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Posted by STEVE M on


1904 Eric Kirkham Cole born in Rochford.

1924 Started business with girlfriend in Leigh-on-Sea, repairing radio sets and charging batteries etc. Developed Battery Eliminator (i.e. mains transformer).

1925 Joined by W. S. Verrells

1926 E. K. Cole Limited formed.

1927 Funding obtained to move to larger premises in Leigh.

1928 A.W. Martin joined business (later to become chief Engineer and designer of the famous round Bakelite radio) – 500 employees.

1929 Land acquired in Priory Crescent – building commenced.

1929 British Industries Fair Advert for Ekco Mains Power Radio Devices. For obtaining the power supply for Radio Receivers direct from electric supply mains by attaching adaptor to any convenient light or power socket. (Wireless Section - Stand No. MM.73)

1930 Business moved to Priory Crescent.

1931 First Bakelite press ordered – 1,000 employees.

1932 Fire destroyed part of factory including R. and D. labs (1932/3 prototypes lost). The firm nearly went out of business.

1930s Started production of thermionic valves

1934 Start of Radio Direction Finding (radar).

1935 Radar research moves to Orfordness.

1935 Working agreement between the television firm of Scophony Ltd and E. K. Cole radio manufacturers, with investment by Cole's[3]. Scophony had produced one of 4 television systems in the UK; this was based on an optico-mechanical system suitable for commercial projection

1937 British Industries Fair Advert for Ekco Mouldings. Manufacturers of Synthetic Resin, Moulded Products of all sizes, shapes and colours for Electrical Radio and Allied Trades. Exhibits include Moulded Cabinets and Components of Ekco Radio Receivers. (Electricity: Industrial and Domestic Section - Stand No. Cb.926)

1938 Sold its thermionic valve interests to Mullard

1938 Government held secret discussions with EKCO about help with radar research and production methods. EKCO offered help via A.W. Martin; secret lab. established by year-end. EKCO had 3,000 employees.

1939 Secret planning to disperse research and production away from Southend into 'Shadow factories'. September onwards, production transferred to war work (type 19 army radios). EKCO helped with getting night fighter radar AI Mk 2 into production. Secret underground lab. built alongside underground shelters at Southend.

1940 June – evacuation plan activated. HQ moved to Green Park Hotel, Ashton Clinton; military radio work to Aylesbury, Bucks; radar work to Malmesbury, Wiltshire. First successful night fighter attack and shooting-down in July.

1941 After the Blitz, radio- and valve-manufacture re-commenced at Southend.

1942 Full production of air inteceptor radar - AI Mark 8 – which stayed in production through the rest of the war.

1943 Development started of 'man-portable' VHF military radios (Walkie-Talkies); these came into service in time for invasion of Italy. Radio sets, and wiring harness for Lancaster bombers made at Southend. Approx. 8,000 employees across all sites.

1945 Production scaled down across all sites. Ashton Clinton and Alyesbury closed down, Malmesbury continued. Southend re-commenced radio and plastics production.

1946 Telecommunications Research Establishment gave EKCO a research contract to develop warning radar. Core research departments re-formed at Malmesbury and Southend.

1947 Weather radar prototype began testing in a Sunderland aircraft.

1948 The Sunderland flew extensively on 'Empire routes' testing bad weather performance (in association with TRE).

1949 First commercial delivery of weather radar. Development work started on radiation dose meters. Development work started on radar ranging system intended for Hawker Hunter.

1952 EKCO Electronics Limited set up as a separate business unit within E. K. Cole.

1953 Hawker Hunter radar went into production – over 2,000 were made.

1953 Manufacturer of TV sets

1954 Flight trials began on Blue Sky at Llambeter – later at RAF Valley. Development work started on AI Mark 17. Intended as follow-on from Blue Sky; designated for Gloster Javelin.

1955 Blue Sky trials team moved to Woomera (Australia).

1957 Blue Sky abandonned by Government.

1957 Acquired Ferranti's Radio and T.V. interests

1960 Merged with Pye of Cambridge as British Electronic Industries; each company retained its own operations and management initially but by 1962 the new company had complete control of Ekco

1961 Manufacture television, radio, car radio, electric heating ad electric blankets, plastics mouldings for industry, plastic domestic ware, radar and VHF equipment, nucleonics for industry, medicine and research, nuclear and reactor instrumentation, radio and television components. 8,000 employees.

1963 Motor Show exhibitor. 'Ekco' car radios.

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