of Hollinwood, Lancashire. Telephone: Failsworth 161; City 7618 and Central 9325. Cables: "Ferranti, Hollinwood"; "Ferranti, Estrand, London". (1929)
London office previously of 180, Fleet-streeet, EC4 moved to Bush House, Aldwych, W.C.2. (1925).
Ditto Address: Telephone: Failsworth 2000. Telegraphic Address: "Ferranti, Hollinwood". (1937)
Major Areas of the Business
Ferranti and Co was a major UK electrical engineering and equipment firm, latterly known primarily for defence electronics and power grid systems. Also famous in the computer industry for building the second commercial computer, the Ferranti Mark I, the beginnings of a business which lasted until the 1970s.
- Domestic Appliances
- Electricity Meters
- Industrial Electronics
- Non-Magnetic Iron
- Power Generation and Transmission
1882 Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti set up in business in London, designing various electrical devices and making his coreless dynamo and mercury meter. His early choice of the A.C. rather than the D.C. system made him one of the few experts in this system in the UK. With Alfred Thompson and Francis Ince, he formed Ferranti, Thompson and Ince to manufacture alternators under licence from Sir William Thomson.
Applied for Provisional Order empowering the company to supply electricity within the parish of St. John, Hampstead, in the county of Middlesex
1883 Ferranti, Thompson and Ince was wound up at the end of the year and its affairs amalgamated with the Hammond Electric Light and Power Supply Co. Sebastian bought back his own patents and set up a company called S. Z. de Ferranti in partnership with C. P. Sparks and others.
c.1885 Sebastian Ferranti was brought in by the promoters to overhaul the Grosvenor Galley Electrical Lighting Co installation. Ferranti created a partnership with Francis Ince based at Hatton Garden, London.
Ferranti was apparently the first to suggest that power stations should be outside the city, at a point convenient for fuel and water supply and that the power should be transmitted into the city by high-voltage alternating currents.
S. Z. de Ferranti Ltd
1887 The London Electric Supply Corporation (LESCo) employed Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti to design their power station at Deptford. He designed the building, the generating plant and the distribution system.
1889 S. Z. de Ferranti became a limited liability company (S. Z. de Ferranti Limited)
1891 On completion, Deptford was the first truly modern power station, supplying high-voltage A.C. power that was then "stepped down" for consumer use on each street. This basic system remains in use today around the world. Sebastian Ferranti's contract at Deptford was not renewed and he left LESCo. Unfortunately for him there were no other British customers for his type of equipment so his company struggled for several years.
Ferranti sold his patents for high-voltage cables to the British Insulated Wire Co, providing useful collateral against the bank loans on which the firm relied.
Success followed and Ferranti started producing electrical equipment for sale. Soon the company was looking for considerably more room. Prices in the London area were too high, so the company moved to Hollinwood, near Oldham, Lancashire.
1895 'A NEW INDUSTRY.— The large building known as the boiler works, situated near the railway at the higher end of Failsworth, has been bought by the firm of Messrs. S. L. De Ferranti and Co., electrical engineers, Charterhouse-square, London, for carrying on their business. It is expected they will employ 500 or 600 hands when fully at work. This should be good news for Hollinwood.'
1897 Production began at Hollinwood. Two major businesses were initially set up, one for production of meters, and the other for steam alternators.
The Hollinwood works was originally occupied by the Stephenson boiler works. After a few years the company rented a former mill (Windsor Mill), where switches and transformers were produced.
Ferranti Steam Engines
Ferranti produced a number of large steam engines. They ran at relatively high speeds, in order to mimimise size for a given power output and to facilitate governing. 60 engines were built between 1896 and 1901. . Several competitors, principally Willans and Robinson and Belliss and Morcom, produced engines operating at higher speeds, driving generators of smaller diameter than Ferranti's. For more information, see Power Generation and Transmission.
Engine No. 581 was constructed by Ferranti in Hollinwood in 1898 to drive a 250 kW shaft alternator at Lambeth. The engine is preserved in operational condition at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry (see photo). In 1900 it was purchased by J. H. Gillett and Son and moved to their Chorley cotton mill and drove the mill by ropes from a grooved flywheel. In 1960 Ferranti acquired it for display at the Hollinwood works, with the rope drive retained. On closure of the works, the engine was acquired by the then Greater Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. A suitable Siemens zig-zag alternator was obtained from Ferranti and, fortunately, fitted the engine, allowing it to be displayed as a generating engine with flywheel alternator. . Some sources identify the mill as Brunswick Mill, while another names it as the Crosse Hall Mills. For more information, see Richard L. Hills' account here.
1901 Ferranti Ltd was registered and acquired the whole of the undertakings and assets of S. Z. de Ferranti Ltd. The prospectus identified the following Directors: S, Z. de Ferranti of Ingleside, Lyndhurst Road, Hampstead, London; A. B. Anderson, 75, Promenade, Southport; Charles Day, New Moston, Lancs; G. Del Rivo, Boscombe, Liverpool Road, Birkdale; Arthur E. Hadley, Eccles.
1903 Ferranti Ltd was in financial difficulties (largely because of its activities in steam engines and dynamos). At the instigation of the debenture stockholders, the company went into voluntary receivership.
1905 A Scheme of Reconstruction was established. Ferranti Ltd was re-launched but focussed on the manufacture of Switch Gear, Transformers and Instruments. The company registered on 27 February, in reconstruction of a company of similar title, to acquire a business of electrical, mechanical and general engineers. Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti took a less active role in the running of this company. Andrew Tait was elected Chairman (to 1927, Vice-Chairman 1927-1953).
Over his career, Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti amassed 176 patents for such a diverse range of technologies including alternators, high-tension cables, circuit breakers, transformers and turbines.
1910 Through the early part of the century, power was supplied by small companies, typically as an offshoot of plant set up to provide power to local industry. Each plant supplied a different standard, which made the mass production of electrical equipment for home users rather difficult. Ferranti started an effort to standardize the power supply, which eventually culminated in the National Grid in 1926.
1911 Electrical Exhibition. Ferranti (of Hollinwood) exhibited high-tension enclosed electrical control panels.
1912 Domestic Appliance Department established
1913 Ferranti Electric Company of Canada Limited founded
1913 Samuel Ferguson and George Pailin, who had worked for Ferranti as switchgear engineers, left to set up their own switchgear business, Ferguson Pailin and Co at a factory in Openshaw, Manchester. Ferranti sold them its switchgear patents and stock.
1914 Listed as electrical and general engineers. Speciality: meters and switchgear. Employees 1,800 to 1,900. 
WW1 Ferranti manufactured shells. Sebastian Ferranti was principally responsible for securing the munitions contracts, developing the necessary mass production techniques, and utilizing the improved flow of profits to diversify the product range. Manufacture of domestic appliances and switchgear ceased.
1916 The first Canadian factory opened.
At some point Sebastian Ferranti was appointed technical director.
Post-WWI After Ferranti's successful development of a technology-led strategy during the war, coupled with professional accountants overseeing the finances, the firm was able to flourish. Ferranti Ltd diversified into radio and domestic electrical appliances and rebuilt the transformer business which had languished since 1903.
1921 Separate Transformer Division set up
1923 First electronics product introduced with start of production of audio frequency transformers
1924 Started production of radio components and moving coil loudspeakers
1926 Ferranti Electric Inc., New York, founded
1926 Start of production of electric fires
1927 Domestic Appliance Department reorganised
1928 Sebastian Ferranti became chairman of the company
1929 Started production of Commercial Radio Receiver and valve production started
1929 British Industries Fair Advert for Components - The Supreme Transformer; Radio Meters; Loud Speakers; Trickle-chargers; H. T. Supply Units. Manufacturers of Audio Frequency Transformers, Output Transformers, Push-Pull Transformers, Chokes, Fixed Condensers, Radio Meters, anode Feed Resistances, Model Railway Transformers, etc. Radiant Heat Electric Fire. (Wireless Section - Stand No. MM.48) 
1935 Radio factory at Moston, Manchester opened.
1935 See Ferranti:1935 Review
1936 Started production of cathode ray tubes and television receivers.
1937 Domestic Appliance Department moved to Moston; TV production began.
Ferranti Instruments, also based at Moston, developed various items for scientific measurements, including one of the first cone-and-plate viscometers.
1937 Electrical and general engineers. 
1937 British Industries Fair Advert for: Transformers; Testing Instruments; Meters; Domestic Appliances; Quality Castings. Ferranti Service from the Grid to the Family Hearth. Power Transformers, Regulating Equipment, Protective Gear, Instruments, Relays, Meters, Fires, Water Heaters, Clocks, Radio Receivers. Also Quality Castings. (Electricity: Industrial and Domestic Section - Stand Nos. Cb.713 and Cb.612) 
1939 See Aircraft Industry Suppliers
WWII During the war, Ferranti became a major supplier of electronics, and was heavily involved in the early development of radar in the United Kingdom. In the post-war era this became a large segment of their company, with various branches supplying radar sets, avionics and other military electronics, both in the UK and their various international offices. Valve production was expanded to supply other companies as well as Ferranti.
1943 The Edinburgh factory was opened to manufacture Gyro Gun Sights signalling the beginning of the Scottish Group and Ferranti's move into the Defence market
Other factories were at Oldham, Wythenshawe, Cheadle Heath and Gorton. Eventually branch-plants were set up in Edinburgh, Dalkeith, Aberdeen, Bracknell and Cwmbran as well as Germany and the U.S.A. and several British Commonwealth countries including Canada, Australia and Singapore.
1946 Began to supply valves to other makers of sets.
1948 General supplier of tubes.
1949 The Computer Group was formed. Ferranti joined with various university-based research groups to develop computers. Their first effort was the Ferranti Mark I, with about nine delivered between 1951–1957.
1953 Manufacturer of TV sets 
1954 Guided Weapon research began at Wythenshawe
1955 Ferranti had been involved in production of electronic devices including Cathode Ray Tube devices and germanium semiconductors for some time before it became the first European company to produce a silicon diode.
1956 The Pegasus computer was introduced and became Ferranti's most popular valve (vacuum tube) system, with 38 units sold.
1957 Ferranti's Radio and T. V. interests were sold to E. K. Cole Ltd
1957 The Distribution Transformers Department was set up
In collaboration with the University of Manchester Ferranti built a new version of the famous Manchester Mark I computer, replacing about half of the valve diodes with solid state diodes, which allowed the speed to be increased dramatically as well as increasing reliability. Ferranti offered the result commercially as the Mercury, and eventually sold 19 in total. Although a small part of Ferranti's empire, the computer division was nevertheless highly visible.
1958 Closure of the Domestic Appliance Department
1958-62 Work on a completely new design of computer, the Atlas, started soon after the delivery of the Mercury, aiming to dramatically improve performance. The machine first ran in 1962, and Ferranti eventually built 3 machines in total.
1961 Electrical and general engineers, manufacturing heavy electrical equipment, including power transformers for the National Grid, electricity service meters and instruments, radar and electrical domestic appliances, water heaters and valves, and electronic equipment. 
1961 Acquired the electricity meter business of Aron Electricity Meter Co
1963 The Computer Department was sold to International Computers and Tabulators Limited (ICT). By this time, Ferranti's mid-size machines were no longer competitive but efforts to design a replacement had bogged down. Into this void stepped the Canadian division, Ferranti-Packard, who had used several of the ideas under development in England to produce very quickly the Ferranti-Packard 6000. After studying several options, ICT selected the FP 6000 as the basis for their ICT 1900 line which sold into the 1970s.
The deal with ICT excluded Ferranti from the commercial sector of computing but left the industrial field free. Some of the technology of the FP 6000 was later used in Ferranti's Argus range of computers. The first computer was the Argus 200 which was developed at the Wythenshawe factory. The Argus 100 and 300 followed, aimed at process control applications.
1967 Closure of the Distribution Transformers Department.
1968 The Argus 500 was the first in the range to use integrated circuits and had considerably more computing power than the earlier machines.
1968 Details of a new impulse generator built by Ferranti of Hollinwood. 
1970s Early in the decade Ferranti designed the Argus 700; this also achieved international success for industrial and military applications.
Meanwhile in Bracknell, Digital Systems division was developing a range of mainframe computers for naval applications. Early computers using discrete transistors were the Hermes and Poseidon and these were followed by the F1600 in the mid 1960s. Some of these machines remained in active service on naval vessels for many years.
1972 Ferranti received support for a project on a measuring machine from government programme for the machine tool industry 
1974 The company was still largely owned by the family - about 56 percent of the ordinary shares where held by the 2 Ferranti brothers and their trusts; the remaining 44 percent was widely held. The Ferranti brothers had a good reputation for innovation in high technology
1974 The Transformer Division ran into financial difficulties, reflecting the lack of focus in the company strategy for the whole company and the inability of the family to grasp the problem of the ownership of the business. As a result, the Government, through the National Enterprise Board, injected £15 Million into Ferranti in return for a 50% stake in the voting capital of the company (62.5 percent of the equity) leading to a reduction in the Ferranti family shareholding to a minority of the total. A new Managing Director and new Chief Executive were appointed.
1974 Introduced an improved machine to measure more accurately surface profiles.
1975 The Transformer Division was closed.
1976 Ferranti Engineering Limited was set up
Ferranti Semiconductor Ltd. produced a range of silicon bipolar devices including, in 1977, the F100-L, an early 8-bit single chip microprocessor with 16-bit addressing. An F100-L was carried into space on the amateur radio satellite UoSAT-1 (Oscar 9). Ferranti's ZTX series bipolar transistors gave their name to the inheritor of Ferranti Semiconductor's discrete semiconductor business, Zetex plc.
1978 Shares in Ferranti were reintroduced to trading on the London stock exchange
1982 The National Enterprise Board sold its Ferranti shares on the London stock exchange
1984 The company continued to provide sharply growing profits, in contrast to its large competitors in the electronics sector
1984 The Company was restructured into 5 operating divisions:
In the mid-eighties, Ferranti produced some of the first large Uncommitted Logic Arrays (ULAs) which were used in home computers such as the Acorn Electron and BBC Microcomputer. The microelectronics business was sold to Plessey Co in 1988.
From the late 1980s, Ferranti concentrated on defence sales. Radar systems developed for the Bloodhound Surface-to-Air Missile was a key money earner.
1987 Ferranti purchased International Signal and Control (ISC), a Pennsylvania-based defence contractor, and was renamed Ferranti International plc. Unknown to Ferranti, ISC's business primarily consisted of illegal arms sales started at the behest of various US clandestine organizations. On paper the company looked to be extremely profitable on sales of high-priced "above board" items, but in fact these profits were essentially non-existent. With the sale to Ferranti all illegal sales ended immediately, leaving the ISC company with no obvious cash flow.
Ferranti began a programme of asset disposals to raise funds.
1989 The Serious Fraud Office started criminal investigation regarding alleged massive fraud at ISC.
1990 GEC acquired the defence radar parts of Ferranti. This would provide more stability for the unit, mainly located in Edinburgh, which was bidding for to win the contract for the Eurofighter. The sale reduced Ferranti's dependence on defence work to about half of its total sales; other major parts of the business were sales of Zonephone and computer software
1990 Two parts of Industrial Electronics division, laser and components, both based in Dundee, were in negotiation to conduct management buy-outs
1991 In December, James Guerin, founder of ISC and co-Chairman of the merged company, pleaded guilty before the federal court in Philadelphia, to fraud committed both in the USA and UK. All offences which would have formed part of any UK prosecution were encompassed by the US trial and, as such, no UK trial proceeded.
1993 The massive financial and legal difficulties forced Ferranti into bankruptcy in December. As well as the defence systems business, the civil systems business, based at Wythenshawe, which provided simulation systems to civil aviation, airport information systems, was developing a high tech baggage handling system; the business also provided services for electricity and gas utilities and control systems for nuclear power station and systems for oil platforms; losses on some contracts agreed by this division had contributed to putting the company into receivership
1994 Ferranti was placed in receivership in January.
1994 The computer section was bought out of bankruptcy by a Thomson-CSF subsidiary called SYSECA. It traded on as Ferranti-SYSECA, until the Ferranti name was finally dropped about 1996.
Ferranti's links with Oldham continue with the presence of Ferranti Technologies,who produce equipment for the aerospace and defence industries. See Ferranti Technologies website
See Wikipedia entry for information on the fate of other branches.
Sources of Information
- The Engineer 1925/05/15
- London Gazette
- The London Gazette 4 January 1884
- The Engineer 1924/08/08
- Wikipedia 
- Details and illustrations are in The Engineer of 5th April 1889
- The Engineer 1894/08/03 p104, p107, p109 and p122-3
- Cotton Factory Times, 6 December 1895
- 'Power from Steam. A History of the Stationary Steam Engine' by Richard L. Hills, Cambridge University Press, 1989/1993
-  Wikipedia
- Stationary Steam Engines of Great Britain, Vol 3.1: Lancashire, by George Watkins, Landmark Publishing, 2001. Photo: Plat No. 93
- Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Monday 22 July 1901
- Shields Daily News - Thursday 21 November 1901
- Portsmouth Evening News - Friday 27 December 1901
- The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
- The Engineer 1911/10/06 p363
- 1914 Whitakers Red Book
- 1929 British Industries Fair Advert 234 and p60
- The Times July 1 1930
- 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
- 1937 British Industries Fair Advert p573
-  Competition Commission
-  Competition Commission
- Choosing your Television Set
- 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
- The Times July 11, 1963
- The Engineer of 9th February 1968 p233
- The Times, Mar 15, 1972
- The Times Sept. 18, 1974
- The Times May 15, 1975
- The Engineer 1974/04/11
- The Times Dec. 7, 1984
- The Times Mar. 2, 1988
- The Times Jan. 24, 1990
- The Times Jan. 31, 1990
- The Times, Dec. 6, 1993