Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,469 pages of information and 245,911 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.


From Graces Guide
February 1952.
February 1959. Turbine-Generator Division.
1959. Headquarters of A.E.I. Electronic Division.
1959. Merlin Reactor Tank at the Research Laboratory, Aldermaston.
1959. Merlin Reactor and its experimental arrangements.
1959. Merlin Reactor Building.
1959. Multi Motor Control centre.
May 1960.
Exhibit at the China Clay Country Park in Cornwall.
1966. Assembling a 2,200 hp 750/17.9 rpm divided-drive, double-reduction gearbox at the Rugby Works.
1966. Advance factory at Glenrothes.
1966. Extensive rack wiring section in the Kirkcaldy factory.
1966. Wiring harnesses for telephone exchange racks in course of production at Kirkcaldy.
AEI Velometer - appears to be used to measure air-flow.

Associated Electrical Industries. A.E.I.

Subsidiary activities

Formation of AEI

1926 Gerard Swope, president of General Electric (U.S.A), proposed that BTH, Westinghouse, GEC and the English Electric Co should amalgamate but Hugo Hirst of GEC was not interested in Swope’s scheme.

1928 Formation of Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) [1] as a result of the merger of Metropolitan-Vickers and its rival British Thomson-Houston, a company of similar size and product lineup. Also included in the new group were Edison Swan Electric Co (Ediswan) and Ferguson Pailin of Openshaw, Manchester.

1928 Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) was established[2] as a result of the merger of Metropolitan-Vickers and its rival British Thomson-Houston (BTH), a company of similar size and product lineup. Howard C. Levis (chairman of BTH) became chairman of the new company. Combined, the 2 companies would be one of the few groups able to compete with Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co or the English Electric Co on an equal footing.

Also in the new group were Edison Swan Electric Co (Ediswan) and Ferguson Pailin of Openshaw, Manchester (which BTH had been in the process of buying in 1928). Several of the directors of Metropolitan-Vickers resigned to become directors of the subsidary Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Co Ltd. The group had almost 30,000 employees.

The new group was handicapped by poor communication and intense rivalry between Metrovick and BTH, which remained as separately quoted companies and often worked at cross purposes to each other. AEI was never able to exert effective control over its two competing subsidiaries. Ediswan took on valve production whilst Metrovick ceased valve production; BTH took on radio set production and continued with special purpose valves for non-domestic purposes [3].

1929 The annual meeting was told that agreement had been reached with the International General Electric Co (USA) which meant that the whole group would be able to exchange patents and manufacturing information with GE (USA). Also, International General Electric Co. had significant financial interest in AEI, which it held as an investment with no suggestion that it wanted control[4].

c.1932 AEI ceased manufacture of radio receivers[5].

1937 Frank Whittle's Power Jets company built the world's first prototype jet engine at the BTH works in Rugby. BTH had a major role in developing it. Development was later moved to the Lutterworth works, which were falling into disuse at the time. BTH's directors seemed sceptical of the design and offered little help.

1938 Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) Ltd acquired shares in Westland Aircraft Ltd, alongside John Brown and Co[6].

WW2 BTH expanded north of the River Avon into the Boughton Road site to make magnetos for aircraft engines and other war products.

1940 BTH decided they were not really interested in making jet engines due to their commitment to electrical equipment. Rover was soon selected to make jet engines.

1944 The Lutterworth Power Jets work was nationalized.

1945 After World War II Oliver Lyttelton took over the chairmanship of AEI, and started a massive expansion.

1947 The Hungarian scientist Dennis Gabor invented holography at the BTH site in Rugby.

1947 AEI acquired the International Refrigerator Co and the Victor X-Ray Corporation from the International General Electric Co and a controlling interest in Premier Electric Heaters Ltd[7].

1951 Acquired a block of stock in Siemens Brothers and Co from the Custodian of Enemy Property[8]

1952 AEI's subsidiary Edison Swan Co purchased British Mechanical Productions and its subsidiary General Accessories Co, which made electrical accessories under the Clix brand and radio and television components, thereby filling a gap in AEI's range of products [9].

1952 The AEI Group consisted of:

The profits of the group surged in the post-war years,

1954 Acquired Birlec.

1954-1963 Lord Chandos became chairman of AEI for the second time; he initiated a programme of expansion including raising considerable sums from shareholders.

1955 Take-over of Siemens Bros [10], thereby acquiring a 50% interest in Submarine Cables Ltd.

1955 Four industrial groups formed to exploit the information being made available by UKAEA on design of nuclear power "furnaces" - Industrial Atomic Energy Group involving AEI and John Thompson with electrical generating expertise from Metropolitan-Vickers and BTH. Other groups were English Electric Co and Babcock and Wilcox; C. A. Parsons and Co and Head, Wrightson and Co; GEC and Simon-CarvesLtd [11].

1955 Acquired Hill Top Foundry Co[12]

1956 The main companies in the AEI Group were[13]:

1956 John Thompson Nuclear Energy Company received an order for one of 3 nuclear power stations ordered by the Central Electricity Authority [14].

1957 The massive new £8 million turbine works was opened at Larne as a result of the increase in demand.

1957 or after: BTH won the contract to build the new Buenos Aires power station, valued at £35 million. Rivalries intensified with Metrovick. Lyttelton continued to try to reduce this friction, leading to several unsuccessful reorganizations and slipping profits.

1957 AEI was actively recruiting scientists for its £2 million research programme working on problems ranging from pure physics to development engineering. The company operated 4 research centres:

  • Manchester, where 200 apprentices could be accomodated in the company's hostel
  • Rugby, where 400 apprentices could be housed in Coton House
  • ?
  • Aldermaston Court

1958 Reorganisation of the group started with the aim of bringing the 3 subsidiary companies into one with the AEI name used throughout[15]; the subsidiaries would cease to be separate trading companies[16]; the 3 operating companies would be:

The directors formed two AEI product divisions:

1958 Acquired W. T. Henley's Telegraph Works Co[17]

1959 Further product divisions were created:

1959 Acquired Associated Insulation Products and W. T. Henleys Telegraph Works Co, and London Electric Wire Co and Smiths [18] but London Electric was treated as a "supply company" rather than a division[19].

1959 Image. Headquarters of A.E.I. Electronic Division, New Parks, Leicester.

The expanded group entered a period when business was less easy to grow, with all of the electrical engineering industry facing over capacity.

Supremacy of the AEI Brand

1960 Jan 1st. Reorganisation essentially complete. AEI stopped using the names BTH and Metrovick. The 3 main manufacturing companies were reorganised into product divisions of AEI: Turbine Generator, Transformer and Switchgear, as well as Construction.[20]. Other product divisions included:

In addition there were other specialised subsidiary companies such as AEI-Hotpoint.

This led to a huge falling-off in sales because no-one in the heavy electrical industry was familiar with "AEI"; a massive drop in AEI's stock price followed. Continued attempts to streamline what was two separate management structures continued to fail and by the mid-60's the entire AEI empire was in financial trouble.

1960 Advert. Generators, motors, rheostat and electronic control gear, switchgear, transformers, rectifiers, helical gearing etc. [21]

1960. An AEI research lab was built at Rugby (building BR57 in the Boughton Road site).

1960 A consortium of AEI, Automatic Telephone and Electric Co, Ericsson TelephonesLtd, GEC, Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co, Plessey Co and STC formed a holding company Combined Telephone Holdings only days after its members had failed in their bid to acquire Telephone Manufacturing Co. Combined Telephone Holdings purchased for cash more than half of the shares in Phoenix Telephone and Electric Works and offered to purchase the rest[22].

1960 Heavy electrical plant advertised under the AEI brand. Heavy plant division at Rugby and Manchester.

1960 Nuclear Power Group was formed as partnership between Nuclear Power Plant Co Limited and the AEI-John Thompson Nuclear Energy Co Limited.

1960 AEI formed a new management company, AEI Appliances, to control AEI-Hotpoint and AEI-Gala, the export business of Hotpoint[23].

1961 Britain's largest electrical manufacturer covered a wide range of manufacture, design and distribution; AEI had 103,450 employees with works in more than 50 UK towns[24].

1961 New company to be formed to take over the glass manufacture and sales activities of GEC at Lemington and Wembley and AEI Lamp and Lighting Co at Chesterfield, other than Glass Bulbs Ltd.[25]

1962 Commissioning of Britain's first commercial nuclear power facility at Berkeley.

1963-1967 Construction and commissioning of the £25M radar dish at Chilbolton Observatory.

1964 Charles Wheeler took over as chairman

1964 AEI formed a joint venture with Thorn Electrical Industries to combine their manufacturing and sales activities in lighting products[26].

1966 AEI purchased the remaining 50% of Submarine Cables from BICC.

1966 AEI and EMI formed British Domestic Appliances to bring together their Hotpoint and Morphy-Richards subsidiaries[27].

1967 AEI brands included Metropolitan-Vickers, BTH, Edison Swan and Ediswan, Siemens Brothers, Hotpoint, Birlec and W. T. Henley.

1967 Supplied the turbine generators for Eggborough power station

1967 AEI acquired Hackbridge Holdings Ltd which was involved in transformers[28].

1967 Lancashire Dynamo and Crypto Ltd was acquired by AEI[29].

Acquisition by GEC

AEI's profits continued to fall.[30]

1967, November: With its better profits record, the smaller GEC bought AEI outright. GEC thus became the UK's largest electrical group.

1968 Supplied turbo-alternator for the Winfrith power station

GEC acquired English Electric in September 1968. For a time the heavy engineering business was known as English Electric-AEI, and later GEC Power Engineering.

1968 The AEI Research Laboratory at Harlow was closed with the loss of 100 scientific posts. The process control department at Harlow would be moved to Leicester[31]

1969 Marconi Radar Systems Ltd (MSRL) was formed from GEC-AEI Electronics (Blackbird Road and New Parks, Leicester), Marconi's Radar Division (Chelmsford) and Elliott's Aerospace Control Division.

1970 Submarine Cables Ltd was sold to Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd.

1980s GEC Rugby shrank. Many buildings were pulled down. The area west of the Black Path became a supermarket site. The Boughton Road site became several separate small firms.

1989 GEC Rugby was split into GEC Alsthom and Cegelec Projects.

1998 GEC Alsthom and Cegelec Projects were reunited as Alstom.

The GEC Board lost interest in heavy engineering, and the company was renamed Marconi plc in 1999 (later Marconi Corporation plc).

2007 The firm's clubhouse on Hillmorton Road was pulled down, and its surrounding sports field was used for house building along its south edge.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 6 December 1928
  2. The Times, 6 December 1928
  3. [1] Competition Commission
  4. The Times, 1 May 1930
  5. [2] Competition Commission
  6. Sir Ernest Willoughby Petter, by Anne Pimlott Baker, ODNB
  7. The Times, 24 April 1947
  8. The Times, Jul 01, 1952
  9. The Times, 2 April 1952
  10. The Times, 21 December 1954
  11. The Times, 17 March 1955
  12. The Times November 22, 1955
  13. The Times, Apr 05, 1956
  14. The Times, 14 December 1956
  15. The Times, 24 November 1959
  16. The Times June 6, 1959
  17. The Times October 2, 1958
  18. The Times, Mar 24, 1959
  19. The Times, 22 April 1960
  20. The Times, Apr 22, 1960
  21. Mechanical World Year Book 1960. Published by Emmott and Co of Manchester. Advert p143
  22. The Times, 29 July 1960
  23. The Times, 21 December 1960
  24. 1961 Guide to Key British Enterprises
  25. The Times, Dec 09, 1960
  26. The Times, 22 April 1964
  27. The Times, 17 January 1970
  28. The Times, 13 May 1967
  29. The Times, 15 September 1967
  30. The Times Oct. 27, 1970
  31. The Times Mar. 5, 1968
  • [3] Wikipedia
  • Mining Year Book 1960. Published by Walter E. Skinner. Advert p12 & p125