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British Industrial History

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Siemens Brothers and Co

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1880s alternator from the first central power station in Tivoli (Rome), on display at the Milan Museum of Science and Technology
Detail of 1880s alternator in Milan
1879. Siemens Electric Train.
1881. Siemens Electric Car at Lichterfelde.
1893. Steam Dynamos at Kingston Electric Lighting Station.
1898. Waterloo and City Shunting Locomotive No. 75S. Exhibit at the Shildon Locomotion Museum.
1898. Exhibit at the Shildon Locomotion Museum.
June 1898.
August 1899.
August 1899.
Two-Phase Alternators. 1906.
July 1908.
June 1909. Leads for Motor Cars.
1914. Experimental station at Woolwich Works.
September 1920.
1926. Woolwich Works.
1929. Ceiling Thermometer.
1929. Temperature Recorder.
1929. Electrical Pyrometers.
1929. Revolution Indicator.
1929. Multi-Way Switchboard.
1929. Electric Ships' Telegraph.
1929. Navigation Lights Indicator.
Telephone. Exhibit at Galley Museum, Queenstown.
June 1936.
July 1938. Siemens Automatic Telephones for Shell-Mex House.
May 1939.
Probably telegraphy equipment from c1900. ?
Galvanoscope with telegraphy equipment.
Detail on possible telegraphy equipment.

of Woolwich, London, SE18. (1937)


1864 At the close of the year, Mr. Halske severed his connections with Siemens and Halske.

1865 The British company was reconstituted under the name of Siemens Brothers and Co. The partners were Werner Siemens, William Siemens, and Carl Siemens. The Berlin firm retained its old name of Siemens and Halske. The works at Charlton grew so rapidly as to necessitate the employment of some 3,000 men.

1864 The merger between Glass, Elliot and Co and the Gutta Percha Co had put Siemens in the position of buying cable core from a competitor (they had previously purchased cable core from the Gutta Percha Co and then applied armour to it). For a time Siemens lost interest in submarine cables.

1866 William Siemens set up a demonstration at the Sample Steel Works in Birmingham to show his regenerative furnace process.

1866 The works were transferred from Millbank to Charlton in Kent, which eventually became the great works of Siemens Brothers and Co.

1869 William was joined by his brother Carl Siemens who persuaded him to build a cable factory, which they did at Woolwich, although it took them two years to obtain their first order.

1880 At Charlton. The business was turned into a limited company, the brothers Werner, William, and Carl Siemens remaining as directors, together with a new director, Mr. Loeffler. The company was registered on December 28th, to take over the business of telegraph engineers, Messrs. Siemens Brothers. [1]

1881 The first public electricity supply to people in their own homes was installed in the autumn of 1881, at Godalming, Surrey[2]. The supply was provided by a firm whose main interest was street lighting, using a Siemens generator driven initially from a water-wheel in a local mill. Neither William Siemens nor any other member of the family seems to have been involved in the original undertaking but before long they had taken over the running of it[3].

1884 Two trans-atlantic telegraph cables were made by Siemens Brothers at Woolwich to the orders of two American millionaires - Messrs. Bennett and Mackay[4].

1889 Alexander Siemens appointed Managing Director.

1894 Constucted Bristol Electric Light Station with Willans and Robinson. Illustration. [5]

1894 Constructed Electric Light Engine and Dynamo for the Caledonia with Tangyes. Illustration. [6]

1899 Company was reorganised with new capital brought in; George van Chauvin became Managing Director.

1901 One of 3 suppliers to the Admiralty of an order for wireless telegraphy equipment, totaling 54 sets[7]

1906 The Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works was put into a separate company together with the electric light, power and traction work which was transferred to them.

1914 Telegraph and electrical engineers, manufacturers of electrical cables, instruments, dry and fluid batteries, electro-chemical and electro-medical apparatus, railway and other signalling apparatus,Tantalum and Wotan lamps, etc. and contractors for the manufacture, laying and maintenance of submarine cables and cables for electric light and power, for the erection and maintenance of land telegraph and telephone lines and for the installing of railway power-signalling equipments and wireless telegraphy. Employees 2,000. [8]

WWI The cable company, with its factory at Woolwich, was taken over by the Custodian of Enemy Property[9]

1918 Alliance with Dick, Kerr and Co to amalgamate sales organisations and coordinate designs.

1918 Made and installed an automatic telephone exchange at Grimsby using the Siemens-system which was similar to but not identical to the Strowger system[10].

1919 Further Siemens-type exchanges were opened at Stockport and at Southampton in 1923.

c.1919 Electric lamp manufacture retained in the Caxton Electric Developments Ltd subsidiary.

1920 Working arrangement with English Electric Co to reduce sales costs.

1920 Board of Trade report into "Electric Lamp Combine" recognised the Electrical Lamp Manufacturers Association was set up principally in the interests of BTH, GEC and Siemens Brothers and Co[11].

1920 Company took over the lamp and supplies department of Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works. These lamps were to be sold under the trade name 'Xeel' which applied to all metal filament lamps manufactured by the company.[12]

1921 Formalised the sales arrangement with English Electric Co in the form of a joint venture English Electric and Siemens Supplies Ltd which had taken over the sales activities of the company and some of those activities of Siemens[13].

1921 The Post Office installed its first Rural Automatic Exchange (RAX) at Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, made by Siemens; it had capacity for 40 lines[14].

1922 The Post Office chose the Strowger system as its standard automatic exchange for the public network so no further Siemens-type exchanges were ordered for towns and cities.

1923 The Post Office introduced the first 'Bulk Supply Agreements' with manufacturers - this concerned the supply of automatic exchange equipment. It was signed between the Post Office and 4 manufacturers - Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Co, General Electric Co Ltd, Siemens Brothers Ltd and Western-Electric Co.

1923 Patent - Improvements in or relating to telephones[15]

1924 Substantial shareholdings in English Electric Co, as consequence of sale to them of the dynamo works at Stafford, and Elliott Brothers which carried out most of Siemens business in scientific instruments. Major business was in submarine and underground cables and in telephones, especially automatic telephone exchanges; smaller departments were ebonite, broadcasting , batteries, woodwork and railway signalling[16].

1925 The directors of the company announced that owing to advancing years Mr George Chauvin has resigned the position of managing director of the company, which he has held since April 1899, during which time the work s and manufacturing activities of the company have been very largely expanded. He remained on the board as a director. The board appointed Mr Francis Hird to succeed him as managing director.[17]

1926 Siemens and General Electric Railway Signal Co was formed by amalgamation of the railway signalling departments of Siemens Brothers and Co and GEC[18]

1929 Patent - An electric dry cell. [19]

1931 Siemens Electric Lamps and Supplies Ltd was a subsidiary which made or sold lamps, Xcel fires and domestic appliances, and batteries for wireless sets[20].

1935 The Submarine Cable divisions of Siemens and of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co were combined to form Submarine Cables Ltd. Each parent company held 50% of the shares in the new company.

1937 Advert in British Industries Fair Catalogue as Maker of C. M. A. (Cable Makers' Association) Cables. manufacturers of Electric Wires and Cables for all Purposes. (Electricity: Industrial and Domestic Section - Stand Nos. Cb.501 and Cb.400) [21]

1937 Manufacturers of electric wires, cables, telephones, batteries and ebonite. [22]

1951 AGM told that largest subsidiary was Siemens Electric Lamps and Supplies Ltd (fully owned); others were Submarine Cables Ltd jointly owned with Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co Ltd and Siemens and General Electric Railway Signal Co jointly owned with GEC. Discussions underway about disposal of the block of 15% of shares that had been held by the Custodian of Enemy Property[23].

1952 Alfred Graham and Co was a subsidiary; designed starter relays for Xenon lamps for HMS Eagle[24].

1954 AEI acquired a minority interest[25]. One of the principal subsidiaries was Alfred Graham and Co manufacturers of miscellaneous electrical equipment.

1955-6 The rest of the interest in Siemens was acquired by AEI. Siemens and Edison Swan Electric Co were amalgamated as Siemens Edison Swan[26]

Telegraphy Equipment in Construction

c.1872 Booklet on Telegraphy Equipment in Construction.

Examples of Generators & Motors Produced in 1893

Information below is from the Siemens Bros (Woolwich) Order Books.

180 kW dynamo for St. James' and Pall Mall Co., 240V, 350 rpm, to be driven by Willans and Robinson I.I.I. engine.

400A, 140V dynamo for London and Hampstead Battery Co., to be driven by Willans and Robinson G.G. engine.

225 kW dynamo for Glasgow Corporation, to be driven by Willans and Robinson I.I.I.S. engine.

16A, 2500V dynamo for Cardiff Corporation, to be driven at 200 rpm by Davey, Paxman and Co engine.

343A, 210V dynamo, 460 rpm, for Charing Cross and Strand Co., to be driven by Willans and Robinson G.G.G. engine.

Two 125A, 66V dynamos for Rietschoten & Houwens, to be driven at 250 rpm by Tangye engines.

40A, 100-125V 1210 rpm dynamo for Junin Railway, to be direct coupled to Howes Pelton wheel.

155A, 105V, 900 rpm belt-driven dynamo for Porirua Lunatic Asylum (New Zealand).

200 kW alternator, 2100V, 340 rpm, for Vestry of St. John, Hampstead, to be driven by Willans and Robinson I.I.I.S. engine; also 20 kw alternator, 2100V, 540 rpm, to be driven by Willans and Robinson E.E. engine via flexible coupling; also 100 kW alternator, 2100V, 385 rpm, to be driven by Willans and Robinson H.H.S. engine.


See Siemens Brothers and Co: Synchroniser

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  2. First public electricity supply in the world
  3. ODNB: Biography of Sir William Siemens
  4. The Telegraphist, 2 June 1884 [[1]]
  5. The Engineer of 24th August 1894 p169 & p172
  6. The Engineer of 14th December 1894 p533
  7. The Engineer 1901
  8. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  9. The Times Feb 05, 1968
  10. BT Archives [2]
  11. The Times, 17 March 1920
  12. The Engineer 1920/06/11, p 614.
  13. The Times, 28 April 1921
  14. Bt Archive [3]
  15. [4] Wikipatents
  16. The Times, 30 May 1924
  17. The Engineer 1925/04/24
  18. The Times, Feb 05, 1926
  19. [5] Wikipatents
  20. The Times, 22 May 1931
  21. 1937 British Industries Fair Advert p564; and p412
  22. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  23. The Times, 2 July 1951
  24. The Times, 1 July 1952
  25. The Times, 21 December 1954
  26. The Times, Jun 12, 1958