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Early Ekco logo

Later Ekco logo

The company's founder Eric Kirkham Cole was born on the 4th of July, 1901. He started building two-valve radios in 1924. In 1926, Ekco, Eric Kirkham Cole Limited, was founded. Together with co-founder William Streatfield Varrells, they started making battery eliminators. The first products we made at a number of locations in London. When enough money was raised they moved to a new factory in Leigh-on-Sea in 1927; later, in 1930, Ekco moved to a bigger factory in Southend-on-Sea.
Soon branches were created in  Belgium (Haren, near Brussels) and in Australia. In the beginning of the 1930s Ekco started the production of thermionic valves but in 1938 production stopped and the unit was sold to Mullard.
Ekco is well known for its often stunning designs, inspired by Modernism and Art Deco. Ekco choose Bakelite, where other brands choose wooden cabinets. In order to win the public for Bakelite, that used to have a cheap image, the choice was made to use designs of well known designers like J.K. White, Misha Black, Serge Chermayeff, Jesse Collins and Canadian Wells Coates.
Bakelite allowed a variety of new modernist shapes, that could not be made in wood. Models were often made in more then one colour.

 

Wells Coates

        

Eric Kirkham Cole

The first Bakelite cabinets were made for Ekco by AEG in Germany. In 1931 Ekco had finished its own Bakelite moulding shop, next to the factory in Southend-on-Sea. In early 1932, a fire destroyed the designs for the 1932/1933 season and the models produced in 1932 were therefore built in the same cabinets as those of the previous season for a while.
Just before the war, in 1939, the factory was moved again to a number of different locations, among them Malmesbury, because of a government decision to move production sites to the country-side in order to minimize the risk of bombing.
The new factory was situated near the river Avon, just outside Malmesbury on the grounds of a country house. Like everywhere in England, from that moment on women were recruited for production work. During the war, production was mainly focussed on military radio and radar systems and the production of plastic practice bombs. After the war the factory became a producer of television and later car radio sets. Ekco bought the Ferranti brand and Dynatron business. By 1973 Ekco had been absorbed into a conglomerate and its products were mostly rebadged Pyes. Later the Ekco name disappeared completely.

Shop display circa 1935

This page was last edited on 03.12.2016