Celebrations to mark 40 years since The Queen opened BT headquarters in Martlesham

The BT tower at Adastral Park, Martlesham Heath

The BT tower at Adastral Park, Martlesham Heath

Forty years of operating from Adastral Park, Suffolk, were celebrated by BT yesterday.

The plaque was unveiled for the second time by Dr Tim Whitley and Sir Alan Rudge, 40 years after BT

The plaque was unveiled for the second time by Dr Tim Whitley and Sir Alan Rudge, 40 years after BT's Adastral Park was opened by The Queen.

BT opened its global research and development headquarters in Adastral Park, Martlesham, formerly known as the Post Office Research Station Martlesham Heath, on November 21, 1975.

It replaced the wartime Dollis Hill research station in North London.

In a ceremony yesterday a plaque, originally dedicated by The Queen when the site first opened, was unveiled.

Speaking at a celebratory presentation held at Adastral Park yesterday, in front of an audience of current and former BT leaders, managing director for research and innovation and the park itself, Dr Tim Whitley, said over the past 40 years laboratories at the site had been instrumental in developing telecommunications across the UK and the world.

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“It certainly fills me with pride when I look back over the history,” he said. “It’s a huge pleasure to welcome all BT leaders who are still here to reflect on the 40 years, and leaders from the past who were part of that narrative and these world changing events.

“We are a very important part of Suffolk, and work to reach out and help Suffolk and East Anglia as much as we can.”

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Since arriving in Martlesham, BT has built the first commercial 140Mb/s single mode optical fibre link (1984), from ground-breaking research carried out on the site in the 1970s and 1980s; made the first live data call over GPRS (1999) and won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise (Innovation) for the creation of IP Exchange (IPX), invented at Adastral Park (2014).

This year, scientists from Toshiba Research Europe and BT Labs Adastral Park have developed ground-breaking levels of security on fibre-optic networks.

Key work to develop super-fast and ultra-fast broadband systems across the UK are also taking place at Adastral Park.

Head of heritage and archives at BT, David Hay, said: “Fibre is pretty much at the centre of all that we do as a business today.

“Adastral Park is the global hub...it’s recognised as one of the leading centres of these communications in the world.”

The park itself has also grown since The Queen’s official opening, and is now one of the largest employment sites in the county. Around 4,000 people are employed by companies based at Adastral Park, with 3,000 of those employed by BT.

Adastral Park now hosts more than 70 technology companies including intel, Ericsson, O2 and Acer Safety Services.

The 100-acre campus was previously an RAF airfield and home to the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Station.

Surprise awards were presented to long-serving staff at BT’s Martlesham site

Colin Mills – 48 years of service: Colin Mills joined BT in September 1967 as an apprentice. He was involved in the IP network installations, and said his career highlight was testing new equipment at Adastral Park.

Adrian Cooper – 48 years of service: Adrian Cooper joined BT in September 1967 as an apprentice. He was part of telecommunication teams for the Oxford and Colchester regions, administered cable development for the NHS database and network design for commercial customers such as Santander and Lloyds Banking Group.

Mick Glanfield – 48 years of service: Mick Glanfield specialised in exchange construction. He joined BT as part of its Kangaroo team, a project to dismantle a redundant facility in Australia, and has had cable administration and cable restoration roles.

Jim Tipple – 46 years of service: Jim Tipple was instrumental in production and management roles in OpenReach. He started as an apprentice in 1969 as a business systems fitter. He held roles for BT in Norwich and Felixstowe before joining the team at Adastral Park.

Chris Hamilton – 46 years of service: Chris Hamilton joined BT as an apprentice in 1969. He has held technical and management roles, primarily infield engineering. He was the lead design architect for the Suffolk area. He was praised by colleagues for his “passion and commitment to work with everyone around him”.

Two employees based at Adastral Park also received awards from Bt for the length of service provide in key roles at the site.

Kevin Woolard, BT’s director of operations, said: “The park is a complex environment to operate and work on. On hand first aiders make sure that we are fit and well and looked after. Secondly, we have a fire team.

“They are both very valuable services and I would like to recognise the two longest serving members of those teams.”

Receiving the awards were Simon Chalklen, who has provided first aid care at Adastral Park for 40 years, and Paul Woods, a continuous member of the fire team for the last 37 years.

After receiving his award, Mr Chalklen, aged 57 from Ipswich, said: “I really enjoy the work I do.

“Adastral Park has massively changed since I started. Just from looking at the pictures of the site, you can see that the whole area has changed. We have got a lot of new buildings and new innovations.

“There’s such a great sense of achievement here.”

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