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 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 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.

E. K. Cole

From Graces Guide


December 1939.
November 1942.
September 1949.
October 1949.
November 1950.
January 1952.
April 1952.
May 1952.
July 1952.
August 1952.
October 1952.
June 1953.
September 1953.
September 1953. Thermovent.
December 1954. Thermovent.
December 1954.
Oct 1956.
March 1960. Electric Heating.
November 1963. Warm-Glow.

of Ekco Works, London Road, Southend-on-Sea, Essex. Telephone: Leigh-on-Sea 838. Cables: "Ekco, Leigh-on-Sea"(1929). Telephone: Southend 49491. Telegraphic Address: "Ekco, Southend-on-Sea" (1937).


1924 Eric Kirkham Cole started business with girlfriend (later wife) in Leigh-on-Sea, repairing radio sets and charging batteries etc. Developed the 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 the business (later to become Chief Engineer and designer of the famous round Bakelite radio) – 500 employees. Other key employees who joined at this time were John Wyborn from Marconiphone Co as Chief Engineer, and Michael Lipman as Production Engineer.

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) [1]

1930 April 25th. Became a public company

1930 Business moved to Priory Crescent.

1931 First Bakelite press ordered; this was something of a gamble as Bakelite moulding required considerable capital investment in machinery that could be used economically only for very large production runs. In the event, the gamble paid off. 1,000 employees.

1932 Fire destroyed part of factory including the R. and D. labs (1932/3 prototypes lost). The firm nearly went out of business. The firm survived by introducing a new range of receivers in attractive cabinets that could not have been made in more traditional materials. These new cabinets became a pattern for the rest of the industry and helped increase Ekco's turnover to more than a million pounds in 1934

1930s Started production of thermionic valves[2].

1934 Start of Radio Direction Finding (radar).

1935 Radar research moved 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[4].

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) [5]

1938 Sold its thermionic valve interests to Mullard.[6].

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.

1938 Verrells resigns as Managing Director and Cole takes his place.[7]

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.

WWII: Ekco was engaged in the production of portable radios, airborne radar sets, plastic practice bombs, and the T1154/R1155 radio sets for bombers.

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

1942 Full production of air interceptor 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. Acquired Ensign Lamps

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 Began testing a Weather radar prototype 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.

1950 A majority interest in Ekco-Ensign Electric was sold to Thorn Electrical Industries

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

1953 ARI 5820 radar for the Hawker Hunter went into production – over 2,000 were made eventually.

1953 Manufacturer of TV sets [8]

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

1954 Took over Dynatron Radio

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

1956 The millionth television receiver left the ECKO factory.

1957 Blue Sky abandoned by Government.

1957 Acquired Ferranti's Radio and T.V. interests. Ferranti Radio and Television Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary started selling receivers under the Ferranti trademark.

1958 Added full range of domestic reflector fires and ‘Warmglow’ electric blankets.

1958 EKCO car radios were being used by most leading car brands

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[9].

1961 Eric Cole and his son Derek left board

1961 Manufacture television, radio, car radio, electric heating and 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. [10]

1963 Start developing colour television. Black and White television faced a strong decline in sales

1963 Motor Show exhibitor. 'Ekco' car radios. [11]

1965 Won the contract to develop the E390/564 weather radar for Concorde.

Car Radio

See E. K. Cole: Car Radio


See E. K. Cole: Radio


See E. K. Cole: Television

Domestic Appliances

See Ekco-Ensign Electric and Ekco Heating and Electrical


See Ekco Plastics

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] E. K. Cole Timeline except domestic equipment
  • [2] The Plastiquarian
  • ODNB Eric Cole
  • [3] Ekco Audio
  1. 1929 British Industries Fair Advert 227; and p41
  3. The Times, 4 April 1935
  4. The Times, 16 July 1935
  5. 1937 British Industries Fair Advert p565; and p350
  7. Western Morning News - Wednesday 24 August 1938
  8. Choosing your Television Set. Published by Freelance in 1953.
  9. The Times, 23 November 1962
  10. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  11. 1963 Motor Show