Blog posts tagged with 'ss eriks'


I thought I would write a series of blog articles on what is inside a valve.  Famously, the head of Mullard UK, the ex-Philips SS Eriks once stated that the only British thing inside a Mullard valve was the vacuum and after I recently waffled on to some poor chap about electrode cage construction, pinches and getter flashing, they were bemused so I thought that I had better expand on the great Dutch master's scathing comment, so, without further ado, let's talk about......... what's in a valve..................................

The picture below shows a sectioned Mullard EL37 output pentode, as you can see, this valve is typical of those which have PINCH consttruction.  The EL37 valve has an OCTAL BASE and you can clearly see the glass PINCH upon which the ELECTRODE CAGE is mounted then secured between MICA plates.   We will go on to discuss each of the components mentioned and highlit in upper case text in future articles but for now, just enjoy this scintillating picture of an undressed EL37!


Well, the early to mid 1950s were an exciting time for Mullard – some would say, the ‘Golden Age’, 1950 dawned and Mullard was selling a nice range of TVs in the shape of MTS 521 & MTS 634 models to the hungry post war market as endorsed by Arthur Askey – a grateful public and Arthur said ‘ I thank you all!’ or was it ‘Where’s me washboard!’

Also in 1950 we first see the appearance of Sidney The Service Engineer whom you also see gracing the top of these pages – he was a jolly chap utilised in much Mullard advertising to exhort the consumer to replace valves in manky old sets. In conjunction with Auntie Beeb running an advertising campaign in Radio Times in November 1950, they both ensured that valve sales were healthy. After all, in 1950 there were 12 million radio sets within the UK utilising 60 million valves – if Mullard could snag just 10% of that replacement valve market, say 6 million devices per annum that would translate into 3 million pounds of wonga in sales!

But it wasn’t just radio valve sales that were in the ascendancy, in late 1950, official figures showed that TV licences had doubled from the 1947 level to 500,000 users. With the transmitter building programme meaning that Holme Moss were due to come on stream in October 1951 and Kirk O Shotts in February 1952, a potential swathe of new consumers that Philips TV and hence Mullard picture tubes could tap into was now available ooop t' Nooorth. In fact, following a board meeting and mindfull of the success of the Blackburn plant, Philips cottonned on to the market possibilities t' Nooorth represented and a high profile advertising campaign resulted using Gracie Fields advocating the purchase of Mullard equipped Philips TV sets - I wonder if she had one on Capri? Possibly the answer is YES as in April 1952 the first Italian television transmitters went live in Milan and Turin and maybe our Gracie's telly was one of a batch of 50000 exported from the UK to meet the demand from a jaded post-war Italian populace.

Overseas opportunities such as the Italian TV sales were something that Mullard was keen to capitalise on, so to help with this, Mullard Overseas Ltd was formed in December 1950.

Continuing the new product introduction with a theme of diversity, Mullard, in conjunction with Ilford Photographic heralded the era of electronic flash photography. 1/2000 of a second motion stopping photography was here with the Mullard LSD & LSD2 flash tubes were with us and soon found acclaim with photographers such as Ronald Perlman, Hans Haas and Walter Nurnburg – the celebrated industrial photographer whose Rolleiflex 2 ¼ square images were utilised in much of Mullard’s promotional materials throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. Ilford are still with us today, one of the last bastions of Black & White Photography – why not look em up under the Harman Technology brand name.

Of course, this expansion in sales needed a consequent expansion in production which entailed the start up and operation of a number of new factories. Fleetwood, Warrenhurst Road came on stream in January 1950, Fleetwood, Radcliffe Road came on stream in May 1951, Waterfoot, Rawtenstall in October 1953, Lytham St Annes in February 1954 and Blowick Southport in October 1954. All of these factories made use of existing industrial premises which were converted to meet Mullard’s needs as feeder factories supplying necessary raw materials and sub assemblies to the main Mullard Blackburn Works. However, using Board of Trade funding, the massive Mullard TV Tube factory was built at Simonstone, Lancashire in May 1955 along with local feeder factory that came on stream in early 1956 at Padiham. Not wanting to leave Mitcham out of the equation – now a lesser valve and TV tube producting site but of no lesser importance- feeder factories were set up between 1949 – 1953 in Gillingham, Hove and Whyteleafe. Waddon served as a Service & Return department servicing the Blackburn, Mitcham & Simonstone sites as well as providing limited microwave and transmitting valve production that was of too low a scale to be economically viable at either Blackburn or Mitcham.

Economic viability played a part in the expansion by takeover of a competitor in 1952. Previously, Mullard had come to gentlemen’s arrangements with other valve manufacturers about product lines and intellectual property rights, however, they wanted to service the limited market that existed in the supply of American type valves within the UK. Despite BVA’s strenuous attempts to block imports of American type valves during the 1930s & 40s, they failed in that task abjectly – hardly surprising as in some cases, American equivalents were available for 40% of cost of indigenous ones!!!!!!!!! The trouble was, the market size for replacement American valve types was insufficient to make production viable at either Mitcham of Blackburn. As a consequence, Philips had their beady eye on British Tungsram, a British Subsidiary of the United Incandescent Company of Budapest which had been quietly manufacturing as well as building and sealing valves since 1933 as a relatively low key player. In 1952 Philips pounced and gained a controlling interest and started producing a range of American equivalents under the Mullard brand. Sadly though, due to poor efficiency, parlous quality and to prevent the sullying of Mullard’s good name, Philips pulled the plug and this plant closed in April 1956.

To put Mullard’s valves sales into perspective, it is estimated that the scale of Mullards valve manufacturing was 4x greater than their largest UK competitor manufacturer. Based on official figures for 1954, valves formed 80% of Mullard’s total sales. The valves sold by Mullard represented 60% of the total valve sales made within the UK and this equated to 34 million devices. Of these 34 million devices, some 7 million were imported either from Mulard Holland or from US manufacturers and distributed under the Mullard Amerty brand.

To put Mullard’s TV tube sales into perspective, it is estimated that the scale of Mullards TV tube manufacturing was 50% greater than their largest UK competitor manufacturer. Based on official figures for 1954, TV tubes, although a minor component of Mulard's total manufacturing output, they nevertheless formed some 56% of the total TV tube sales made within the UK which equalled 1 million devices. Of these 1 million devices, some 400,000 or 40% were imported. It is interesting to note that during the early days of TV tube manufacture, that Mullard regarded these devices very much as a loss leader. For example, during 1947 to 1948, Mullard sold 21,000 TV tubes at less than cost with a resultant loss of £81,000. It was the same story during 1948 to 1949 when the sales of 50,000 TV tubes resulted in a further loss of £140,000. The tide turned during 1951 – 1952 when Mullard not only passed break even but actually returned a slight profit on TV tube sales. Things improved even further as due to the enormous buying power of Simonstone, Mullard’s management convinced Pilkington Glass at nearby St Helens to produce pressed glass subassemblies to Simonstone which meant that not just production time and costs were slashed but also retail selling price. In January 1950, a 12 inch dia round TV tube cost £6 BUT by November 1957, the tube size had grown to 17 inches diagonal and cost just £5.

By the mid 1950s, SS Eriks, Mullard’s general Manager was pleased. The business was going well, Philip management thought he was great and on Queen Juliana's brithday on April 30th 1953, he was awarded, or should I use the correct term - endowed - with The Order of Orange Nassau - the Dutch equivalent to an OBE. This honour was endowed for his works at Mullard that helped liberate The Netherlands from Nazi occupation and for his special merits to society..

Whew, we’re only half way through the decade and already SS Eriks must have wondered what other successes and pitfalls lay in store for Mullard for the next five years. You'll have to wait for my next blog entry to find out...............



Well, the war was over and 1946 dawned. America had cut off Lend-Lease money to the UK and materials for home and export production were in short supply. There existed a massive surfeit of military surplus electronics which was growing at an alarming rate as war supplies were withdrawn from various theatres of operation. At this time, the great military surplus gravy train was about to commence where not only radio equipment and componentry were available for knockdown prices but military vehicles and even aircraft – and ex RAF pilots to fly them – typically those that did not possess a decent golf handicap that enabled them to get a job with BOAC and an IWC Mk X or Mk XI watch into the bargain!!!

Of great concern to Mullard was not only the fact that valve demand had dropped to 50% of it’s wartime peak but also that the cash strapped Government hit on the plan to dispose of their massive war stocks of valves to the ‘radio trade’ at a bargain price of £5000 per million devices. In all, this disposal lasted for ten years after the end of WW2 and in excess of 32 million devices were trickled back for domestic and industrial use in this way.

To put this into perspective, this mind boggling number equates to the entire sales of valves made by Mullard during any single year throughout the 1950s!!!! Add this to the worry that an immediate post war television boom that never came – at least until 1952 (wonder what happened that year) and you can see why various belts had to be tightened at Mullard. SS Eriks, General manager of Mullard realised that innovation and product introduction were the key to a successful and stable future, to this end, he arranged for the Mullard Research Laboratories to be built in 1946 at Cross Oaks Lane in Salfords, Surrey and thence for the laboratory to be generously funded.

1947 also brought some corporate and boardroom shennanigens as Philips Gloilampen Fabrieken (UK) was reorganised into Philips Electrical Industries UK. This had the knock on effect of The Mullard Radio Valve Co. Ltd being renamed Mullard Limited and for the Mullard headquarters to be situated within the Philips Electrical Industries UK headquarters at Century House, Shaftesbury Avenue, London -can you pick out SS's office in the photo below?

This was followed in 1948 by the renaming of the Mullard Wireless Service subsidiary to Mullard Electronic Products to ensure placement of the Mullard name in areas other than traditional ‘wireless’ manufacturing. Also in 1948, as a reward for his sterling war effort and his vision of the future, a grateful nation awarded SS Eriks his OBE.

Thus reorganised, the Mullard machine marched onwards to face the challenges of the fabulous 1950s.



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?