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Remembering ISTEL


An exciting addition to the Museum’s archive will be joining the collections in the near future. This new acquisition is a collection of items from the Redditch based IT company, ISTEL and later AT&T ISTEL, which was a major employer in the town during the 1980s. The name was chosen by the chairman, John Leighfield, and was said to be an acronym for In Systems The Established Leader.

ISTEL originally developed out of British Leyland’s own computer systems department and was known as BL Systems Limited. Starting out as a subsidiary of British Leyland, ISTEL went on to become its own independent IT company, which was later responsible for setting up the first microwave communications network in Europe and launching Britain’s first commercial email service, Comet. The company also continued to be involved in the motor industry in providing its services to Rover Group and sponsoring races at Silverstone.

We learnt about the existence of ISTEL and its link to the British motor industry through two former employees, who have been keeping the legacy of ISTEL alive after finding that very few records and artefacts about the company have been collected. As part of the efforts to preserve and document ISTEL’s history, a website called Remembering ISTEL was established, which provides an account of the people and achievements of the company, along with a Facebook group for former ISTEL employees.

We were approached by the former employees about the possibility of accepting their donation after they had determined that the Museum’s archive repository was the most appropriate place to store their collection because of the link to British Leyland and the fact that they had also previously been involved in supporting some of the earlier developments at the Museum.

The collection itself consists of company contracts, documents, a scrapbook of press cuttings and 140 copies of the company’s own in-house magazine, The Real Times, which records key events for the company and the world at large. We look forward to welcoming this unique and exciting collection into our collection.

If you are interested in learning more about ISTEL and the Remembering ISTEL project, you can find more information on their website here.