E. K. Cole Ltd

E K Company was set up as a result of early development work carried out by Eric Kirkham Cole on a high capacity condenser for early radio sets. The company EKCO as it became known was formally incorporated as E K Cole Limited in 1926. The premises were situated in Southend-on-sea from the very start. Up until the 1920s Eric had produced equipment suitable for use on Direct Current (DC) electricity, rather than the Alternating Current (AC).

The increased use of electricity in the home allowed home owners to buy radio sets which ran off mains electricity, rather than the battery power they had run on up until the 1920s. The company moved to new premises in Leigh-on-sea in 1927 in order to exploit the growth and at the same time recruited electrical engineers, with the experience of developing new models of radio sets.

The company continued to expand and by 1930 moved to a purpose-built factory in Southend in 1930, the production of radio sets soon outgrew the earlier condensers. After a setback due to a fire in the design laboratory which destroyed all the designs for new models due to be introduced in 1932/33 which had a disastrous effect on sales for those years.

The financial crisis of 1933 meant recovery of the company took longer than expected. However, things were turned around due to the introduction of new designs of cabinets using Bakelite. The fortunes of the company improved and as a result planned new buildings, which had been planned prior to the financial crisis, were once more begun.

In 1936 the company began to look at the newly emerging television in a joint venture with Schophony Limited. Sales of the Ekco-Schophony television began in the same year. However, sales were very small as national broadcasting had not begun. Ekco looked at producing their own production of radio valves in 1937, which was later sold to Mullards Ltd in 1939.

1939 saw all work on domestic radios and TVs stopped as the company turned over it’s production capacity to war work. It had already built up a reputation for development work on radar for the Air Ministry. Production of radar related equipment was moved away from Southend, which was viewed as being to close to the coast and enemy action. During the war the company was involved in the research and development of various transmitting receiving sets.

After the war the company returned to producing radio sets and televisions, as well as continuing to develop radar for commercial aviation use as well as radar ranging equipment for the Royal Air Force. Work on electrical equipment for the nuclear industry resulted in the company successfully manufacturing the first complete nucleonic instrumentation system for export to Australia, in 1957. In the same year the company launched Ferranti Radio and Television Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary to market receivers under the Ferranti trademark.

The company had now expanded into most areas of manufacturing involving domestic equipment, from fridges to electric blankets. In 1960 the company merged with Pye, another electronics company to form a new holding company, British Electronic Industries Ltd. The company was eventually put up for sale in 1966 and in 1967 Philips Electrical Industries became the new owners of the Ekco/Pye business, with the Ekco brand disappearing in the 1970s.