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
An early electric motor in the reserve collection at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry. The nameplate gives 'London & Manchester' as the addresses, so the motor was probably an early example made in Salford
August 1899.


1920. Witton Works.
1922. Witton Works.
1923. Laboratories at Wembley.
December 1929. Outdoor Type Oil Circuit Breakers.
June 1933.
April 1935.
May 1936.
June 1936.
5th March 1937.
1937. Rectifier Works.
February 1937. Portable Electric Drills.
August 1937.
September 1937.
30th December 1938.
Dec 1939.


November 1943
January 1944.
April 1945.
October 1945. Osira lamps.


1946. Audio-Frequency Millivoltmeter.
November 1947.
January 1948.
February 1948.
March 1948.
June 1948.
January 1949.
July 1949.
August 1949.
September 1949.
October 1949.
November 1950.
November 1950.
1950. Works Extensions at Witton.
December 1950.
February 1952.
March 1952.
April 1952.
May 1952.
June 1952.
July 1952.
August 1952.
1952. Heavy Engineering Works.
1952. Diamond-Ore Drier.
June 1953.
Sept 1953.
September 1953. Germanium Triode GET.
June 1955. Electronic Devices.
January 1957.
February 1957.
May 1957.
May 1957.
June 1959.
1959. Japanese Study Group in the Structural Engineering Laboratory of the G.E.C. Atomic Energy Dision, Erith, Kent.
May 1961.
November 1961. Lighting and Heating Group.
HRC Fuse Link.
Gramophone needles.
1988. Midos.

The General Electric Co of 67 Queen Victoria-street, E. C. (1900)

of Magnet House, Kingsway, London, WC2 (1921). Telephone: Temple Bar 8000. Telegraphic Address: "Electricity, Westcent, London". (1937)

of 1 Stanhope Gate, London (1963)

Unconnected with the General Electric Co of the USA.

Major Areas of the business

Establishing the Business

1886 The name of the General Electric Apparatus Co was changed to the General Electric Company.

1887 The company produced the first electrical catalogue of its kind.

1888 The firm opened its first factory in Manchester, known as the "Manchester Works" even though it was in Salford. Another, in Salford, was known as the Peel Works because it overlooked Peel Park [1].

1888 Manufactured telephones, electric bells, ceiling roses and switches in Manchester.

1889 The General Electric Co Ltd was formed as a private limited company, also known as GEC, with its head office in Queen Victoria Street, London. Bought the factory of the bankrupt Electric Portable Battery and Gas Igniting Co to manufacture bells, indicators, lamps and accessories designed for the English market [2].

1889 G. Binswanger and Co issued a catalogue of electric lighting plant and material. The General Electric Co issued a catalogue of electric bells, batteries and electrical accessories[3]

1892 After the Edison and Swan Lamp patents expired, GEC established a lamp factory Robertson Electric Lamps.

1892 Max John Railing joined the company, the start of a long career with GEC.

1893 The company developed the use of china as an insulating material in switches and manufactured light bulbs from 1893.

1895 Works at Chapel Street, Manchester[4].

1895 Following a fire in the Manchester Works (not 1893 as shown in Company histories[5]) production was moved to the Peel Works.

Mid 1890s Established Ileone Works to make brasswork and fittings [6].

1895 Advert for Brass finishers. General Electric Company, Peel works, Adelphi, Salford.[7]

1896 The company established works in Great Hampton Street and later at Sherlock Street, Birmingham.

1898 Advert. Works listed are: Peel Works, Adephi, Salford; Great Hampton Street, Birmingham; Brook Green, Hammersmith; and Clerkenwell.

1900 October. General Electric Company (1900) Ltd was incorporated[8]. 'The General Electric Company (Limited) has been formed, with a Share capital of £800,000, divided into 40,000 Five per Cent. Cumulative Preference, and an equal number of Ordinary Shares, each of £10. There will also be an authorised issue of £200,000 Four per Cent. First Mortgage Debenture Stock. The object of the Company is to acquire and work the business which was originally started as G. Binswanger and Co., and afterwards traded as the General Electric Company, carrying on business in London, Manchester, Salford, Birmingham, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and elsewhere. The Vendors take £50,000 Debenture Stock, £70,000 Preference Shares, and £250,000 Ordinary Shares at par, in part payment of the purchase money. There are now offered for public subscription £150,000 Debenture Stock and £180,000 Preference Shares.'[9]

1900 The General Electric Company (1900) Ltd., with Gustav Byng as Chairman and Hugo Hirst as deputy, acquired a site at Witton in Birmingham to make electric machinery. The company was registered on 27 September, to take over the business of a company of similar title. [10]

1902 Opened the Witton works in Birmingham, covering 45 acres. This was the company's first purpose-built factory; it designed and manufactured electrical equipment and machines, including the Carbon works, the only such facility in the country, which thereby avoided being dependent on German imports. However the value of the Carbon Works only became apparent to the government after the outbreak of war with Germany [11]

Rapidly growing private and commercial use of electricity, especially in lamps and lighting equipment, ensured buoyant demand and the company expanded both at home and overseas with the establishment of branches in Europe, Japan, Australia, South Africa and India and substantial export trade to South America.

1903 Issued Pamphlet No. F. 1026. on Accessories and glass for electric light fittings.[12]

1903 name changed to The General Electric Company Ltd

1905 Made the dynamos and supplied engines and dynamos for Handsworth Power Station[13]

Hugo Hirst becomes MD

1906 Hugo Hirst became Managing Director.

1909 Acquired Ilene Works in Edgbaston [14].

1909 In conjunction with John Baptist Kramer, GEC transferred and expanded Kramer's tool and hoist business to Witton under the name Witton Kramer Tool and Hoist Co.

1909 GEC now had 7 large factories but, due to depressed trade, these were operating at less than full capacity. The Peel Works, manufacturing telephones, had been expanded; Sherlock Street works in Birmingham were making heating stoves and radiators in addition to electric light fittings[15].

1910 On 24th December GEC incorporated the Peel Works as a separate company, employing 1,000 workers[16]. The Electrical Review noted that the company had been formed as result of an agreement between GEC and Merritt Scott Conner to take over the Peel Works' telephone manufacturing capability. Conner's importance was acknowledged by his nomination to the Board of the new company, which was to concentrate on telephones alone. The 1910 Annual Report noted "Switchgear, arc lamps, fans and small motors departments have now been moved from Salford to Witton. Peel Works is now entirely devoted to telephone and telegraphic apparatus. The Directors have thought it desirable to carry on these departments as a subsidiary company"[17].

1910 Gustav Byng died and Hugo Hirst became Chairman, remaining in post until his death in 1943; Ernest Gustav Byng was vice-chairman and Leonard Gustav Byng was a director; M. J. Railing was general manager and Dr A. H. Railing was also a director (Witton Works).

1912 Issue of Preference shares[18]. More than 8,000 employees. Factories were Witton and Brass Finishing Works in Birmingham, and at Union Street, Borough, London for light fittings and experimental work. Trading Branch at Queen Victoria St London, with branches in the provinces. In addition there were investments in the Peel-Conner Telephone Works at Salford, the Steel Conduit Co at Witton, Salford Electric Instruments Ltd making measuring instruments, and the Lamp Works at Hammersmith; all these companies were directed or controlled by GEC. In addition GEC owned shares in trading companies around the world.

1914 Suppliers of electrical requisites of every description; also undertook complete central station equipment. Employees 8,000. [19]

1914 Public company Pirelli-General was formed as a company held in equal shares by Pirelli, an Italian limited partnership, and GEC.

WW1 During World War I the Company was heavily involved in the war effort making many types of products such as radios, signalling lamps and arc lamp carbons, as well as power plants for munitions works and ships. Using its experience in making filament lamps, it became a manufacturer of radio valves[20].

1915 The large German shareholding in the Osram Lamp Works Ltd had provoked negative press treatment. Mr Hirst, the Chairman, told the GEC company meeting that a way had been found that would give future control of the works into British hands, he trusted, for ever[21]. Osram Lamp Works, Robertson Lamp Works and Lemington Glass Works were amalgamated[22].

1917 Bank loan arranged to pay for the purchase of shares in Osram-Robertson Lamp Works Ltd of which GEC was part owner, although the company had managed the Works since opening[23].

1918 GEC acquired the ordinary shares in Chamberlain and Hookham, meter manufacturers, and the turbine works of Fraser and Chalmers[24].

Postwar Developments

1919 Relatively easy transition from wartime production to peacetime activities because the products were similar. Ambitious peacetime programme to be able to meet any electrical contract, with equipment manufactured by the company. GEC absorbed the whole of Osram[25].

1919 GEC established Britain's first separate industrial research laboratories at Wembley.

After WW1, developments in the telephone industry were met by investment at GEC's new Coventry Works rather that at Peel Works[26].

1919 Marconi-Osram Valve Co formed as a company owned jointly by GEC and Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co[27].

1920 GEC produced a composite view here illustrating the various GEC factories, these being:-
Conduit Works, Witton
Carbon Works, Witton
Switchgear Works, Witton
Engineering Works, Witton
Turbine Works, Erith
Cable Works, Southampton
Meter Works, Birmingham
Accessories Works, Southwark
Telephone Works, Manchester
Instrument Works, Salford
Art Metal Works, Birmingham
Magneto Works, Coventry
Glass Works, Lemington-on-Tyne
Robertson Lamp Works, Hammersmith
Osram-GEC Lamp Works, Hammersmith.

During 1920, Hugo Hirst gave a series of lectures to the GEC Debating Society, of which he was Chairman at that time. During these talks he described the events that took place during the five years leading up to the formation of the General Electric Company in 1886, through to the year 1900.

1920 Description of the machine shop at the Witton Works in The Engineer. [28]

1921 GEC moved its head office to new premises in Kingsway, London.

1921 GEC liquidated the Peel-Conner company and moved all its manufacturing to the larger Coventry factory. GEC continued to use the name Peel-Conner Telephone Works for the Coventry factory but its products were gradually rebranded GEC[29].

1921 The GEC acquired the Oriental Tube Co.[30]

1922 The Osram GEC Lamp works at Hammersmith employed 2100 people; GEC and associated companies had more than 20,000 employees[31].

1922 One of the six telecommunications companies that founded the British Broadcasting Company.

Post-war purchase of some small companies, such as the Fraser-Chalmers Turbine Co, enabled GEC to attack the markets for heavy plant at very low prices.

From the 1920s the Company was involved in the creation of the National Grid.

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

1926 Siemens and General Electric Railway Signal Co was formed by amalgamation of the railway signalling departments of Siemens Brothers and Co and GEC[32]

1926 Order received to supply a high-speed electric passenger locomotive in connection with the electrification of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway.[33]

1927 Construction of the Magnet Works in Landor Street, Birmingham. Three Birmingham subsidiaries existed at that time: Chamberlain and Hookham, Express Lift Co and Steel Conduit Co[34].

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history. Associated firms included: Pirelli-General Cable Works, the Osram Lamp Works, Chamberlain and Hookham, Express Lift Co, M-O. Valve Co, and Electricity Supply Companies at Frinton and Macclesfield.

1927 One of the UK's major electrical-machinery and plant manufacturers, others being BTH, Metropolitan-Vickers, English Electric Co, and C. A. Parsons and Co[35].

1928 Purchased a factory in Landor Street, Birmingham that had previously been the Midland Railway and Carriage Co.

1928 The effect on the share price of significant American purchase of shares in the company was noted at the annual meeting[36].

1929 American share holders now owned 60% of the ordinary shares of the company even though their voting rights had been removed in September 1928[37]. The company then proposed to issue a large number of shares specifically for British holders, at a price below the market price but without giving rights to existing shareholders. This caused some controversy, not least that such restrictions would not have been allowed in the U.S.A. As a result a revised scheme was proposed involving issue of some universal shares as well as the British shares, and allowing existing shareholders rights to purchase the new shares but non-British holders would still have to sell any British shares they held by the end of May 1929[38]. But the scheme was later abandoned[39].

1930 Employed 25000 people. GEC Journal was to be published quarterly to describe the results of research. Importance of the research laboratories. [40].

1930 Advert for the GECoPhone - a 3 valve, all-electric radio operated by a.c. mains; price included Osram valves[41].

1931 Investment in Pirelli-General joint venture and establishment of Claude-General for neon beacons, in which GEC had a considerable interest, which had already received orders from the Air Ministry. Company had interest in several electricity supply companies, just as its competitors did, to provide outlet for its manufactures. Successful development of mercury-arc rectifiers after much trying[42].

1931 Advert celebrating the centenary of Michael Faraday[43] stated that GEC was by far the largest electrical manufacturing enterprise in the Empire. Electrical appliances and accessories supplied by GEC included:

  • GEC Bakelite mouldings, radios and instruments
  • Magnet industrial and domestic appliances
  • OSRAM lamps and valves
  • Express-SMS lifts
  • Witton electric motors
  • Pirelli-General cables
  • Witton-Kramer tools and hoists, lifting magnets and magnet cranes
  • Fraser and Chalmers turbines, heavy oil engines, pulverised fuel plant.

1933 Reflecting on the establishment of the National Grid, the chairman recognised it had been an engineering success, in no small part due to the research and experiment carried out by the industry at short notice, but had not proved very profitable to the Company. Moreover the Grid had killed the demand for small and medium-sized generating plant. However it might provide opportunities for export. A new electric discharge lamp, Osira, had been introduced[44].

1935 AGM told of progress in many fields - the first 60 MVa turbo-alternator produced, 132 kV electricity cable, street lighting, television under development, rail electrification coming but not as fast as had been hoped[45].

1936 Development of co-axial cable by Pirelli-General would allow, in principle, up to 200 conversations on one circuit. The company was ready with television receivers once public transmissions were announced. New art of flood-lighting buildings was supported by a new department set up for that purpose. Lighting contracts received for several aerodromes. Employees exceeded 34000. At a subsequent EGM, the restriction on "British" shares was removed [46].

1936 Demonstration of GEC television sets at Wembley receiving signals from the BBC transmitter at Alexandra Palace[47].

1937 Opened the mercury arc rectifier works in Deykins Street, Birmingham.

1937 British Industries Fair Advert for 'The Largest British Electrical Organisation in the Empire'. Products: Radio Receiving Apparatus of every description; Moulding; Instruments; Cooking Equipment; Electric Motors, etc; Osram Lamps; Osira street lighting Lamps; Lifts; Transmission Wires and Cables; Fraser and Chalmers Turbines; Plant, etc., etc. (Electricity: Industrial and Domestic Section - Stand Nos. Cb.617 and Cb.514) [48].

Everything Electrical

1937 Manufacturers and suppliers of Everything Electrical. "Osira" Electric Discharge Lamps. "Osram" Electric Lamps and Wireless Valves. Electric motors. "G.E.C." Batteries and Accumulators. "Pirelli-General" Wires, Cables and Flexibles[49].

1938 Total number of employees now 40,000 [50].

1939 The X-ray business Watson and Sons faced strong competition but maintained its position[51].

1939 See Aircraft Industry Suppliers

WWII GEC was a major supplier to the military of electrical and engineering products. The company was involved in many important technological advances. Significant contributions to the war effort included the development of the cavity magnetron for radar, with advances in communications and the mass production of electric lighting.

1943 Advert of more electrification services to industry; mentions the important application of electricity in electronics[52].

1946 Formed Glass Bulbs Ltd jointly with BTH which supplied the blown-glass envelopes used by M-O Valve and as well as other valve makers [53].

1953 Manufacturer of TV sets [54].

1953 GEC Subsidiary Companies:[55]

1953 Associated Companies:

1954 Arrangements made with British Tabulating Machine Co to jointly to develop the 1301 computer, which GEC would manufacture and BTM would sell. [56]

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; English Electric Co and Babcock and Wilcox; C. A. Parsons and Co and Head, Wrightson and Co; GEC and Simon-CarvesLtd[57].

1956 GEC purchased EMI's share in the M-O Valve company.

1958 In addition to the subsidiary and associated companies, the Company's main business was in 3 product groups:

  • General Products including lighting, wiring and cables, radio and television, and domestic appliances.
  • Engineering, a new project engineering group which would handle large projects, using equipment drawn from other group companies.
  • Telecommunications, made telephone exchanges and radio communication equipment.

Simplex Dairy Equipment Co became a subsidiary of GEC[58]

1961 GEC took over Radio and Allied Industries (RAI), and with it emerged the new power behind the company. Michael Sobell and his son-in-law Arnold Weinstock became directors and major shareholders.

1961 Manufacturers of electricity generating plant, electric motors, switchgear, transformers, rectifiers, traction and ship propulsion equipment, complete nuclear power plant, mining and materials handling plant. Electric furnaces, electric tools, lifting magnets, hoists and cranes. Plastic mouldings, conduit, steel fabrication, electrical porcelain, high temperature furnace elements, and foundry strainer cores. Passenger lifts, good lifts, escalators, industrial and domestic fans. Printing machinery, domestic and industrial glassware. X-ray equipment, neon signs and associated equipment. Agricultural, horticultural and dairy equipment. Domestic and industrial refrigerators, cookers and ovens, airline and railway catering equipment. Industrial domestic heaters, electric kettles, irons, washing machines and other domestic equipment. Lamps of all types, fluorescent tubes, electric light fittings and accessories, switches and plugs. [59]

1961 GEC exited the arrangement with BTM to develop the 1301 computer but remained responsible for its manufacture.

1961 As part of the strategy to form its manufacturing divisions into subsidiary companies, GEC split its telecommunications group into 2 new companies: GEC (Telecommunications) and GEC (Electronics)[60]

1962 GEC's 50 per cent shareholding in Pirelli-General was sold to Pirelli.

1962 Formation of Associated Semiconductor Manufacturers with Mullard to combine semiconductor (ie transistor) development and production of the 2 companies; Mullard owned two-thirds of the company[61]

1962 GEC and Efco agreed to merge their industrial heat-treatment furnace interests; Efco would supply furnaces of GEC design and would absorb the GEC personnel; GEC would supply their electrical and mechanical equipment for furnaces[62]

Arnold Weinstock took charge

1963 Arnold Weinstock became Managing Director; he moved the headquarters of the electrical giant from Kingsway to Stanhope Gate. Weinstock embarked on a programme that was eventually to rationalize the whole British electrical industry but began with the rejuvenation of GEC. In a drive for efficiency, Weinstock made cutbacks and mergers, injecting new growth and confidence in GEC which was reflected in the profits and financial markets.

1965[63] C. A. Parsons and Co bought the turbo-generator business of GEC[64]

Consolidation of the British Electrical Industry

1967 The electrical industry was revolutionised when GEC acquired the much larger Associated Electrical Industries (AEI), which encompassed Metropolitan-Vickers, BTH, Edison Swan, Siemens Brothers and Co, Hotpoint, W. T. Henley and other companies.

By 1968 Subsidiaries included:

1968 GEC merged with the English Electric Co, incorporating Elliott Brothers, the Marconi Co, Ruston and Hornsby, Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns, Vulcan Foundry, Willans and Robinson and Dick, Kerr and Co. The background was the rationalisation of the UK heavy electrical industry. The desire of the Central Electricity Generating Board, the principal customer, was to have only two principal manufacturers for turbo-alternators, the main element in a power station. A merger of the English Electric Co and GEC-AEI would give "The General Electric and English Electric Companies Limited" almost exactly half of the turbo-generator business. On 6th September the two companies issued a joint statement announcing that ‘a total merger should be effected between them ... under the chairmanship of Lord Nelson with Arnold Weinstock as managing director’. English Electric, when merged, was referred to as GEC-English Electric[65]

1968 Queen's Award to Industry for Technological Innovation to GEC-AEI (Electronics) and GEC-AEI Automation [66]

1968 Slater Walker sold Keith Blackman to GEC to be joined with the Woods of Colchester subsidiary[67].

1968-1973 For the next five years there was a major reorganisation of the three predecessor groups, introducing AEI and English Electric to the disciplines already applied to GEC. 49 factories were closed, including AEI's largest site at Woolwich in Kent. GEC's profits increased substantially [68].

In electronics, 2 separate companies were created[69]:

  • GEC-Marconi Electronics Ltd, the Marconi brand was used for the defence businesses e.g. Marconi Space & Defence Systems (MSDS), Marconi Underwater Systems Ltd (MUSL).
  • GEC-Elliott Automation Ltd, to hold the automation and control activities of the predecessor companies

1969 Announced redundancies of 12000 people due to reduction in demand for electrical engineering equipment [70].

1969 Formation of Marconi-Elliott Computer Systems, a company outside the divisional structure, to be responsible for development of computers for non-data processing applications, including the existing Elliott 900 and Marconi Myriad computers; the English Electric 2140 and AEI Com-Pac computers would remain in production by the appropriate GEC-Elliott Automation businesses[71]

1969 GEC had 10 product divisions including 6 foundries. After incorporating the English Electric businesses the main product groups included [72]:

1969 Sold the English Electric Special Products Group to Rotax; this business was concerned with electrical equipment for aircraft, leaving GEC's aircraft-related interests as electronics[73]

1974 Acquired Yarrow Shipbuilders.

1975 There were 5 main groupings of UK subsidiaries[74]:

Late 1970s Acquired A. B. Dick Company of Chicago, manufacturer of duplicators, copiers and electronic publishing equipment.

1979 Acquired W. and T. Avery.

1981 GEC acquired more American Companies: Circuit Technology Inc, which designs and produces hybrid circuits; Picker International Inc, a major United States manufacturer of medical diagnostic imaging equipment; and Cincinnati Electronic Corporation, which designs and manufactures electronic equipment and components for military radio communications and aerospace projects.

1982 GEC's share price reached a peak relative to the market [75]. After this point, criticism increased of Weinstock's strategy, e.g. the apparent absence of a clear plan for using GEC's large amount of cash on its balance sheet. Nevertheless GEC continued to expand in small steps with U.S. acquisitions such as Picker (medical diagnostic equipment) and Gilbarco (petrol pumps).

1985 GEC made a hostile takeover bid for Plessey, with the rationale of reducing duplication in electronics in the U.K., especially to improve international competitiveness and also because GEC and Plessey were uneasy partners in the development of System X, the advanced digital exchange, for British Telecom (BT); GEC argued that unified management of this project was urgently needed [76]. However, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) ruled against the merger because it would reduce competition amongst suppliers to the Ministry of Defence.

1987 GEC was cleared by the Monopolies Commission to acquire TI Creda, TI Creda Manufacturing, TI Airdun, TI Jackson and TI Domestic Appliances[77]

1987 Acquired Gilbarco, the world's leading supplier of fuel dispensing and related products and services for motor vehicle and fuel retailing

1987 Acquired Lear Astronics and Developmental Sciences of the United States, a leader in the design, development and manufacture of advanced flight control systems and of remotely piloted vehicles.

1988 The telecommunications businesses of GEC and Plessey were combined in a 50/50 joint venture, GEC Plessey Telecommunications (GPT).

1988 The company developed a plan for reorganisation[78]:

  • The electronics, power systems, telecommunications (ie GPT), Avery and Gilbarco, A.B. Dick, Videojet, medical equipment, and consumer product groups would be rationalised and efficiency improved.
  • Seek European collaborative ventures
  • A mega-takeover, where the potential existed for earnings enhancement.

Break-up of the Group

1988 GEC and Siemens AG set up a jointly-held company, GEC Siemens plc, to launch a hostile takeover bid for Plessey. GEC Siemens' initial offer was made on 23 December 1988 valuing Plessey at £1.7 billion. The proposal envisaged joint ownership of all of Plessey's defence businesses, with GPT and Plessey's North American businesses split in the ratios 60:40 and 51:49 between GEC and Siemens respectively. The level of GEC's involvement in the Plessey defence businesses was not likely to meet with regulatory approval. Plessey rejected the offer which was referred to the MMC.

After reference to the MMC, the Plessey bid lapsed but in February GEC Siemens put in a revised bid which eventually succeeded.

GEC Alsthom was formed as a 50/50 joint venture by the merger of the power and transport divisions of Compagnie Générale d'Electricité (CGE) and GEC. From CGE's point of views, France’s market was not sufficient by itself so the merger would enable GEC Alsthom to address the whole of Europe. From GEC's point of view it provided GEC's power division with access to large gas turbine technology (which it had previously been licensing from GE of the U.S.A. and which was increasingly demanded by the privatised electricity companies in the UK and elsewhere).

GEC formed a new division General Domestic Appliances

GEC and General Electric Company (GE) of USA agreed a joint venture to combine their European interests in consumer goods, medical equipment and some electrical equipment, and together to collaborate with Alsthom in gas turbine production

The group consisted of[79]

GEC Small Machines Co was sold to Hawker Siddeley.

The takeover of Plessey was completed in September 1989.

1990 GEC acquired parts of Ferranti.

Early 1990s, GEC negotiated other international partnerships, with Siemens A.G. in telecommunications, and with Matra of France in space technology [80].

1990 Established GEC Plessey Semiconductors to bring together the semiconductor business of Plessey with that of GEC.

1995 GEC acquired Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering (VSEL).

1995 GEC Alsthom acquired the outstanding shares in MAN Energie (steam turbines).

Retirement of Lord Weinstock

1996 Lord Weinstock retired, to become Chairman Emeritus after 33 years at the helm of GEC, having become the undisputed leader of the British Electrical Industry.

George Simpson, took over as Managing Director of GEC, and instituted a wave of corporate changes. A major reorganisation was aimed at focusing on profitable businesses in which GEC had a strong competitive position. This involved the sale of Express Lift Co, Satchwell Controls Co, A. B. Dick, the Wire and Cables Group, Marconi Instruments and GEC Plessey Semiconductors, reducing the proportion of the Group that was operated under joint venture management, and increased investment in R&D and acquisitions.

The Independent said "some analysts believe that Mr Simpson's inside knowledge of BAe, a long-rumoured GEC bid target, was a key to his appointment. GEC favours forging a national 'champion' defence group with BAe to compete with the giant US organisations."

1998 By the time the disposals had been completed it was thought that GEC had £1.2B available for investment[81].

GEC Alsthom acquired Cegelec (electrical contracting), and was then listed on the Paris Stock Exchange with a change of name to ALSTOM. GEC and Alcatel sold part of their stakes (23.6% each) [82].

Creation of Marconi Electronic Systems Ltd (MES) incorporating the defence electronics and naval shipbuilding businesses of GEC[83].

In June, GEC acquired Tracor, a major American defence contractor, for $1.4bn.

The company acquired the remainder of GPT and merged it with other parts of the group as Marconi Communications

Between 1945 and 1999, the company grew to become one of the world's most important defence contractors.

1999 GEC's defence businesses were demerged as Marconi Electronic Systems and merged with British Aerospace (BAe). This transaction was completed on 29 November 1999. GEC renamed itself Marconi plc, focussing on communications and IT.

The changes set in motion by Arnold Weinstock, and continued by his successors, led to massive losses of jobs and expertise in UK manufacturing industry, and ultimately played a major part in British involvement effectively disappearing from many areas of high technology activity. See 'The General Electric Company Limited - Anti-Report' produced by Counter Information Services, c.1972, for a critical review of the effect of Weinstock's approach. See also here [84]

See Also

  • Birmingham’s Industrial Heritage by Ray Shill. Published by Sutton Publishing 2002. ISBN 0-7509-2593-0

Sources of Information

  1. History of Peel-Conner Telephone Works: [1]
  2. History of GEC [2]
  3. The Engineer 1889/03/22
  4. Post Office London Directory, 1895
  5. History of Peel-Conner Telephone Works: [3]
  6. [4]
  7. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 23 October 1895
  8. Companies house filing
  9. London Evening Standard - Saturday 13 October 1900
  10. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  11. History of GEC, [5]
  12. The Engineer 1903/05/29, p 558
  13. The Engineer 1905/10/13
  14. A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7: The City of Birmingham, W.B. Stephens (Editor), 1964
  15. The Times, 23 July 1909
  16. History of Peel-Conner Telephone Works: [6]
  17. History of Peel-Conner Telephone Works
  18. The Times, 10 July 1912
  19. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  20. Competition Commission[7]
  21. The Times, 10 July 1915
  22. History of GEC [8]
  23. The Times, 18 July 1917
  24. The Times, 9 July 1918
  25. The Times, 10 July 1919
  26. History of Peel-Conner Telephone Works: [9]
  27. Competition Commission [10]
  28. The Engineer of 28th May 1920 p558
  29. History of Peel-Conner Telephone Works: [11]
  30. The Engineer 1921/04/15.
  31. The Times, 17 February 1922
  32. The Times, Feb 05, 1926
  33. The Engineer 1926/07/30
  34. A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7: The City of Birmingham, W.B. Stephens (Editor), 1964
  35. A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7: The City of Birmingham (1964)
  36. The Times, 4 July 1928
  37. The Times, 14 March 1929
  38. The Times, 30 March 1929
  39. The Times, 30 April 1929
  40. The Times, 26 June 1930
  41. The Times, 4 November 1930
  42. The Times, 1 July 1931
  43. The Times, 21 September 1931
  44. The Times, 29 June 1933
  45. The Times, 28 June 1935
  46. The Times, 26 June 1936
  47. 4 September 1936
  48. 1937 British Industries Fair Advert p574; and p367
  49. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  50. The Times, 28 June 1938
  51. The Times, 30 June 1939
  52. The Times, 15 February 1944
  53. Competition Commission[12]
  54. Choosing your Television Set. Published by Freelance in 1953
  55. GEC, its History, Structure and Future by T. W. Heather. 1953
  56. The Prehistory of the 1900 Series Arthur Humphreys [13]
  57. The Times, 17 March 1955
  58. The Times, Sep 05, 1958
  59. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  60. The Times, Oct 26, 1961
  61. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, May 01, 1962
  62. The Times, Feb 16, 1962
  63. The Times, 22 February 1969
  64. The Times, 27 May 1968
  65. The Engineer 1969/11/06
  66. The Engineer 26th April 1968 p650
  67. The Times, 29 June 1968
  68. Arnold Weinstock, by Geoffrey Owen, ODNB
  69. The Times, December 20, 1968
  70. The Times, 22 February 1969
  71. The Times, May 9, 1969
  72. The Times, June 30, 1969
  73. The Times November 18, 1969
  74. 1975 Annual report
  75. Arnold Weinstock, by Geoffrey Owen, ODNB
  76. Arnold Weinstock, by Geoffrey Owen, ODNB
  77. The Times July 3, 1987
  78. The Times, July 02, 1988
  79. MMC report 1989
  80. Arnold Weinstock, by Geoffrey Owen, ODNB
  81. The Times Saturday, Feb. 14, 1998
  82. History of Alstom: [14]
  83. Marconi_Electronic_Systems [15]
  84. [16] 'Stolen Heritage: The Strange Death of Industrial England' by Anthony Warwick-Ching, Matador, 2020. See Chapter 11
  • History of GEC: website [17]
  • Competition Commission report appendix on GEC [18]