Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Elliott Brothers

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February 1904. Motormeter.
October 1909.
1910. Ref AA below
July 1910.
November 1919.
November 1909.
1961. Ref AA below
1947. Exhibit at the Museu de Electricidade, Madeira

of Century Works, Lewisham, London, SE

Elliott Brothers (London) Ltd was a long established electrical instruments company which played an early role in the development of computers in the United Kingdom,

  • 1800 Company founded by William Elliott in Tash Street, Gray's Inn, London as a maker of drawing instruments.
  • By 1807 the business had been moved to a shop and workshop in High Holborn.
  • 1816 manufacturer of telescopes and barometers, etc.
  • 1830 moved to 56, Strand, London. Willliam took his sons, Charles and Frederick William, into partnership. The company began to manufacture instruments for surveying, for railways (e.g. steam pressure indicators) and scientific instruments of all kinds.
  • 1853 William Elliott died; his sons continued the business as Elliott Bros. [1]
  • In the second half of the 19th century the company began manufacturing electrical instruments.
  • 1889 Produced 'an improved indication piston'. Company described as 'the well-known opticians'. [2]
  • 1893 Elliott Bros. amalgamated with Theiler & Co, telegraph and instrument makers.
  • 1900 moved to new premises: Century Works, Connington Road, Lewisham. Began making speedometers and instruments for ships and aircraft.
  • 1912 supplied flight instrument panel for use in Army aircraft.
  • 1914 Electrical and mechanical engineers. Specialities: ships' logs, gyro-compasses for use on battleships, Wimperis accelerometers and gradometers, all kinds of speed indicators, recorders and switchboard instruments, telegraph apparatus etc. Employees 400 to 500. [3]
  • 1916 Private company.
  • 1920 Jan. Physical and Optical Societies Exhibition. Exhibitor of electrical instruments. [4]
  • 1937 Electrical and mechanical instrument makers. [5]
  • 1945 Company went public.
  • 1946 Research laboratories were set up at Borehamwood.
  • 1946 Elliott Bros and B and P Swift were allocated space in the Shorts' factory at Rochester. Elliotts will employ about 500 on all types of electrical and mechanical precision instruments. Swifts will employ about 450 on automatic scales, gears and hydraulic pumps[6].
  • 1947 The company merged with the weighing machine manufacturers B and P Swift. The company began to manufacture computers and flight automation equipment (made at Rochester).
  • 1950 The first Elliott 152 computer appeared in 1950.
  • 1950 Elliott Automation formed.
  • 1957 Elliott Automation issued shares to the shareholders of Elliott Bros and Associated Automation to effect a merger of the 2 companies, forming 'the largest automation and instrumentation company in Europe'. Elliott Bros continued to exist as a subsidiary company of Elliott Automation Group. [7]
  • 1959 Elliott Nucleonics Ltd formed as subsidiary company.
  • 1960 Bendix Corporation sold its remaining shareholding in Elliott Automation.
  • 1960 The well-known computer scientist, Sir Tony Hoare, was an employee from August 1960 for 8 years. He wrote an ALGOL 60 compiler for the Elliott 803 and also worked on an operating system (Elliott 503 Mark II), although this was less successful and abandoned along with "over thirty man-years of programming effort."
  • 1961 Electrical and mechanical engineers, manufacturing fire control apparatus, precision and electronic equipment for H.M. Ships and instruments and equipment for aircraft. Commercial products include measuring and control instruments, control valves weighing and food preparing machinery and hydraulic pumps. 5,500 employees. [8]
  • 1963 John Lansdown pioneered the use of computers as an aid to planning; making perspective drawings on an Elliott 803 computer, modeling a building's lifts and services, plotting the annual fall of daylight across its site, as well as authoring his own computer aided design applications.
  • 1964 Two new management divisions formed - Mechanical Automation and Elliott-Automation Nucleonics - bringing the total to 14 business divisions in the Group.
  • 1967, in the first deal arranged by the Industrial Reorganization Corporation, English Electric Co took over Elliott Automation to form the leading European group in computing and process control.
  • 1968 Supplied plug stringers for the Winfrith power station. [9]
  • 1968 English Electric Computers Ltd was taken over by International Computers and Tabulators (ICT); this marriage was forced by the British Government, who believed that the UK required a strong national computer company. The combined company was called International Computers Ltd. (ICL). English Electric retained the military and industrial automation activities of its Marconi and Elliott Automation subsidiaries [10].
  • 1968 GEC took over English Electric.
  • 1969 GEC reorganised the businesses it had acquired from Elliott-Automation, English Electric, AEI, Marconi and GEC. In electronics, GEC-Marconi Electronics was created with 4 subidiaries Marconi-Elliott Avionics Systems Limited, GEC-Elliott Space and Weapons Systems, Marconi Communications Systems and Marconi Radar Systems [11]. GEC-Elliott Automation Ltd comprised the automation and control activities of the predecessor companies[12].

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Abstract of Records held at Lewisham Local Studies and Archives, displayed at National Archives
  2. The Engineer of 3rd May 1889 p383
  3. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  4. The Engineer of 16th Jan 1920 p62
  5. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  6. The Times, 4 October 1946
  7. The Times, 8 October 1957
  8. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  9. The Engineer of 8th March 1968 p399
  10. The Times, 22 March 1968
  11. The Times, 8 August 1969
  12. The Times, 27 November 1969
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • Mosquito by C. Martin Sharp and Michael J. F. Bowyer. Published by Crecy Books in 1995. ISBN 0-947554-41-6
  • AA. [2] Image courtesy of Aviation Ancestry
  • Records held at Lewisham Local Studies and Archives; abstract from National Archives [3]