Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,190 pages of information and 245,643 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.


From Graces Guide
Pye Model PCR2. Exhibit at the Washford Radio Museum.
1944-58. Communications receiver for the British Army type PCR designed by Pye and made by Philips Lamps.


October 1951.
December 1951. Telecommunications. Airfield Racks.
September 1953. Appliance Division.
March 1954.
December 1954.
1955. LHS page.
1955. RHS page.
June 1955. VHF Fixed Station.
June 1955. Hi-Fi Amplifier.
October 1956.
January 1957.
1959. VHF Transmitter.
Pye SHF Transmitter. Exhibit at the Washford Radio Museum.
October 1962.
October 1970.

Pye Radio Ltd, makers of domestic radio and television, television transmitting equipment, electrical products, of Radio Works, Cambridge. Telephone: Cambridge 3434. Cables: "Pyrad, Cambridge". (1947)


1896 A part-time business making scientific instruments was founded in Cambridge by William George Pye, an employee of the Cavendish Laboratory, which became W. G. Pye and Co.

1928 Pye Radio Ltd was formed to acquire the radio branch of the business of W. G. Pye and Co[1]; Pye Radio was owned by Charles Orr Stanley, who went on to establish a chain of small component-manufacturing factories across East Anglia.

1928 Stanley took Pye into television. When the BBC started to explore television broadcasting, Pye found that the closest of their East Anglian offices was some 25 miles outside the estimated effective 25 mile radius of the Alexandra Palace transmitter. Stanley was fascinated by the new technology and on his instructions the company built a high gain receiver that could pick up these transmissions.

1929 Public company. Funds raised to expand production of Pye Radio Ltd[2]

1935 Collaborated with Ever Ready to design and manufacture radio receivers. This was in pursuit of Ever Ready's commercial policy of encouraging the use of battery powered equipment, although strangely one of the first 2 designs was mains powered. Charles Orr Stanley was invited onto Ever Ready's Board as a non-executive director. The chassis and cabinets were made by Pye and put-together at Ever Ready's Finsbury Park factory, supervised by Pye management. The collaboration only lasted for a few years. Just before the war Charles Stanley fell out with Magnus Goodfellow (Ever Ready's Chairman) and the venture came to an end [3].

1935 produced their first TV sets

1936 Marketed a 9 inch set when the BBC first broadcast in 1936.

1937 Name changed to Pye Ltd

1937 a 5-inch Pye television receiver was priced at 21 guineas (£22.05) and within two years the company had sold 2,000 sets at an average price of £34.

The new EF50 valve from Philips, enabled Pye to build a high gain receiver, a Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) type not a superhet type. With the outbreak of World War 2 the Pye receiver using EF50 valves became a key component of many radar receivers, forming the 45MHz Intermediate Frequency Amplifier (IF) section of the equipment. Pye went on to design and manufacture many famous army radio equipments such as Wireless Sets No.18, 19, 22, 62.

WWII. Manufactured parts for the De Havilland Mosquito. [4]

1944 In February, Pye formed a specialist division called Pye Telecommunications which it intended would design and produce radio communications equipment when the war ended. This company developed, prospered and grew to become the leading UK producer of mobile radio equipment for commercial, business, industrial, police and Government purposes.

After the war, Pye's B16T 9" table television was designed around the twelve-year-old EF50 valve. It was soon superseded by the B18T, which used an extra high tension transformer (EHT) developed by German companies before the war to produce high cathode ray tube voltages.

1946 Pye Ltd acquired W. G. Pye and Co, of Granta Works, Cambridge[5]

1946 The research laboratories developed the Videosonic Television System and the chairman hoped to have the opportunity to prove its practical usefulness[6]

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Radio Receivers, Radio Gramophones, "Videosonic" Television Transmitting Equipment and Receivers; Telecommunications Equipment (Pye Radio Telephone); Public Address and Sound Amplifying Equipment; Car Radio; Radio Test Gear; Laboratory Instruments and Equipment. (Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. C.151g) [7]

1949 "The largest TV manufacturer in Britain"; subsidiaries included[8]:

c.1950 Acquired Rees, Mace Manufacturing Co which became Rees Race Marine

1954 Pye's V4 tunable television was launched in March, and was followed by the V14. The V14 proved to be technically unreliable and so tarnished the Pye name that many dealers transferred their allegiance to other manufacturers. This failure so damaged corporate confidence that Pye avoided being first to market thereafter.

1954 Ericsson Telephones and Pye jointly developed a VHF multichannel radio-telephone system [9].

1955 the company diversified into music production with Pye Records. The Independent Television Authority (ITA) initiated commercial transmissions so Pye had to produce new television designs that could receive ITV, and the availability of a second channel introduced the need for tuners for these sets.

1955 Formed joint venture Seismic Instruments Ltd with Electro-Technical Labs of Houston, to make instruments for oil and mineral prospecting[10]

1956 Pye developed the first British transistor. Pye first used transistors in a product sold as a subsidiary brand: the Pam 710 radio, with the transistors themselves labelled Newmarket Transistors (another subsidiary). When this proved acceptable the company launched the Pye 123 radio (still with the Newmarket label on the novel internal components). Products such as these reversed the decline.

1959 Subsidiaries included[11]:

These were all members of the Pye Instruments Group.

1960 Pye acquired Telephone Manufacturing Co, fighting off a bid from a consortium of Ericsson Telephones, AEI, GEC, Automatic Telephone and Electric Co, Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co, Plessey Co and STC[12].

1960 Agreement with American Machine and Foundry Co (AMF) to license their nuclear reactor designs (used for research and training)[13]

1960 E. K. Cole merged with Pye as British Electronic Industries; each company retained its own operations and management initially but by 1962 the new company had complete control of Ekco[14].

1961 Products of the group included radio and television apparatus, television transmitting and studio equipment, telecommunications and industrial electronic equipment, domestic appliances, scientific instruments and other products. [15]

They also produced broadcast television equipment, including cameras which, as well as international sales, were very popular with British broadcasters including the BBC. The early cameras were called "the Photicon" and the later ones by their Mk number 2,3 etc. The Mk7/8 solid state monochrome cameras were the last ones produced. The Pye Mk6 Image Orthicon camera was the last version supplied to BBC Outside Broadcasts in 1963 for a new fleet of 8 outside broadcast vans. The ITV companies purchased the popular Pye Mk3s, and to a lesser extent the Mk4s and Mk7s. Unfortunately, Pye (TVT) never made it into producing a colour broadcast television camera, but there was an abortive colour telecine camera, few if any were sold. The reason for this was probably the financial difficulties the company was in.

1963 Motor Show exhibitor. Car radios. [16]

1964 Pye acquired Ether Langham Thompson[17].

c.1964 Bell's Asbestos and Engineering Holdings and Pye formed a joint venture Bell Home Appliances[18]

1964 Had a record year but growth was slower than expected in the post-war expansion plan. Divisions included[19]:

  • Instruments - 10 companies
  • Communications - Ekco Electronics was the only European company producing weather radar. Supplying transmitters for the 625 line service. Pye Telecommunications was awaiting orders from the GPO.
  • Plastics - Ekco Plastics supplied mouldings to industry; 2 years before had introduced containers for food; the demand for Eckoware still exceeded production.
  • Power Equipment - included Lindley Thompson and recently had brought Unidare into the group, which had complementary transformer products
  • Process Heating - both general purpose and high frequency heating
  • Television - less than expected increase in demand for products as result of launch of BBC2
  • Radio - making small portable sets in the UK was not profitable
  • Pye Laboratories - had supplied satellite equipment since 1960; looking to make profits from the large investments in research into improving medical services in hospitals; had designed a 100kW nuclear reactor for the Northern Universities which had been commissioned.
  • Power Appliances - L. G. Hawkins; Ekco Heating; acquired a factory to make electric blankets.

Other interests included A. T. V., Electronic Industries (Australia); British Relay Wireless; Pye Ireland; Pye Records (minority interest).

The arrival of Japanese competition reduced demand to a level that threatened the viability of the manufacturing plants. The company, like most of its domestic competitors, attempted to restore demand with price competition and, where viable production exceeded demand, sold excess stock at loss-making clearance prices. This tactic has no strategic value and by 1966 Pye was in such difficulties that they started to reduce their manufacturing capacity with closure of the Ekco factory in Southend.

Mr J. Langham Thompson led a group of shareholders supporting the past chairman and deputy MD of the company against the incumbent management on the question of the future potential for radio and television in Pye[20].

1966 Philips attempted to buy a half-stake in the ailing Pye[21].

1966 Bells acquired Pye's share of Bell Home Appliances when Philips bid for Pye.

The arrival of colour television in the mid sixties was not the rescue that domestic TV manufacturers had hoped. Test signals began in 1966 and scheduled transmissions commenced on December 2, 1967. The colour transmissions introduced 625-line transmissions alongside the 405-line broadcasts so the receivers had to handle both systems, with a consequent cost overhead. The resulting high price of the new technology delayed consumer adoption.

1967 After a Stock market battle, Philips acquired Pye[22]; shareholders had an option to buy back into the company before 1970. The Trade Secretary, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, agreed with Philips that the Pye business would co-operate with government policy in terms of reorganising the telecommunications and instrument sectors[23]. He permitted the transfer of just a 60% shareholding with an undertaking that the Lowestoft factory would continue to manufacture televisions.

1968 W. G. Pye and Unicam Instruments were merged to become Pye Unicam; Philips's scientific division from M. E. L. Equipment Co was also put into the new company[24]

1971 Sale of avionics plants at Southend and Glasgow to M. E. L. Equipment Co with 750 redundancies[25]

Early 1970s, Sony and Hitachi launched UK colour televisions at under £200 and most domestic manufacturers decided to compete with them in that market. This decision handicapped the domestic manufacturers when the Japanese moved upmarket using just in time (JIT) manufacturing. When the UK consumers chose quality over price, domestic manufacturers found themselves with high stocks and low cash flow at a time when industrial relations were poor and there was little flexibility in cost reduction.

1976 Philips owned 51.7 percent of Pye. It acquired the consumer businesses (ie radio and television) from Pye, which then would concentrate on professional electronics operations[26]

The Lowestoft factory was subsequently sold to Sanyo for the manufacture of television sets after Philips moved the manufacture of Pye televisions to Singapore.

Car Radio

See Pye: Car Radio


See Pye: Radio


See Pye: Television


See Pye Instruments

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Feb 19, 1929
  2. The Times, Feb 19, 1929
  3. Ever Ready[1]
  4. Mosquito by C. Martin Sharp and Michael J. F. Bowyer. Published by Crecy Books in 1995. ISBN 0-947554-41-6
  5. The Times, Apr 02, 1946
  6. The Times, Sep 12, 1946
  7. 1947 British Industries Fair p225
  8. The Times, Jan 03, 1949
  9. The Times, 1 April 1954
  10. The Times, Dec 16, 1955
  11. The Times, Dec 08, 1959
  12. The Times, 5 July 1960
  13. The Times Dec. 6, 1960
  14. The Times, 23 November 1962
  15. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  16. 1963 Motor Show
  17. The Times, 27 October 1966
  18. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Dec 06, 1966
  19. The Times, Oct 08, 1964
  20. The Times, 31 October 1966
  21. The Times, Nov 24, 1966
  22. The Times, Feb 18, 1967
  23. The Times, Jan 26, 1967
  24. The Times, Jul 01, 1968
  25. The Times, Jan 27, 1971
  26. The Times, Dec 14, 1976
  • [2] Wikipedia
  • [3] The Pye Story