Today was a good day, like the summer we never had, and it offered the chance to revel in the past manufacturing glory of Welwyn Garden City. Back in the days of Britain’s manufacturing based economy, before we became a service economy, important things were made here, air liners and domestic electronics, and they were world beaters.
Today was the annual exhibition of Murphy radios and TV sets at the Mill Green museum. Only a small affair but you could see design flair, war time austerity, skilled cabinet making, and hi tech electronics (of the era) in the exhibits. Most things we buy today proudly proclaim “Made in China”, personally I feel a lot prouder to see “Made in Welwyn Garden City” etched on the back of every classic Murphy radio or TV. The company formed the backbone of the town alongside Shredded Wheat for about 50 years. It all fell apart with the advent of the transistor and the shift to everything being “Made in Japan” in the late 1960’s.
I’m not old enough to remember it first hand, but Murphy was big, really big. Radios were shipped in huge numbers to all parts of the British Empire for a long time. I’ve seen them for myself in India, Australia and Canada. The company was a progressive employer and employed lots of women, with relatively good pay and conditions for the time. They built radios for Navy ships and other parts of the military, the first BBC radio transmitter (called 2LO), on show at the BBC Museum in London was a Murphy. I’ve checked and yes it does say “Made in Welwyn Garden City” on the back!
So as our large scale manufacturing base finally shuts the workshop doors, and relocates to Asia, leaving the air-conditioned sterility of the open plan office to become the norm, it’s great to be reminded of the glory days when WE made the things we cherished, and much of the rest of the world cherished them too. Times change of course, and I prefer to look to the future than the past. But I felt compelled to remember here that we once had one of the leading technology companies in the world, right here on Bessemer road. How many towns in the UK can claim that?
To see some pictures of Murphy products, have a look here, click on any year: http://www.murphy-radio.co.uk/dungeon/index.html
Editors note: Vain attempts at humour, and barely incisive social comment will return in the next post. They were away on holiday this week.