James Pozzi tours the home of Marshall, the iconic British manufacturer of music amplification equipment.
As far as surroundings go for a brand so synonymous with rock and roll, the peaceful confines of the Buckinghamshire town of Bletchley isn’t the first location to immediately come to mind. But this is the town Marshall Amplification has called home for the majority of its 52-year history.
Founded by the late Jim Marshall in a West London music shop in 1962, Marshall has grown into a cultural icon. Having helped create sounds for everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Slash over the decades, Marshall’s manufacturing operations are an intriguing parallel of tradition and innovation.
While there has been investment in new machinery and equipment, a lot of the assembly practices are reliant on the human touch. The wiring of an amplifier’s circuit boards resembles the same method used to assemble radios in the 1920s.
What is palpable touring the site is the profound influence Jim Marshall still has on the company two years after his death. Despite having material suppliers stretching from across the UK to Russia, the company ethos is to do as much as it can in-house, from the R&D to the prototyping.
The recipient of multiple Queen’s Enterprise Awards for Export and last year turning over £23m, the vast warehouse complex of Marshall’s factory illustrates the size of its global appeal. While the USA still accounts for the largest proportion of its sale, Germany is an expanding market.
Danny Thomas, who has worked for the company for over 30 years, says Marshall is a key local employer with a high retention rate. “We very much have the mentality of a family-run business on site,” he explains. “There are people who have worked here for 40 years, and this extends from husband and wives, to parents and children.”