighted to have been re-united with one of those radios which has huge sentimental and historical importance.

Fred Fitch helped design the house Marks Tey Radio is still based in and commissioned its building in the early 1900s.

He and Florence ran a hugely successful photographic businessman from there and Fred would cycle miles to record wedding and other major events in people's lives.

Before that time he had been working for the post office as a telephone repair man and when the photography business, and a sideline building bicycles took off he left, later becoming an agent for motorcycle and motor cars.

Shortly after marrying and moving into their brand-new home, Fred began his photography business, which Nigel says was to “occupy his time in the evenings”.

Fred began the radio side of the business in the Twenties and had a stand at the Essex Show, where people queued for hours to pay 6d a time to listen to music through headphones from a crystal set.

Nigel says: “A few years later, as radio progressed, he built hundreds of receivers. I remember him telling me how customers almost fought to buy them as they were completed,” Nigel recalls.

Fred cycled miles to fix radios and keep cycles on the road.

Express cycles, where Fred was manager, was bought by Walter Levett and ‘Radio’ was added to its name until Walter’s son, Leslie, took over in 1946 and he introduced the new invention of television.

Fred retired in 1952 and, on his advice, Nigel began working in the radio and television trade four years later.

In 1962, he started Marks Tey Radio from his grandfather’s old photography shop at the side of the original house, going on to buy the former cycle works his grandfather managed for all that time.

It has been trading for more than 50 years and is now run by Nigel’s sons Keith and Paul but the name of Express Cycles still exists and it was this that led to one of the original radios built by Fred being returned to its original home.

Nigel explains: "A chap in Ipswich was clearing out his dad's stuff after he had died.

"He had actually died a couple of years ago and he was just getting round to sorting all his things and he was clearing his shed and found this wooden box and when he looked inside it had Express Cycles written on the other sie of the lid.

"So he looked us up and called the number and he offered it to me.

"I just couldn't believe it really, I never thought I would see one so it was quite emotional really after all that time because it such a strong link to my grandfather," adds Nigel.

With no speakers available at the time, the radios could only be listened to with headphones and Nigel has an old photograph of his mother, Fred and Florence's daughter Irene, listening to one in their kitchen.

Wanting to find out more and see if they could get it working again, he got in touch with a friend who had worked at the birthplace of radio, Marconi in Chelmsford.

"I took it along to the Monday Club at Sandford Mill where a group of veterans get together to talk about old times and they were just so fascinated to see it.

"After a while they tried to get it working and it was Geoffrey Lovegrove, one of the veterans, who got it working on MW.

"It was quite something to hear modern music coming out of this wooden box which on the outside does not look much like a radio," says Nigel.

The radio has already formed part of one of the open days at Marconi and Nigel says he will lend it to them again, along with the photographs of his mother listening to the radio, but he is keen to keep it close by.

"I am very grateful to the chap who had it for taking the trouble to get it back to me. He could have just done his own research and sold it on privately. "It really is so historically important.

"I never thought I would see one again and it means a lot to have it.

"I remember my grandfather having lots of stuff I did not understand in what I called his shack and he used to be doing things out there and you could smell the solder as you walked past the door."