The Marconi Veterans Association has pleaded with the board of Marconi Corporation to give the historic Marconi archive collection back to Chelmsford instead of sending it to Oxford University.

Association vice chairman, retired Marconi Comms director of publicity Peter Turrall, has written an indignant letter to the Marconi Corporation.

For eight years he strived to keep Marconi bosses in touch with the view of thousands of retired employees and the people of Chelmsford about the collection staying here.

He said: "Personally I feel betrayed by Marconi Corporation that this collection has been handed to Oxford University and so do the people of Chelmsford.

"The chairman and the managing director of the Marconi Company came to Chelmsford just a few years ago, when I was a special invitee, and promised this collection to Chelmsford Borough Council and offered a large sum of money for a suitable building to house the collection.

"I do not think the words 'no signed document to this effect' will go down well with us here. Chelmsford put Marconi on the map, not Oxford."

Former borough council leader Cllr Phil Harvey says none of the Marconi companies could ever be persuaded to put their pledge of the £6 million collection to the people of Chelmsford in writing since 1997.

Cllr Harvey said: "Alarm bells rang right from the start because none of the Marconi companies would ever put pen to paper and put the offer of the collection or their pledge of £3 million towards the museum on a written legal basis.

"Despite this the council entered into legal agreements to purchase land around Essex Record Office and came to an arrangement with the owners of the Atlantic Hotel to build a new conference centre and hotel with specific museum space for the collection with a pedestrian link to the Record Office.

"The Statue of Marconi in the Essex Record Office was designed specifically to be pointing at that building.

"Unfortunately that scheme was unable to proceed and whether or not that had any effect on last week's decision by the new Marconi Corporation we do not know because Marconi never told us.

"As the present leader of the council says they were just not talking meaningfully to us."

David Beck, director of communications for Marconi Corporation, said: "I think the people of Chelmsford will get the best of both worlds provided they can find somewhere to display items which can be made available on semi-permanent loan.

"I believe Chelmsford had every good intention but found it particularly difficult to find a place bearing in mind they would be spending council taxpayers' money.

"The maintenance of the collection was, as we know, not inconsiderable and our primary intention was to keep the collection together. It would have been wrong to split it up or sell it off in little bits.

"Oxford was the ideal solution for both the collection and the people of Chelmsford. I know there has been some reaction in Chelmsford but I really think the solution is just as good for Chelmsford as it is for the collection.

"We have donated the collection to Oxford and it is for Chelmsford and Oxford to negotiate what, at the appropriate secure building, could be loaned back to Chelmsford."

Last night Chelmsford Borough Cabinet was to see a design brief for the Marconi New Street site.

It contains a suggestion the original 1912 building containing his sealed office be used as a social or cultural centre - possibly a museum.

Tonight councillors are expected to pick over reasons for the loss of the collection at the first meeting of a new panel designed to focus on the county town museum service.

Former county councillor Kathleen Nolan, chairman of Essex Heritage Trust, a leader in the campaign to stop the collection being sold by Christies in 1997, said: "We have lost Chelmsford's jewel in the crown without consultation or knowledge."

Published Wednesday December 22, 2004

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