Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 133,403 pages of information and 211,619 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
The General Electric Co of 67 Queen Victoria-street, E. C. (1914) and of Magnet House, Kingsway, London, WC2. Telephone: Temple Bar 8000. Telegraphic Address: "Electricity, Westcent, London". (1937)
Unconnected with the General Electric Co of the USA.
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 .
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 .
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.
Mid 1890s Established Ileone Works to make brasswork and fittings .
1895 Advert for Brass finishers. General Electric Company, Peel works, Adelphi, Salford.
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. Company incorporated. '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.'
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. 
1902 Opened the Witton works covering 45 acres, which included the Carbon works, the only such in the country which thereby avoided being dependent on German imports. However the value of the Carbon Works was only apparent to the government after the outbreak of war with Germany 
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.
1906 Hugo Hirst became Managing Director.
1909 Acquired Ilene Works in Edgbaston .
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.
1910 On 24th December GEC incorporated the Peel Works as a separate company, employing 1,000 workers. 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".
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. 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. 
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.
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. Osram Lamp Works, Robertson Lamp Works and Lemington Glass Works were amalgamated.
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.
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.
1919 GEC established Britain's first separate industrial research laboratories at Wembley.
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. 
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.
1922 The Osram GEC Lamp works at Hammersmith employed 2100 people; GEC and associated companies had more than 20,000 employees.
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 Order received to supply a high-speed electric passenger locomotive in connection with the electrification of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway.
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.
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.
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. 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. But the scheme was later abandoned.
1930 Employed 25000 people. GEC Journal was to be published quarterly to describe the results of research. Importance of the research laboratories. .
1930 Advert for the GECoPhone - a 3 valve, all-electric radio operated by a.c. mains; price included Osram valves.
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.
1931 Advert celebrating the centenary of Michael Faraday stated that GEC was by far the largest electrical manufacturing enterprise in the Empire. Electrical appliances and accessories supplied by GEC included:
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.
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.
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 .
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) .
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.
1938 Total number of employees now 40,000 .
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.
1953 Manufacturer of TV sets .
1953 GEC Subsidiary Companies:
1953 Associated Companies:
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.
1958 In addition to the subsidiary and associated companies, the Company's main business was in 3 product groups:
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. 
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)
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
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
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.
1967 The electrical industry was revolutionised when GEC acquired Associated Electrical Industries (AEI), which encompassed Metropolitan-Vickers, BTH, Edison Swan, Siemens Brothers and Co, Hotpoint, W. T. Henley and other companies.
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
A major reorganisation was carried out. In electronics, 2 separate companies were created:
By 1968 Subsidiaries included:
1968-1973 For the next five years there was a major reorganisation of the three companies, 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 . GEC reorganised the businesses it had acquired.
1969 Announced redundancies of 12000 people due to reduction in demand for electrical engineering equipment .
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
1969 GEC had 10 product divisions including 6 foundries. After incorporating the English Electric businesses the main product groups included :
1974 Acquired Yarrow Shipbuilders.
1979 Acquired W. and T. Avery.
1982 GEC's share price reached a peak relative to the market . 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 . However, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) ruled against the merger because it would reduce competition amongst suppliers to the Ministry of Defence.
1988 The company developed a plan for reorganisation:
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.
1989 After the reference to the MMC, the Plessey bid lapsed but in February GEC Siemens put in a revised bid which eventually succeeded. The takeover of Plessey was completed in September 1989.
1989 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).
1989 GEC Small Machines Co was sold to Hawker Siddeley.
1990 GEC acquired parts of Ferranti.
Late 1980s - early 1990s, GEC negotiated other international partnerships, with Siemens A.G. in telecommunications, with GE of the U.S.A. in domestic appliances, and with Matra of France in space technology .
1995 GEC acquired Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering (VSEL).
1995 GEC Alsthom acquired the outstanding shares in MAN Energie (steam turbines).
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 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) .
In June 1998, acquired Tracor, a major American defence contractor, for $1.4bn.
Between 1945 and 1999, the company grew to become one of the world's most important defence contractors.
January 1999 proposal made to demerge GEC's defence businesses as Marconi Electronic Systems, and merge them with British Aerospace (BAe). This transaction was completed on 29 November 1999. GEC renamed itself Marconi plc, focussing on communications and IT.
see GEC: Defence