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 162,508 pages of information and 244,521 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.

Standard Telephones and Cables

From Graces Guide


February 1929.
November 1932.
September 1933.
6th January 1939.
May 1944.
February 1945.
February 1945.
March 1945.
November 1946.
September 1947
August 1948.
January 1949.
March 1949.
March 1949.
May 1949. Brimistor.
May 1949. Magnetic Materials.
July 1949.
September 1949.
September 1949.
STR.40 Radio Altimeter
Radio. Rear view.
1950. LHS.
1950. RHS.
December 1951. Rectifier Division, Boreham Wood.
September 1953. Rectifier Division.
June 1955.
June 1955. Rectifier Division. SenTerCel.
1956. Aerial view of Southampton site. Note HMS Queen Elizabeth in the King George V Dry Docks.
December 1957.
1959.Silicon Rectifier Cubicles for the Electrolytic Metals Corporation, Transvaal.
1959. Silicon Rectifier.
Standard Telephone and Cables Service Medals. Used to Show length of Service to the Company, XX-20years, XXV-25years etc.
1983 March. STC Insite Magazine.
1984 March. STC Insite Magazine covers.
1986 Nov. STC Insite Magazine cover.
1986 Dec. STC Insite Magazine cover.
TAT-9 Provisional Acceptance article in the STC Insite magazine.
Jeff Smallcorn and Malcolm Peto of the TAT-9 Project.
1991 CS Alert, owned by BT Marine, laid the Spanish and UK legs of TAT-9.
Quest Awards at Southampton.
Cliff Rikeard, Paul Shannon, Celia Fraser, Kevin Thomas, Brian Leigh and Jack Sharma.
Tony Stacey, Quality Control Section Head at Southampton.
STC Oscillator No 29a.
STC Oscillator No 29a. Detail.

of North Woolwich, London (1937) and Southampton (1956).

of Connaught House, 63 Aldwych, London, WC2. Telephone: Holborn 8765 (20 lines). Cables: "Relay, Telex, London". (1947)

Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd (later STC plc) was a British manufacturer of telephone, telegraph, radio, telecommunications, cables and related equipment.

1883 The company began life as an agent for the US Western Electric company that also had a factory in Antwerp, Belgium. The London operation sold US-designed telephones and exchanges to fledgling British telephone companies.

1898 A failing cable factory at North Woolwich in London’s East End was acquired. Despite setbacks, this factory made lead-sheathed cables and also assembled equipment from components imported from Belgium and the United States. It then moved into complete manufacture as well.

1910 Private company formed: Western-Electric Co

1910 Using advanced American thinking and designs and after incorporation as a British legal entity, Western Electric’s future looked bright.

WWI The company contributed to the war effort in military communications and the, then primitive, cable and wireless technologies they used. Radio technology was being initiated in the neutral USA. This gave Western Electric a post-war advantage as wireless broadcasting was introduced in Britain.

1920s The company was closely involved in wireless broadcasting (radio).

1922 With its competitors, the company set up the British Broadcasting Company (later Corporation) as well as producing wireless receivers. Valve technology was developed and commercially exploited.

1922 May. The John Tylor site was acquired.

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.

1925 Western Electric’s international (i.e. outside USA) operations were purchased by a surprise buyer, the infant International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation which had been founded by Sosthenes Behn less than 10 years previously, with an aggressive and thrusting reputation. To fit with its other worldwide operations, ITT renamed its new UK operation Standard Telephones and Cables. The new organisation was based on entrepreneurial risk-taking, based on solid research and brave innovation; in this sense Alec Reeves and Alan Blumlein could both be seen as ideal employees.

1931 Microwave communication was first demonstrated by STC between Dover and Calais[1].

Within a few years, multi-channel transmission (1932), microwave transmission (1934), coaxial cabling (1936), the entire radio systems for the liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth (1936-39), the patenting of pulse code modulation (1938) all contributed to the hey-day of telephony’s development.

1933 Establishment of Brimar, for valve production, at the Foot's Cray site.

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) [2]

1937 Manufacturers of radio and direction finding apparatus[3]

1938 Kolster-Brandes became part of STC.

1939 See Aircraft Industry Suppliers

WWII: significant military work was undertaken with many developments particularly with regard to aerial warfare: communications, radar, navigational aids, and especially OBOE. Site suffered some bomb damage. Camouflage painted on buildings. Tunnels under the North Field used as shelters.

1947 British industries Fair Advert for the Co-ordinated Systems Planning of all forms of Electrical Communication. Systems and Equipment for Telephone, Telegraph, Teleprinter and Radio Communication. Systems and Equipment for Power and Industrial Applications. (Office Machinery and Equipment Section - Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. B.1439) [4]

The 1950s were characterised by the establishment of television broadcasting. Technical milestones were numerous and were crowned by the coverage of Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation in 1953. The steady spread of TV transmission and availability over Britain very often used STC technology and equipment.

1956 STC became a major player in submarine cable with its production unit in Southampton opened in 1956.

1959 joint owner with Enfield Cables Ltd of Enfield-Standard Power Cables Ltd.

1960 A consortium of AEI, Automatic Telephone and Electric Co, Ericsson TelephonesLtd, GEC, Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co, Plessey Co and STC formed a holding company Combined Telephone Holdings only days after its members had failed in their bid to acquire Telephone Manufacturing Co. Combined Telephone Holdings purchased for cash more than half of the shares in Phoenix Telephone and Electric Works and offered to purchase the rest[5].

1961 Listed as a subsidiary of International Standard Electric Corporation of New York. Works at New Southgate, North Woolwich, Footscray, Newport (Monmouthshire), Harlow, Southampton, Paignton and Enfield

1961 Telegraph, telephone and radio engineers, including transmission systems, electronic computers, remote control systems, components, communication cable installations and production of rubber and plastic cables. 25,000 employees. [6]

1964 U.K. cable activities restricted to the manufacture of land and submarine telecommunication cables; ended Enfield-Standard Power Cables Ltd venture.

In other areas, ship to ship, ship to shore and civil aviation communications took on modern characteristics with STC's products. In time, international and intercontinental submarine telephone contact became possible, feasible and then everyday. Questions of product and installation quality and absolute reliability were overcome and STC became a major player. Coverage graduated from rivers, estuaries, the English Channel, the North Sea, the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1966, Charles Kao of STC's Standard Telecommunications Laboratories in Harlow demonstrated that light rather than electricity could be used to transmit speech and (even more importantly) data accurately at very high speeds.

1968 STC Footscray announced new semiconductor devices

1968 Queen's Award to Industry for Export Achievement

1970 acquired Submarine Cables Ltd from AEI making STC the world leader in the field of submarine cables, and the sole United Kingdom manufacturer.

1977 Production of cables at Woolwich and Greenwich ceased as part of a rationalisation programme; work transferred to Newport (Gwent) and Southampton.

Material technology took time to catch up with fibre-optic technical developments but by 1977 a commercial fibre optic link had been installed in England. Within the next ten years BT abandoned metal cables for longer distances. The Newport plant dominated the re-cabling of the UK public telephone system.

1979 One of only a small number of manufacturers world-wide with the capability of supplying a complete submarine cable system, including the necessary supporting electronic equipment. Most of STC's production of submarine cable was exported. Including sales of submarine cable, STC was the largest UK manufacturer of telecommunication cable.

1979 ITT sold 15% of its shares in STC

1982 STC and its partners Plessey Co and GEC had developed the fully digital System X switch (still in service in many UK facilities in 2005) but British Telecom decided that STC should no longer be part of the consortium constructing System X[7].

1982 With developments in computer technology influencing and stimulating telecoms, the buzzword of the late 1980s became “convergence”. This meant that specialised suppliers, adapted to the specific needs of the local market would dominate. ITT needed to raise cash to fund continued development of its telephone switching system (System 12) and sold off most of the rest of its shareholding in STC.

The remainder of the 1980s saw STC lose its way. An attempt to enter the mainframe computer market with a failing player, ICL, led to financial strains.

By 1991, with an ageing workforce, production spread over too many expensive sites and no clear leadership-succession to its chairman, Sir Kenneth Corfield, STC was bought by Northern Telecom (Nortel). STC had lasted 109 years.


Notes DA on 31st December 2010 wrote: 'I went to work for STC in Newport from May of 1990 then as you say, the company was bought by Northern Telecom in 1991. There was some controversy about this at the time as to whether money was taken from the pension fund which enabled them to build a new factory where they would manufacture the hydrospace cables (ministry of defence cables) that was a separate part of the Newport cable operation. The rest of the business was sold to Pirelli and cable production carried on until 2002 until the business relocated to Southampton then sold to Goldman Sachs under the name of Prysmian Cables. Pirelli became a service provider after spending a couple of billion buying Olivetti. In Italy they are the same as BT are to us in the UK. The problem with STC was the ageing workforce. My job was plastic extrusion of cables to finish them. Towards the end of my 12 years service, the equipment was up to date.'

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. BT Archives [1]
  2. 1937 British Industries Fair Advert p564; and p418
  3. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  4. 1947 British Industries Fair Advert 83; and p260
  5. The Times, 29 July 1960
  6. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  7. The Times, 11 October 1982