HISTORY OF THE
GEC TELEPHONE WORKS
1880 Gustav Binswanger (later to be known as Gustav Byng) and Hugo Hirst start an electrical importing agency in a warehouse at Great Street, Thomas Apostle, London.
1886 The company is named as General Electrical Apparatus Company.
1887 The company produces an electrical catalogue, which includes telephones and switchboards.
1888 A small factory is opened in Chapel Street, Manchester, which produced magneto telephones and switchboards (25 and 50 lines).
1889 The General Electrical Company Ltd is formed and headquarters is transferred to Queen Victoria Street, London, capital of the company is £60,000.
1893 The Manchester factory is destroyed by fire and is replaced by the Peel Works, Silk Street in Salford, Manchester. The factory was named after Robert Peel.
1900 General Electric Co. (1900) has a capital of £800,000 and 3000 employees.
1908 Until this time all switchboard equipment had been bought in from abroad and it was decided to employ Merrit S. Conner, a telephone expert from the USA, to forward production in the UK. Merrit Conner worked on telephone equipment production in the Salford factory and a subsidiary company called the Peel Conner Telephone Works Ltd is formed. The Salford factory is renamed the Peel Conner Telephone Works.
1910 The first 10,000 line manual exchange, designed and produced by the Peel Conner Telephone Works, is installed in Glasgow (this exchange was later replaced in 1941 by a GEC automatic exchange).
1914 Production of telephones and switchboards is now at such a level, that the company decides to look for other premises.
1915 Merrit Conner visits Coventry and forms the opinion that with the expansion of the motor trade there would be a good supply of female labour, particularly as the motor industry was liable to seasonable redundancies.
Gill, a director of the Peel Conner Telephone Works, privately purchases ten
acres of land (including The Grange House) at Copsewood Estate, Stoke, Coventry,
on behalf of the company (it was though that a private buyer would keep the
price low). The land was
transferred to the company, who built a factory for the manufacture of magnetos
(due to obtaining a large Government contract).
1917 A. Gill, again privately, purchases the rest of the Copsewood Estate (136 acres) and then transfers the ownership to GEC.
1918 A small piece of land was purchased from Mr Eli Kelly to facilitate an entrance to the works in Uxbridge Avenue.
1920 Building works start and a factory (315,159 sq ft), and offices with canteen and ballroom (45,699 sq ft) are built. Houses are also built nearby for employees. Copsewood Terrace was for Executives, Second Avenue for Superintendents and First Avenue for Artisans.
1921 All telephone related production is transferred to the new factory.
1923 Merrit Conner moves back the USA, after a dispute with the GEC Board. The magneto business was then transferred to Simms Motor Units Ltd and Conner Magneto Ignition liquidated. The magneto factory is turned over to radio production. The Peel Conner name is dropped and the works are renamed the GEC Radio and Telephone Works.
The history continues, but is now G.E.C.
1930 The Gecophone (P.O. type 162) is produced.
1931 After numerous extensions to the Stoke works, a factory known as O’briens in Folshill Road was leased in Coventry (50,000 sq ft). The factory is vacated in 1936.
1937 The GEC ST3600 telephone (P.O. type 332) is produced.
1937 A factory (50,640 sq ft) in Ford Street, Coventry, is purchased from the Lea Francis Motor Co. and used for radio and telephone production.
1938 The Telephone works is extended to 857,000 sq ft.
Stoke works is badly damaged by enemy planes and work is transferred to nine
relief factories in Bradford.
1945 The Helen Street factory (282,339 sq ft) is purchased from the Rover Car Company to replace war damaged parts of the Stoke works.
1947 A factory (61,324 sq ft) is leased in Middlesbrough to house the remaining Bradford Dispersal units.
1956 The GEC 1000 telephone is introduced. A new Laboratory Block is built.
1959 The Telephone 706 is introduced.
factory in Aycliffe, Co. Durham (158,616 sq ft) is leased and all telephone
production is transferred there.
Last revised: February 18, 2021