Blog posts tagged with 'mullard mitcham'


Today's Mullard archive photograph shows the evacuation of television picture tubes at the Mitcham works some time in 1953.

The operator is placing the tube on a diffusion pump.    Diffusion pumps use a high speed jet of vapour to direct gas molecules in the pump throat down into the bottom of the pump and out the exhaust, nowadays we use a  polyethylene glycol (PEG),  PEG ethers or more commonly, a silicon oil, however, in 1954, the preferred vapour was mercury as it didn't char, didn't contaminate the tubes with vapor backflow and of course was readily available.  

The tube passed through a heated tunnel where any gaseous emissions were pumped out prior to sealing once the hi-Torr vacuum was pulled.






You would be forgiven for thinking that here we have a photograph of the piping inside the ballast tanks of a WW2 submarine but no, this shows part of the low tension network at the Mullard Mitcham production facility.  Although this may look arcane and let's face it, the working conditions certainly are ( does it comply with PUWR regulations???),  this was considered state of the art in 1953 with the proud boast that the Mitcham Plant Department was the most up to date in the South of England. 


During the 1950s, Mullard had an apprentice system, following your application and an interview with the Plant Training Officer you could perhaps secure a position - in 1953 from a candidate pool of 12 'boys,' three were selected to become Mullard apprentices - good odds eh?      During the 5 year apprenticeship, day release was given which could culminate in either the HNC or BSc in Radio Engineering.  After qualification, and 9 years of employment, the successful 'boy' having earned his spurs could become one of the monthly paid staff.

In the picture below you see a nice lady who was an 'apprentice nanny' - whether or not she clasped any of them to her bosom and fed them sulphur and treacle or syrup of figs whilst soothingly murmuring there, there, the Mullard apprentice dossier does not unfortunately record: - 

The world was a quite different place in 1953, Stalin had just died, the Royal yacht Britannia had just been launched, rationing of sugar in the UK ended and the first colour television went on sale in the USA for $1200 and here you see a newly apprenticed young chap hard at work at Mullard Mitcham.   He certainly flourished and then went on to become a director of a property management company in Chichester.    As an interesting aside, it may be that TPA Smith, the Mitcham training officer, seemed to like the name Michael for the 1951, 1952 and 1953 apprentices  all had the same christian name - MIchael.    Having said that, at the time, Michael was the 4th most popular male name for newborn children even though this wasn't the case when these chaps were born some 16-17 years earlier.     


Here's a photo to warm the cockles of your heart.  A deputation of eminent Pye representatives visited the Mullard Mitcham valve manufacturing facility on 29th November 1951 - nearly 61 years ago and the visit was photographed for posterity.  Can you see Hilda Trumper peeking coyly around her MEK task lamp? - '' Eeee ducks, as ee tekken the picture yet?"  

Some of you may be asking why is that man in the light grey suit behind her wearing a pained expression?  The official classified Mullard management report on this visit records that this photo was taken at 13:30 after everyone had dined in the canteen (including Hilda) on Brown Windsor soup, followed by Roast Pork, red cabbage, sprouts and boiled potatoes then rounded off with lashings of spotted dick and custard........ hmmm, Trumper by name and by nature perhaps.



Here we see a wonderful evocative photograph of operator Dabney Grimble attending to CRT bulbs at Mullard Mitcham. Pictured is the manufacturing stage where the neck tube has just been welded to the bulb.  To avoid heat induced stress at the weld junction, the bulbs are placed in an annealing furnace for 150 minutes along a graduated tunnel furnace which controlls the rate of glass cooling.   The bulbs travel by carrel to the annealing furnace whilst suspended in a vacuum chuck which is kept at the same temperature as the bulb to prevent breakage.    Placement of the vacuum chuck required a firm and precise hand and Dabney was a "dab hand" at this task as you can see.........


It was 1937 and SS Eriks, General Manager of Mullard, sat in his office, comfortable in his Tan-sad office chair but he was troubled. Mitcham could no longer keep up with the pace of production required to fulfill the radio world's voracious demands for thermionic devices - something had to be done.

Eriks was a chap whom melded humanitarianism with good business acumen, the Mitcham site could not be expanded further, what he needed was an available work force and a surfeit of cheap plentiful land upon which to build a new plant yet still have plenty of room for future expansion. Eriks hit on the idea of building his satellite plant 'uuup north' and he chose Blackburn in Lancashire as a good location. You see, due to the decline of the cotton industry there was a sizeable unemployed workforce of mainly dexterous women, freely available and even quite a few chaps too with collarless shirts and big flat caps. Remember, that part of Lancashire was a depressed area in the 1930s, with no nipping out to The Three Fishes, Ferraris or The Calves Head for a gastro meal - you were lucky if you got stew & hard and that's a Burnley delicacy really. Accordingly, the foundation stone for the Blackburn plant was laid on 30th March 1938 and a new era dawned for Mullard.



With Stanley out of the picture, Philips wasted no time in installing SS Eriks as General Manager. With technology transfer totally complete, valve production started at Mitcham and F Kloppert and ex Dutch forces man was sent over as Production Manager. By introducing draconian measures, he made Mitcham an effective plant. With production tightly controlled and mastery by Dutch management complete,, Eriks again repeated his proud boast that 'the only British part within a Mullard valve is the vacuum!'

Eriks viewed his empire with puzzlement, efficiencies in manufacturing had been taken as far as they could but by 1937 it was evident that more production capacity than Mitcham could supply was required, the problem was, what could be done?