Western Electric - A 40th Milestone 1923


Makers of vulcanised electric light wires and cables, of Norfolk House, Victoria Embankment, London, WC (in 1918) and Bush House, Aldwych, London, WC2 (in 1935).

1982 The Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company was renamed as Western Electric.

1882 A joint venture between the Bell Company and Western Electric formed a company called BTMC and opened a factory in Antwerp, Belgium.  The London operation sold US-designed telephones and exchanges to fledgling British telephone companies.

1898 A failing cable factory at North Woolwich in Londonís East End was acquired. Despite setbacks, this factory made lead-sheathed cables and also assembled equipment from components imported from Belgium and the United States. It then moved into complete manufacture as well.

1890 The Bell Company sold it's share of BTMC to Western Electric.

1903 The National Telephone Company (NTC) stopped buying WE telephones and signed a contract with L.M. Ericsson.  By then the Bell patents had expired.

1906 Installed the Post Office's first coin-operated call box at Ludgate Circus, London.

1910 Incorporated as a limited company to take over a business which had already been trading for some years. It was then a wholly-owned subsidiary of the International Western Electric Co. of the U.S.A. and called the Western Electric Co. Ltd.

1910 Using advanced American thinking and designs, after incorporation as a British legal entity, Western Electricís future looked bright.

1914 The Post Office installed a Western Electric Company rotary-type automatic telephone exchange at Darlington.  It was similar to the Lorimer system in the use of power-driven selector switches but included a device to receive the subscriber's signals from a rotary ten hole dial and to store them for subsequent control of the switches.

1914 Manufacturers of and dealers in telephone, electric light and power cable, telephone apparatus etc.

WW1 The company contributed to the war effort in military communications and the (then primitive) cable and wireless technologies they used. Radio technology was being initiated in the neutral USA.  This gave Western Electric a post-war advantage as wireless broadcasting was introduced in Britain.

1916 Another telephone exchange was installed at Dudley.  In 1922, the Post Office adopted the Strowger system as its standard and the rotary-system was not deployed further on the network.

1920s The company was closely involved in wireless broadcasting (radio).

1921 Patent relating to electrical connectors.

1922 Appointed Lionel Robinson and Co for their B.A.G. diffusers.

1922 The company had outgrown the North Woolwich factory and a large factory site with its own railway siding was purchased in Oakleigh Road, New Southgate in 1922.  This site was several acres in size and this allowed for great expansion in the next few years and beyond.  Here in the following year, radio sets were manufactured as well as horn speakers and other radio equipment. There was also a tube making department.

1922 With 5 other telecommunications companies the company set up the British Broadcasting Company (later Corporation) as well as producing wireless receivers.  Valve technology was developed and commercially exploited.

Circa 1923 Started the manufacture of valves and also of radio sets.

1925 The International Western Electric Co was acquired by ITT; these interests were transferred to the International Standard Electric Corporation of New York.  Its British subsidiary's name was changed to Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd.


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Last revised: December 15, 2021