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Ekco, E.K.Cole Ltd.; Southend-on-Sea

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Name: Ekco, E.K.Cole Ltd.; Southend-on-Sea    (GB)  
Abbreviation: ekco
Products: Model types Tube manufacturer
Summary:

E.K. Cole Receiver Co.
2 Beedell Avenue, Westcliff (Southend-on-Sea) (1922)

E.K. Cole Ltd.
513 London Road, Westcliff-on-Sea (1925 - 1927)
EKCO Works, 515 London Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex (1927 – 1930)
505 London Road, Southend-on-Sea, Essex. (1930 – 1966)

Brands: EKCO, Ekcovision

EKCO (from Eric Kirkham Cole Limited) was a British electronics company producing radio and television sets from 1922 until 1966.

They manufactured valves up to 1939.

Expanding into plastic production for its own use, Ekco Plastics produced both radio cases and later domestic plastic products; the plastics company became Lin Pac Mouldings Ltd.
In 1955 Ekco Electronics Ltd. was set up to manufacture Nucleonics.

Merged with Pye in 1960 and Pye closed the Southend-on-Sea factory as part of its restructuring plan in 1966. By the early 1970s, the Ekco brand had all but disappeared

Founded: 1922
Closed: 1966
Production: 1922 - 1966
Documents about this manufacturer/brand
  EKCO 1930-31 Catalogue in the Wireless & Gramophone Trader 3936 KB
History:

Eric Kirkham Cole (1901 - 1966) and his girlfriend, Muriel Bradshaw, started making radio sets in 1922 at the rear of his father’s premises. He manufactured a few sets a week and offered an accumulator charging service as radio sets at the time were battery-powered.

After approaches by his customers to power radios from the domestic electricity supply Cole experimented and succeeded in making power supplies to power battery radios. This increased his business and a schoolteacher who initially suggested the power supply W. S. Verrells went into partnership with Cole with finance from other local businessmen.  [1]

On October 2, 1926, E. K. Cole, Ltd. (216,572), was registered as a private company with a capital, of £2,500 in £1 shares (1,500 cumulative 7 per cent preference and 1,000 ordinary). Objects: To acquire the business of manufacturing EKCO units, namely, instruments for deriving high and/or low-tension supply for wireless receiving sets from the electricity supply mains now carried on by E. K. Cole, W. S. Verrells, and J. A. Maxwell, 513, London Road, South End on Sea, as “E. K. Cole.”
The permanent directors are E K. Cole, 2, Beedell Avenue, Westcliff-on-Sea; W. S. Verrells, 1, Cotswold Road, Westcliff-on-Sea; J. A. Maxwell, 3, Beedell Avenue Westcliff-on-Sea. [2]

In 1927 with funding from local businessmen, they moved into a new factory at Leigh-on-Sea, they expanded, first to premises owned by their various directors and then in 1930, to a very big new factory at Southend-on-Sea.

In August 1930 they announced the most comprehensive and "go-ahead that " sales and production programme they have ever put forward.

Apart from the new and striking introductions which make their appearance for the first time " Ekco " have taken the step of increasing the trade discount on their all-electric receivers and loudspeakers, of 33 per cent., the discount on the other lines remaining at 30 per cent. An important extension to the " Ekco " easy payment system will also be made. For some time, past most of the firm's products have been available on easy terms, allowing the payments to be spread over one year, but when the new sets and speakers make their appearance, these will be available to the public with considerably reduced initial payments, while the remaining instalments will be spread over two years when desired. [3]

In August 1930 they published a 16-page catalogue in the Wireless & Gramophone Trader presenting their 1930-31 programme & manufacturing policy along with a full range of their AC-powered products

Bakelite Cabinets

Bakelite cabinets for its radios were made for the company in Germany by AEG, however, the introduction of high import duties on the cabinets in 1931 led Ekco to establish its own bakelite moulding shop adjacent to its Southend-on-Sea works.

To set their products apart from the competition, Ekco employed some of the movers and shakers of the design & architecture world. As early as 1933 they produced the AC 64 and AC 74 by Russian designer and architect Serge Chermayeff (1900 – 1996) who had become a British Citizen in 1928 and would go on to design the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea with Erich Mendelsohn.

 

In 1932, Ekco ran a competition for a new radio design which was won by Japanese-born, expatriate Canadian artist, designer, and architect Wells Coates (1895-1958). His approach was to consider the most important element of the radio set, the round speaker, and place this as the central focus. The result was the AD 65 which came out in 1934, again in a brown ‘walnut’ version & one in black & chrome. This radio would be impossible to produce in wood marking it out as an icon of Modernist design from its appearance down to its manufacturing process. These models are highly sought after by collectors today.

Ekco launched its first car radio at the 1934 motor show fitted to a 40-50 hp Rolls-Royce limousine. [4]

In 1935, to overcome import restrictions to the continent Ekco set up Ekco Radio S. A. Belge manufacturing & distribution at Haren Belgium. The company was short lived however & closed in 1937. The sales and service function continued until WW2.
The AD37 radio is an example manufactured in Belgium from imported parts.

As demand grew, Ekco became a major consumer of electronic valves, & in 1937 the company established its own radio tube production so as to secure better pricing of these critical components.
Ekco was only ever a small player in valves & probably could not compete with the major manufacturers but the loss of sales of those former suppliers must have pushed them to consider offering Ekco better pricing to win back their lost business.
As a result, in 1939, Ekco sold its radio valve division to the major competitor, Mullard Ltd.

However, the facility remained and was used to manufacture tubes for the armed services during WW2.

Ekco's first steps in television were via their association with Scophony Ltd. Towards the end of 1935 Ekco was attempting to negotiate a non-exclusive license for the manufacture, sale, & distribution of Scophony televisions.

At the annual general meeting of E. K. Cole, Ltd., on July 15, 1935, Mr. W. S. Verrells (chairman & managing director) outlined the policy of the company in respect of television. In the course of his speech, he said:-

The development of television has been carefully watched by our research & patents departments over a number of years and various systems have been considered in the laboratory stages. As a result, your directors arrived at decided conclusions which, after discussions and negotiations with the directors of Scophony, Ltd., resulted in your company taking a substantial interest in this television company, with two seats on the board.

The Scophony system was described in the recent Report of the Television Committee as being one of the four most distinctive television systems in the country. Technically, the Scophony system is based on optical-mechanical methods which are quite distinct from the cathode-ray principle now employed in some other systems. The Scophony methods enjoy an inherent & considerable light efficiency. Furthermore, Scophony is developing what we believe to be the only method for direct large, screen television for cinema theatres.

 

 

The Scophony system may also have important applications in commercial communications as well as in general cinematography.  The system, originated by Mr. G. W. Walton, has been further developed in the Scophony laboratories. About eighty granted patents & a large number of pending patent applications cover the system in 28 countries, and owing to the absolute novelty of the basic principles the patent situation is considered to be one of great strength. Television receivers manufactured under Scophony patents, being entirely optical and mechanical, have no sensitive parts requiring replacement, and should be capable of manufacture by mass production methods. 

It seems therefore quite reasonable to expect that in the manufacture of such television receivers, we should be able to obtain a good share of the medium-priced home television receiver market when this new science reaches a stage or two further than at present, which can perhaps be described as making its first bow out of the laboratory into the commercial arena.  I think it must be recognised that some years must elapse before a television can become the medium of national or perhaps international entertainment & education which sound broadcasting has already become. Much more intensive development and research are necessary in this field, both on the transmitting and the receiving side. Indeed, it is very likely that the future technical conception of television may materially differ from the present one.
We are satisfied that the Scophony Company is alive to such possible developments & therefore Scophony should play an important part in the future of commercial television. [5]

The first Ekco-Scophony Model was the ES104.

As the Scophony televisions were aimed at clubs & public premises Ekco in 1937 introduced their first conventional CRT-based Television the TC102.

Before the start of WW2, the Government decided to disperse certain production to locations away from obvious bombing targets. This led to a shadow factory at Cowbridge House, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, being established by Ekco. This was followed by other shadow factories at Aylesbury, Woking, Preston, & Rutherglen. The wartime headquarters of Ekco was based at Aston Clinton House in Buckinghamshire.

Malmesbury specialised in the top-secret development and production of the new radar systems as part of the "Western Development Unit". Produced during the war, the AI air interception radars, & the ASV Mk. II air to surface vessel radar.

In addition to radar equipment, Ekco also manufactured R1155 and T1154 aircraft radios at its Aylesbury shadow factory. Ekco carried out extensive development work on both units before putting them into production, significantly improving on the original Marconi design. The company also manufactured the Wireless Set No. 19 tank radio at Woking. It was a Pye-designed set made by several other British and American companies.
In 1942, Ekco began production of its Wireless Set No. 46 portable man-pack radio, & large numbers of these were made at the company's Woking & Southend-on-Sea factories.

It is estimated that by 1945 EKCO had over 8,000 people working for it across various sites making mains & portable TVs, mains and portable radios, radiograms, tape recorders, car radios, electric heaters, thermovent heaters, electric blankets, plastic toilet seats, various plastic utensils, plastic bathroom fittings and 'Superbath' baby-baths.

In 1947, EKCO set up Kelly & Shiel (Ekco Products) Ltd. as an associate company to assemble EKCO products and market them in Ireland. 

EKCO Electronics Ltd. was set up as a separate business unit within E. K. Cole in 1952.

Around August 1955 E.K.Cole acquired a controlling interest in the upmarket brand Dynatron. [7]

During the 1950s, the company produced a number of military radar systems including the ARI 5820 ranging radar for the Hawker Hunter; the ASV Mk. 19 air-to-surface vessel radar for the Fairey Gannet, and the Red Steer tail warning radar for the Avro Vulcan. EKCO also supplied weather radars for a variety of civil aircraft such as the Bristol Britannia, De Havilland Comet, Vickers Vanguard, Vickers VC10 & BAC 111. The company also made the E390/564 weather radar for the Concorde. In 1970, EKCO's radar activities were subsumed into MEL, the military electronics subsidiary of Philips.

In 1955 Ultimate-Ekco (N.Z.) Ltd. was formed with an association with the New Zealand company Radio (1936) Ltd. 

In 1956 Ediswan-Ekco (Aust.) Pty. was established by an arrangement with Australian Electrical Industries Pty. Ltd. at a factory in Yennora, Sydney.

In 1955 Ekco Electronics Ltd. set up a Nucleonics branch manufacturing Scintillation Counters, Scaling Units, Counting Ratemeters Radiation Monitors, Vibrating Reed Electrometers & Geiger Muller Tubes. [8]

In 1957 Ekco Electronics Ltd. manufactured a complete Nucleonic instrumentation system & safety circuits for the High Flux Australian Reactor (HIFAR). [9]

Ekco merged with Pye in 1960 to form a new holding company, British Electronic Industries Ltd., with C.O. Stanley as Chairman & E.K. Cole as Vice-Chairman. The following year Cole resigned from the board & retired. He died on 18 November 1966 in the Bahamas due to a bathing accident, his wife Muriel having predeceased him in 1965.[1]

British Electronic Industries was put up for sale in 1966, & in the same year, Pye closed the Southend-on-Sea factory (but maintained its car radio repair workshop until 1977) as part of its restructuring plan. In 1967, Philips Electrical Industries emerged as the new owner of the Ekco/Pye business which was then split into three different companies. By the early 1970s, the Ekco brand had all but disappeared.

[1] Ekco A Brief History, Chris Poole 2008
[2] Electrical Review Oct 15, 1926, page 630.
[3] Wireless & Gramophone Trader Aug 9, 1930, Page 130.
[4] Wireless World Oct 26, 1934, Page 338.
[5] Television & Short-wave Aug 1935, Page 451.
[6] Wireless World Mar 1949, Page 106.
[7] Practical Wireless Sep 1955, Page 520.
[8] Engineering Sep 1955, Page  5.
[9] Instrumentation & Control Aspects of HIFAR by J. Parry March 1988.

 


Some models:
Country Year Name 1st Tube Notes
GB  45 A22 ECH35   
GB  47 A52 ECH35  3 x KW Released October 1947 price £28 7s 0d 
GB  35 AD 36 SP13  Round EKCO speziell für Bakelit entworfen von Wells Coates 
GB  34 157 DC SP20  Ekco´s first model exclusively for Radio Rentals. 
GB  29 Ekcolectric SGP3 [AC]   There is also a DC version.  
GB  29 Ekcolectric P2 [DC] PM4DX  Detector and pentode. 
GB  30 312 [AC] 354V  Metal Rectifier; also a DC version. 
GB  30 All Electric 313 [AC] S4VA  Uses a metal rectifier type C15. A choice of two external loudspeakers was offered - the ... 
GB  30 Ekcone LS1    
GB  30 Ekcoil LS2    
GB  31 All Electric Consolette RS3 [walnut] S4VA  not to be confused with the similar looking SH25; 
GB  32 All Electric Receiver M 23 [AC] PM24M  not to be confused with the similar looking RS2AC or RS2DC. Westinghouse C13 metal half-wa... 

[rmxhdet-en]

Further details for this manufacturer by the members (rmfiorg):

[2] Electrical Review Oct 15, 1926, page 630.tbn_gb_ekco_2_electrical_review_oct_15_1926_page_630.jpg
[3] Wireless & Gramophone Trader Aug 9, 1930, Page 130.tbn_gb_ekco_3_wireless_gramophone_trader_aug_9_1930_page_130.jpg
[4] Wireless World Oct 26, 1934, Page 338.tbn_gb_ekco_4_wireless_world_oct_26_1934_page_338.jpg
[5] Television & Short-wave Aug 1935, Page 451.tbn_gb_ekco_5_television_short_wave_aug_1935_page_451.jpg
[7] Practical Wireless Sep 1955, Page 520.tbn_gb_ekco_7_practical_wireless_sep_1955_page_520.jpg
[8] Engineering Sep 1955, Page 5.tbn_gb_ekco_8_electronic_engneering_sep_1955_page_5.jpg
Price Displaytbn_gb_ekco_price_display.jpg
Year: 1959tbn_ekco_logo.jpg
Das Logo ist von der Vorderseite des Modells A.110.tbn_gb_ekco_a.110_logo.jpg
Original Prospekt Titelseitetbn_uk_ekco_prospekt1939_front.jpg
Hersteller Prospekt 1939tbn_uk_ekco_price_list_1939.jpg
By courtesy of guest Ray Hayley-Barker, Rye, UK.tbn_ekco_folder_1953_p1.jpg
By courtesy of guest Ray Hayley-Barker, Rye, UK.tbn_ekco_folder_1953_p2.jpg
From Italian weekly magazine "Epoca", Mondadori, March 1958. Reassembled by Pier Antonio Aluffi to save space.tbn_gb_ekco_italy_adv.jpg
[6] Wireless World Mar 1949, Page 106.tbn_gb_ekco_6_wireless_world_mar_1949_page_106.jpg
Television & Short-Wave Sep 1939, Page 525.tbn_gb_ekco_television_short_wave_sep_1939_page_525.jpg

Forum contributions about this manufacturer/brand
Ekco, E.K.Cole Ltd.; Southend-on-Sea
Threads: 2 | Posts: 2
Hits: 413     Replies: 0
Factory radio manufacturing description Oct 1937.
Gary Cowans
10.Oct.23
  1

HOW THEY ARE MADE!

Practical & Amateur Wireless October 23rd, 1937, Page 162.

The hydraulic pumps on the right build up the great pressures needed to operate the Ekco cabinet moulding presses. On the left are pressure cylinders.

To ensure a rigid chassis for the receivers, the chassis is bent, and the edges welded, whilst various shields, screens, etc., are also spot-welded into position. This avoids noises due to poor contact on the earth side.

Corner of an Ekco research room where highly skilled engineers are constantly experimenting with new ideas and designs. The most elaborate apparatus is required in a laboratory of this nature in order to conduct the many tests which are necessary.

A modern system employed for checking Ekco radio is the "Soak" Test. An overhead "live" line supplies A.C. current as the sets move slowly along, towing their mains leads with them. This test under working conditions ensures that all receivers are faultless when they leave the factory.

 

 
Hits: 375     Replies: 0
Visit to the new E. K. Cole Ltd., factory, October 1930
Gary Cowans
09.Oct.23
  1

Visit to the new E. K. Cole Ltd., factory at Southend-on-Sea South-end-on-sea was published in The Gramophone Trader Magazine, October 1930 was published in the Turn Table Talk section as;

It would probably take an article as long as the new EKCO roof sign, which is 400 feet long. to describe the adventures of two of our staff during their visit to the new works of E. K. Cole Ltd., at Southend-on-Sea.

It is significant that in 1922 the floor space occupied by the Ekco works was only 150 square feet, whereas today the total area under cover is 80.000 square feet, and another nine acres of land are available for further extensions.

Few people realise the number of operations that time necessary before a modern all-electric receiver is ready to be despatched to the dealer, and it is remarkable that such efficient sets are so low in price. In the Ekco factory a product, whether it be a set, an eliminator, or a component part, seldom travels over the same ground twice. At one end of the works, we see the various components, coils, chokes, transformers, etc., being made and tested before being passed on to the assembly benches. By the time the finished article reaches the packing department at the other end of the shop, it has gone through scores of operations and passed a number of exacting tests all of which are carried out by experienced hands.

In between the B.B.C. broadcasting hours, gramophone records are broadcast through a private transmitter which can be " picked up " in any part of the works. One of the first things to be noticed was that all workers engaged in wiring operations used resin as flux. This is most important in the manufacture of coils, transformers, and any component where fine gauge wire is being used. Even in the wiring up of sets, where the connecting wire is of a larger gauge, the resin should always be used if corrosion is to be kept down to a minimum.

Perhaps the outstanding feature of the whole Ekco organisation was the apparent contentment of the employees. This is, no doubt, due to the ideal conditions under which they work. The management has their employees' interests at heart. This is a good policy. A contented mind is a willing worker; a willing worker means good production and possibly, in this case, good reproduction. 

Gramophone Trader Oct 1930, Page 221.

 
Ekco, E.K.Cole Ltd.; Southend-on-Sea
End of forum contributions about this manufacturer/brand

  

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