EKCO Factory Rutherglen
The EKCO factory, Rutherglen, was first established during World War II, to the east of Glasgow.
In 1940, following the evacuation from Dunkirk, the company's location in Southend was seen as being in the front line at a time when imminent invasion was seen as a serious possibility, and the order was given to disperse manufacturing away from the area.
The company was provided with a Government built war factory, and lay in the area between Riverford Road and Duchess Road in Farme Cross, Rutherglen, which has since been developed for housing and is now the Farme Castle Estate.
EKCO was a British electronics company involved mainly in the manufacture of radio and television sets from 1924. The EKCO company name was formed from the founders' original name of Eric Kirkham Cole.
The company grew on the back of a battery eliminator, which was a significant product at the time as it allowed listeners to operate their radio sets directly from the mains electricity supply rather than batteries which, at the time, were expensive. Rechargeable types, accumulators, could be used, but these were messy and dangerous, being wet with battery acid, and a shock hazard as they had to supply in the order of 90 volts DC for the valve-based circuitry. The company built on its success by moving to the manufacture of mains powered radios, and then Bakelite (the first plastic made from synthetic components), used instead of wood for their cabinets, which became a trademark of the company's products.
World War II
With the start of World War II in 1939, EKCO production switched to meet military requirements, and the company became heavily involved in the development of production standard Air Interception (AI) radar, and Anti-Surface Vessel (ASV) radar, for use by aircraft which carried out sea patrols, which led to the opening of a shadow factory at Malmesbury. It was also a major producer of tank radios. The Southend site was within easy reach of German bombers, and concerns over this threat to production resulted in the production of specialised radar and military radio equipment being dispersed to Malmesbury and other new shadow factories at Aylesbury, Woking and Rutherglen, with the head offices moving to Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire. Plastics and lamp production remained at Southend, where products such as prefabricated bomber wiring looms (for the Lancaster), radar valves, plastic practice bombs, and gun-flash simulators were also manufactured.
In the years after the war, historians discovered that the EKCO works had indeed been targeted by the Luftwaffe, but no raid was ever mounted.
After the war, the company returned to radio and television production, later adding car radio sets, and purchasing the Ferranti brand, and Dynatron business. By 1973, EKCO had been absorbed into a conglomerate, and most of its output was sold under the Pye brand, eventually leading to the EKCO brand being dropped.
Plans provided by the EKCO historian, and attributed to 1947, show a purpose built factory designed for EKCO, but did not contain a location diagram. Comparison with local aerial views showed that the new factory lay to the southwest of the wartime factory, and that the building lay between Cambuslang Road and Farmeloan road.
The factory building was most recently used by the Monogram company, manufacturers of pillows and bedding, but was finally closed c. 2007. The building was then targeted by vandals and arsonists, and planning permission was granted for its demolition and replacement by housing. Demolition began at the end of January 2009, and by mid-February, only the façade remained, with the site being cleared by June.
EKCO records archived
In July 2009, historic documents relating to the EKCO company were donated to Southend-on-Sea Borough Council:
Unique photos and rare documents about the late Eric Cole and his famous Southend EKCO factory have just been presented to Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.
At a grand family reunion, Mr Cole’s relatives handed over these historic records to the Council’s Executive Councillor for Adult Social Care, Health and Housing, Councillor Mark Flewitt, as the representative of the Cabinet.
Councillor Flewitt says: “We are very grateful indeed for these precious documents, pictures and other details demonstrating the EKCO factory’s very special place in Southend’s heritage. The contribution made by Eric Kirkham Cole cannot be underestimated, as the innovation of EKCO not only made its mark on Southend, but also world history.
“We will be cataloguing these rare items and adding to our EKCO display at Southend Central Museum”.
The late Mr Cole’s son, Derek, says: “My father always regarded EKCO as a collective achievement by the citizens of the Borough of Southend.
“The early Southend workforce put the Borough in the forefront of progress. In 1930 my father announced that everybody would get a week's paid holiday, an unheard of innovation.
“He himself surely regarded as his greatest achievement his contribution to the defeat of Hitler. A highly skilled workforce fanned out from Southend across the country, to Malmesbury, Aylesbury, Woking and Rutherglen, to produce the most vital war equipment.
“My father celebrated the EKCO 25th Anniversary by building the new Clubhouse, still a great asset in the Borough.”
Demolition January 2009
Cleared June 2009
- Ekco Electronics Retrieved August 10, 2010.
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