Roke History

Roke Manor Research takes its name from the 19th century Manor House which sits in the countryside in our 22 acre estate near Romsey.

Plessey Research Roke Manor Limited

After acquiring the Roke Manor estate in 1956, the Plessey Company founded Roke Manor Research. Initially staffed by 28 engineers, the company undertook research into military communications systems.

Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Roke Manor Research grew considerably as the site's reputation attracted key technology contracts in communications and radar. Initially most of the work was for defence applications, but in the mid 1980s work began on Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) switching for the commercial telecommunications market and GSM cellular telephony.


Following the take-over of Plessey by Siemens and GEC in 1990, Siemens took part-ownership of Roke Manor Research in 1990. In 1991, GEC sold its 50% share holding in Roke Manor Research and the company became wholly owned by Siemens.


Roke is now wholly owned by Chemring Group PLC. Chemring acquired Roke from Siemens on Thursday 30th September 2010. The acquisition of Roke will substantially enhance Chemring’s existing technologies in a number of key market sectors and will provide a growing number of products and technologies that will allow the Group to enter adjacent attractive, high growth markets.


Roke Manor History

The first known reference to a settlement at Roke in the ‘Feet of Fines’ papers of Southampton was recorded in 1256.

In 1545, during the reign of Henry VIII, Roke Manor was mentioned in a lay subsidiary roll as having six taxpayers in residence.

By 1650 the first mention was made of a house on the Roke site. This was the first and last mention for many years. Certainly it was not featured on a map created in 1680. It is believed that the house was destroyed during the civil war and rebuilt at the end of the 17th century. The estate was bought by the Ansell family – a Birmingham-based brewery firm – in 1935. Some of the Ansell racing cars were maintained at Roke until the 1950’s.

In April 1944, Army Air Force Station 503, run by the American Red Cross, was expanded to include Roke Manor. Before this, Roke Manor was used by the USAAF as a clearing house and training site for newly arrived personnel or for personnel awaiting reassignment. Some accounts of this period are mentioned in the book "32 Co Pilots", by Charles Bastien.

In 1956 the house and 22 acres of the estate were bought for £13,000 by the Plessey Company and named Plessey Research Roke Manor Limited. The laboratories opened in June, staffed initially by a group of 28 engineers and scientists. The majority of work carried out was performed by the Radio Research group into Electronic Warfare, which was so highly regarded that it did not take long for the company to establish itself as a leader in its field.