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The Companies

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 3 years, 6 months ago




Based on extracts from the Marconi Archives in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and other sources


Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd

Formed in 1897 as the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Ltd., its name changing in 1900. It was originally created to enable Guglielmo Marconi to develop and exploit his innovative work on wireless telegraphy. It was taken over by the English Electric Company Ltd. in 1946, but continued in existence as a separate subsidiary, renamed The Marconi Company Ltd. in 1963. It also retained a substantially separate identity following the merger of English Electric with the General Electric Company in 1968, as GEC-Marconi Electronics Ltd. In 1998 the defence activities were reorganised as Marconi Electronic Systems Ltd. which in 1999 were merged with/sold to British Aerospace, becoming BAE Systems. The remaining units were variously acquired by Selex, Ericsson and IFR.


Marconi International Marine Communication Company Ltd (MIMCO)

Created in 1900 as a subsidiary of Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd., to administer the maritime wireless services then being established. It became prominent in the provision of radio officers for merchant shipping, and the extensive personnel records reflect this role. It covered the provision, installation and operation of ship radio and radar installations for up to 68 years. It became part-owned by English Electric in 1946 and existed until 1998, during which time it published Mariner, a house journal which provides an important source of information.  In 2002 Finmeccanica acquired Marconi’s communications business including Marconi Marine and moved the business into SELEX Communication and later into SELEX ES to form SELEX ES Marine Division, this in turn became Leonardo.


However in 2016 the marine business was bought from SELEX ES by Società Italiana Radio Marittima or SIRM, itself founded by Guglielmo Marconi in 1927, and so although no longer actually bearing the Marconi name the initial purpose and service is continuing into a second century with a renewed Marconi connection.


Marconi Scientific Instrument Co.

After World War I, Marconi began producing non-industrial receivers, principally for the amateur market, at the Soho premises of The Marconi Scientific Instrument Company. In 1922, the Marconi Company formed the "Marconiphone" department, to design, manufacture and sell domestic receiving equipment


In 1924 The Marconi stand at the Palace of Engineering represented Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co, Marconi International Marine Communication Co, Marconiphone Co, Marconi Scientific Instrument Co.


Interactive Source   


Company Group lists   1952    1964




The English Electric Company

Incorporated in 1918, being formed by amalgamations and acquisitions of the Coventry Ordnance Works, the Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Dick, Kerr and Company Ltd., the United Electric Car Company Ltd. and Willans and Robinson Ltd. The Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works at Stafford was acquired in 1920. English Electric took over Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd. in 1946, and was itself merged with the General Electric Company in 1968. While its subsidiary Marconi Company retained its identity following the merger, English Electric was eventually absorbed into both the General Electric Company and its subsidiary GEC-Marconi Electronics.




Associated Electrical Industries Ltd.

Formed in 1929 as a holding company for the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company Ltd. and the British Thomson-Houston Company Ltd. Metropolitan-Vickers was originally created in 1899 as the British Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. Ltd., its name being altered in 1919 following a change of ownership, while British Thomson-Houston was established in 1896. Both Metropolitan-Vickers and British Thomson-Houston remained in existence after 1929 and continued a long-established rivalry despite the common ownership. Their distinct identities continued until 1960 when their activities were actively absorbed into the parent Associated Electrical Industries. In 1967 Associated Electrical Industries was merged with the General Electric Company, into which it was quickly absorbed.




The General Electric Company

Created as the General Electric Apparatus Company in 1886 by Hugo Hirst and Gustav Byng from a small electrical business established in London by Byng (Gustav Binswanger and Company, using Byng's original name). It became the General Electric Company in 1889, and was made a public company in 1900. It became increasingly successful especially under the influence of Hirst. Initially manufacture was focussed on electric bells and light fittings, but this expanded to a wide range of electrical equipment - resulting in the firm's slogan 'Everything Electrical'. The managing directorship of Arnold Weinstock from 1963 onwards saw GEC's rapid expansion, not least due to mergers with Associated Electrical Industries in 1967 and the English Electric Company in 1968. Further takeovers and mergers made the company one of the largest private employers in the UK. Policy changes following Weinstock's retirement in 1996 saw several elements of the company being sold off, and it was relaunched as Marconi plc in 1999 (following the disposal of its subsidiary Marconi Electronic Systems). A further relaunch as the Marconi Corporation plc in 2002 was ultimately unsuccessful in saving the company from financial difficulties, and a large portion was sold to Ericsson in 2005, who took over the Marconi name and retained it as a brand, with the remainder forming the successor telent plc, see also. A very comprehensive history of GEC can be found here




Other Marconi

Marconiphone Company

Formed in 1923 to take over the activities of the Marconiphone Department, as the domestic radio receiver production at Chelmsford was inadequate to cope with the demand. Mass production was started at the Sterling Telephone Company works in Dagenham, with research remaining at Chelmsford. It fell victim to the retrenchment of 1929 when it was sold to the Gramophone Company, a subsidiary of Radio Corporation of America (see also Marconi Osram below). Round about the mid-1980s MCSL bought back the rights to the name Marconiphone - it cost the company £5 - so they were able to use the name on their radio telephones produced at that time.  It is assumed the name is now owned by Ericsson - they have shown no interest in using any of the Marconi names they own.



From a very unusual start in 1923 the original company of Stratton and Co. initially made component parts for hobbyists and then complete radio receivers using the trade name of Eddystone, followed by a move into all the main areas of radio communications. Major users were Marconi and MIMCO. In 1965 the company became a subsidiary of Marconi.


Marconi Instruments

This had its origins in a section of E.K. Cole, predominantly a manufacturer of domestic radios.  The section produced instruments for the production testing of radios.  Marconi bought an interest in the section which was set up as a separate Marconi-Ekco enterprise, servicing the production side of both Marconi and Ekco but gradually widening its area of sales to other telecommunication organisations.  In 1941 Marconi bought full control and set it up as a separate company.


Marconi-Osram Valve Company  1.  2.

Formed in 1919 by Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company and the General Electric Company as the Marconi-Osram Valve Company Ltd., merging their valve-making interests, the name changing to the M-O Valve Company in 1920.  In the 1929 retrenchment, Marconi sold its interest in the company to the Gramophone Company, a predecessor of EMI. In 1939, M-OV acquired two disused cotton mills at Shaw in Oldham for a shadow factory to produce large numbers of valves and cathode ray tubes for the war effort, particularly for the Marconi T1154 transmitter and R1155 receiver, the TR1143 fighter set and the micropup used in airborne radar. In 1956 the General Electric Company purchased EMI's share. 


Marconi-EMI Television Company Ltd  1.   2.

Formed in 1934 as an alliance to consolidate the complementary skills of Marconi's specialist knowledge of transmitters and antennas for video signals, and EMI's in camera pickup tubes, to exploit the coming market in high-definition all-electronic television. The government had set up the Selsdon Committee to examine the prospects for a public service, and following a competitive trial period, in 1937 the Marconi-EMI system was chosen. The alliance was dissolved in 1948 following the takeover by English Electric and the move by the Valve company (see below) into camera tube manufacture.




Other English Electric

English Electric Valve Company Ltd

Created in 1946 by the English Electric Company from the Marconi valve laboratory. It was merged with Marconi-Osram Valve Company in 1969 to form GEC Electronic Tubes. In 1988 it changed to EEV Ltd, in 1999 to Marconi Applied Technologies and in 2002, following a management buyout, to E2V Technologies. This is an article about E2V. Recently there has been another change to TELEDYNE e2V. See videos here and here


Originated in a firm making scientific instruments established by William Elliott in the early 19th century. It became Elliott Brothers in 1854, and Elliott Brothers (London) Ltd. in 1917. A merger with Associated Automation Ltd. in 1957 resulted in a further change of name to Elliott-Automation Ltd. It was merged with English Electric in 1967.




Other GEC


Created in 1917 and became a public company in 1937. In 1961 it merged with the British Ericsson Telephone Company and the Automatic Telephone & Electric Company. Following an unsuccessful takeover bid by the General Electric Company in 1985-6, the two firms merged their telecommunications interests to form GEC Plessey Telecommunications Ltd (GPT) in 1988. In 1989 GEC and Siemens formed a joint company to take over the whole of Plessey, which in 1998 became Marconi Communications. Plessey found its initial success in radio production, extending this to television, computers, communications and defence electronics.



Ferranti Defence Systems Ltd., created in 1987 by Ferranti International plc (formerly Ferranti Ltd.) was acquired by the General Electric Company in 1990, becoming GEC Ferranti Defence Systems Ltd. and afterwards GEC-Marconi Avionics.





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