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Ultra Electric Ltd: Company History 

Edward (Teddy) E. Rosen, born in 1898 was the son of Rachel and Samuel Rosen, Polish-Jewish immigrants to London's East End.  Samuel was a grocer by trade but also a lay-teacher.  A colleague in the Post Office Wireless Department got Edward a job in Marconi in 1911, at the age of 13.  During the first world war, Teddy worked at radio servicing in the Royal Flying Corps (after lying about his age).  A very well liked character in the radio business he created a company known for quality at a reasonable price but very rarely with any innovation.  Their best selling radio was the "Coronation Twin" portable.

 1920s: The Start

1920

Set up Edward E. Rosen & Co. making wide frequency response headphones.

New factory: Devonshire Square, London EC2.
1921

The success of the headphones meant a larger premises was needed.  Started to produce horn loudspeakers.  This was a good move as both shop-bought and home-built receivers needed horn loudspeakers to work, thereby capturing both markets.

New factory: 158-160 City Road, London EC

1923

Expanded again into new factory (6,500 sq. ft.) and employed 20 people initially.  Started to build the philosophy of in-house vertical integration by manufacturing components from raw materials.

New factory: Harrow Road, London

1924

Marketed the Beco (British Electric Manufacturing Co Ltd) magnetic-reed type moving iron loudspeaker, the first British commercial moving iron loudspeaker.  Named the "Ultra"

1925

Ultra Electric Ltd was formed.  Edward also changed his surname to Rose to try and disassociate himself from his background, though his notoriety in the wireless world ignored this and continued to use his original name, the familiar one.  Products ranged from loudspeakers, pickups, battery eliminators and a portable receiver. 

1928

Ceased the production of horn-type loudspeakers and started with the "Air-chrome" moving iron (double doped tensioned linen) speaker.

1929

Ultra recruited E.H. Munnion from Marconiphone as it was taken over by HMV as the new radio designer.  They aimed for the middle of the road market with few innovations but well priced and engineered models.

 1930s: Rapid Growth and Word War II

1930 Harrow road premises was by now  24,000 sq. ft. with a work-force of some 250 people.
1931 First mains receiver produced.
1932

Moved to Chalk Farm premises which housed 600 employees.  Vertical integration continued to the point where 95% of the components were made in-house. Issued exotic named radios called "Tiger", "Panther" and "Blue Fox".  A true Drawing Office was set up although cabinet design was outsourced.  Became known for their low cost base operation, sometimes not fully updating the radio range very year, but merely re-casing it.  They tended to issue a low price model every Spring to boost an otherwise slow time of year.  

New factory: Erskine Road, Chalk Farm, London N.W.3
1935

Moved to bigger new premises in Western Avenue which was 150,000 sq. ft.  The factory had an output capacity of 1,000 sets per day with 1,500 employees.

New factory & Head Office: Western Avenue, Acton, London W3
WWII Like many other radio manufacturers, Ultra turned their production capabilities over to equipment for the war effort.  They did partake in the manufacture of the Civilian "Utility set" and can be identified by the maker's code of  U10 [2].

 1940s: Back to Selling Radio

1947

The first year after the war that Radiolympia was held.  Whilst Ultra retained its interest in military supply it was determined to re-enter the consumer business, with a vengeance.  Their brochure contained a 7-inch table top TV (V470) but with no price. The front page contained an image of the Western Avenue factory. 

 

1947 Radiolympia brochure showing the Western Avenue factory.

New Sales Office: 62 Buckingham Gate, London SW1. Tel Victoria 1686

 

 Early 1950s: Rapid Growth and TV

1950

Ultra release the 1950 version of their popular portable, the "Twin 50".  This advert from "The Wireless and Electrical Trader" June 10, 1950 is aimed at selling to the trader; and giving them the bullet points they need to convince their customers.

 

Financial News: Consolidated profit and loss account for year ending March 31 1950, shows a net trading profit of 60,642 (loss of 89,689).  Special losses, including closing of overseas branch, total 148,587. Amount provided in previous years 90,000.  Less: profit on realization of freehold premises and other fixed assets 11,560; provisions for taxation and royalties no longer required 4,479; leaves net credit for the year to profit and loss account, 18,144.  Debit balance at March 31, 1949, 166,436.  Net debit balance 148,292.

1950 advert for the new
Twin 50 

Share check: Ultra Electric Holdings (5s): 13 May 1950, quite market at 3s 6d. 1 April 1950; 3s 7d.10 June 1950,  holding steady at 3s 7d.  30 September 1950 3s 10d.

 

Prices: November 1950; increased the price of the Leader radio receiver to 21 including tax made necessary by the increase in raw materials.

1951 Prices: 4 June 1951:  Increased list prices for their television models:
V720, V721, V722, 52 7s 3d / V7206, V7216, 53 16s 3d / W720, W721, W722, 60 12s 9d
W7206, W7216, 62 1s 9d / Y720, Y721, Y722, 68 18s 6d /Y7206, Y7216, 70 7s 6d 
Y730, Y731, Y732, 95 3s / Y306, Y7316, 96 11s 9d (tax not included)
1952 Prices: 29 March 1952:  Reduced the price of their Leader T751 radio model to 17 5s plus tax 7 7s 6d, but have increased the prices of the following television receivers: VA72 Series (standard), 54 6s 10d plus tax 24 8s 2d; VA72 Series (fringe models), 55 15s 10d plus tax 22 1s 2d; YA72 Series (standard), 71 14s 8d plus tax 32 4s 4d; YA72 Series (fringe models), 73 3s 8d plus tax 32 17s 4d.
1953 Prices: 14 April 1953:  General pricing was reduced as a result of the tax reductions in the budget (radio and radiograms 50%, televisions 50%);
Twin 17 17s 0d includes 4 6s 8d tax, Troubadour 16 5s 6d includes 3 19s 0d tax, Ultragram 56 6s 9d includes 13 13s 7d tax, V72, V80 series 64 11s 6d includes 16 5s 5d tax, W80 75 12s 0d includes 19 1s 9d tax, W72 89 5s 0d includes 22 9s 10d tax, V84 86 2s 0d includes 21 13s 11d, W84 97 13s 0d includes 24 12s 2d tax, Y84 111 6s 0d includes 28 0s 11d tax (all fringe models add 2).

 Late 1950s: Buying Pilot Radio 

1955 Ultra Chalk Farm Factory Celebrates 25 Years
It is the custom of Ultra Electric, Ltd., to present employees who have completed 25 years with the company with a gold watch to mark the occasion.  Mindful of this the employees of Ultra's Chalk Farm factory had the happy thought of presenting the managing director, E. E. Rosen, and Mrs. Rosen with gifts to mark the 25th anniversary of their factory.
Accordingly, on November 22 Mr. Rosen was presented with a leather-bound message of goodwill.  Mrs. Rosen was presented with an enamelled silver compact and cigarette case.  The presentation was made by Mrs. Woolston, who has completed 25 years with the company.
Later in the evening Mrs. E. E. Rosen reciprocated by presenting Mrs. Woolston with a gold watch to commemorate her 25 years with the company and made a similar presentation of a gold watch to Mrs. Grace Merrington, BEM.
The occasion was a dance held by the employees of the Chalk Farm factory at Willies Hall, Prince of Wales Road, St. Pancras.

 

Event: 24 Dec 1955; One of the Ultra apprentices receiving his award from Dr. J. Topping, M.Sc., Ph.D., the principal of the Acton Technical College, who presented the awards at the Ultra apprentices' prize giving recently.

1956 Ultra uses Arthur Askey in new advert series and in store promotions posters. It was still a novelty for advertisers in the radio industry to use celebrities to endorse their product.  With the advent of pop music in the 1960's it became far more common. This famous comedian would have been well known and liked by the public at this time and was used to push the new Minstrel FM/VHF radio.  

New Scottish Depot & Service: 40 Wellington Street, Glasgow, C.2

Company News (august): Consolidated trading results of Ultra Electric (Holdings), Ltd., and Ultra Electric, Ltd., show that group profit for the year to March 31, 1956, including a profit of 44,573 on realization of investment in the Belgian Congo, is 250,820, as compared with 279.314.  After taxation, net profit is 147,419 (143,557).  Net balance of the parent company for 1955-6, after providing for the dividend, is 538 (91). 

Ultra Inaugurate Gosport Factory For Radio and TV Production
Ultra Electric Ltd. entertained a large party of civic and other prominent local personalities at Gosport on Tuesday [October 1956] to mark the inauguration of their new radio and television factory on the Fareham-Gosport road on the outskirts of town.  The factory is equipped with the most modern plant for the production of domestic radio and television receivers under the best possible working conditions.  

The whole of the company's domestic receiver production will be centralized at Gosport, thus freeing the Ultra factory at Western Avenue for the production of special products.  About 100,000 sq. ft. of actual production space is available and, in addition, there are administration departments, canteen and other amenities.  For some time past Ultra have been training local labour to be ready for the opening of the factory which, when it is in full operation, will employ well over 1,000.

E. E. Rosen at Yorkshire R.I. Club
At the October luncheon meeting of the Radio Industries Club of Yorkshire, the principal guest was E. E. Rosen, Ultra Electric Ltd., who addressed a well attended meeting, and the title of his talk was "Out Virile Industry."
Mr. Rosen gave a vivid account of the history and progress made by the industry, and its close liaison with the BBC in all spheres.  The advent of ITA he regarded as of great importance in that it acted, as a spur to further improvements by means of the competition it created in which all concerned shared the benefits.
Mr. Rosen then ventured on the shape of things to come, and he personally believed that they would justify his contention that the radio industry was not only virile, but well able to take care of any challenge from any quarter in the future.
Ultra Autumn Campaign Starts
Half-page advertisement in the Daily Herald last week started off Ultra's autumn campaign.  Eighty newspapers are being used throughout the country to provide a coverage wider than ever before.  It is estimated that the advertisements in the whole series will be seen 203 millions times!
1958 The axe man Trevor Standeven was brought in to cut costs at the inefficient Gosport factory.  Whilst the Special Products Division was doing well, the consumer products were not.
1959 People: 10 Jan 1959; announced the appointment of Donald Mackay as publicity manager of the radio and TV division, in place of Gordon Harris, who has resigned to take up a new position.  Mr. Mackay comes from the publicity department of Associated-Rediffusion Television, where he was in the sales promotion section, mainly responsible for merchandising. 

In order to expand their business, Ultra decided to purchase Pilot radio.  By the tone of the last paragraph in this May press release, it was far from a friendly take-over.

Ultra Purchase Pilot Radio Supplies and Service Continue - Separate Identity Preserved
The directors of Ultra Electric Ltd. announced on Monday that negotiations had been completed for the purchase for cash of Pilot Radio Ltd.  Ultra Electric will acquire on April 1, 1959, all the issued capital of Pilot Radio, which will then become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ultra Electric Ltd. On the same date Ultra will also acquire the Pilot trade marks in 17 European countries from the Pilot Radio Corporation of U.S.A.
The directors consider that the resources currently available to Ultra Electric will be sufficient to meet the payments in respect of these acquisitions and that no issue of shares will be required.
Pilot Radio Ltd. is a private company with works at Park Royal, Middlesex.  It was founded in 1935 and has association with the Pilot Radio Corporation of U.S.A., with whom it has maintained close ties.
Ultra Electric Ltd. is the operating wholly-owned subsidiary of Ultra Electric (Holdings) Ltd.  It was founded in the early twenties by Edward E. Rosen, its chairman, who is among the best-known pioneers of the radio industry.  Its works are situated in Gosport and Acton, and its laboratories are at Ruislip.  The Ultra Special Products Division has a world reputation for its receiver and location beacons, of which Sarah is best known.
Commenting on the purchase of Pilot Radio, T.C. Standeven, commercial manager of the Radio and Television Division of Ultra Electric said: "It is our intention to preserve the identity of Pilot as a separate unit within the Radio and Television Division and present supplies and services will continue."
He said that as far as possible the models in the two ranges would be different and distinctive and the aim would be to keep prices as low as possible to cater for an expanding market.
He explained that on April 1 the existing directors of Pilot will resign and the Ultra directors will be appointed to the Pilot board.

Ultra were really pushing the boat out with this 6pp colour fold out in the 31 Oct 1959 edition of Wireless and Electrical Trader.  Depicted here is their Ultra 21" Transportable TV featuring the new 110 tube.  Covered in hard-wearing , easy-clean "Vynair" fabric, it may have had a telescopic handle - but I'm not sure I could have lifted it!  The foldout has six TVs, one stereo radiogram (with one speaker) and a Transistor radio for the Xmas season.

An advert for the radiogram a month later gave the new Ultra sales address.

Address: Stonefield Way, South Ruislip, Middlesex

1960s: The Decline and Fall 

1960

Rosen split the electronics and receivers divisions into two companies.

 

Extract: 12 Mar 1960: Ultra (along with E.K.Cole, Thorn and Anglia Television) sponsors Multisignal (Boston) Ltd. to start up a piped television distribution experiment in Boston, Lincolnshire.  Local doubt and suspicion is soon damped when the good quality pictures are demonstrated.  Local reception, despite "chimney stacks looking like Christmas trees" is very poor.  Initially the service reaches 500 to 600 houses.

 

Extract: 23 Jul 1960: A new Anglo-Japanese trade arrangement means that the UK import quota for transistorised and other sets doubles to 400,000.  This is in exchange for Japan relaxing control on general imports into their country.  Rosen, chairman of Ultra (and of the R.I. Council) a week prior had made a speech to mark the company's 25th anniversary. He is quoted; The Japanese "pay 1s to 1s 6d an hour... whilst in this country we pay an average of 6s an hour for exactly the same labour.  You can't reconcile those differences."  Rosen also went on to predict a new era of advancement based on the future development of the transistor.

Splashing out with a front page advert on the Wireless and Electrical Trader edition of 26 Nov 1960.  Pushing the new Bermuda range heavily.

People: 14 May 1960: D. J. C. Burford, the Ultra representative for North East Midlands, can now be contacted at his home address, The Downs, Wilford, Notts, on Nottingham 89885.

23 Jul 1960: T. N. Kingham, the Ultra representative for Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and North Wiltshire, can now be contacted by telephone at Farnham Common 1248.

15 Oct 1960: F. A. Phillips now represents Ultra and Pilot in the City of Bristol, Gloucestershire, the City of Birmingham and part of Warwickshire.  His home address is Meadow Haven, Downside Road, Lulsgate, Nr. Bristol ('phone: Lulsgate 294).

1961 The over expansion, purchase of Pilot and a slump in consumer sales meant that a rights issue, then a sale (in April) of 40% of the new electronics company was needed to generate 2 million.  In May, the company finally crumbled and was bought by Thorn for 2.4 million. Rosen retired shortly after.  I can only assume that his resignation from the R.I. (see extract below) was so that he could concentrate on the company's problems.

The image on the left from 14 January 1961 shows the winners of the autumn 1960 Ultra Bermuda Window competition.  From top to bottom they are; Southern Area, Martins of Chelsea, 33 Kings Road, London W3; Midlands Area, Pearson Bros., Long Row, Nottingham and Northern Area, Park Wireless, Raby Street, Manchester, 16.  The judges were headed by Lady Barnett and the prizes were a free two-week holiday for two in Bermuda, with luxury air travel and accommodation at the famous Castle Harbour Hotel.  The Northern Area display actually had a pond on which sat the TVs.  I hope they were not powered up!

 

An advert of 23 September 1961 boasted that the new Bermuda TVs (for no extra cost) were ready to take a switchable 405/625 conversion unit - a two minute job to fit.  It didn't state how much the conversion unit was, however. This advert held the Thorn logo in the footer.

Extract: 14 Jan 1961: J. W. Ridgeway, OBE (AEI) has been elected chairman of the Radio Industry Council (R.I.) in succession to E. E. Rosen (Ultra).

Ultra Invades the Domestic Heater Market

Good grief, Ultra suddenly decides to make fan-heaters!  I suspect that this was either a Thorn product looking for a new marketing badge, or the old laboratories of Ultra were put to work on something potentially more profitable.  This front page advert from the Wireless and Electrical Trader, 21 October 1961, was obviously their first push at this business.

People: 11 Nov 1961: Three appointments have been made in the sales department of Ultra Radio & Television Ltd.  C.W. S. Barnes has been appointed sales promotion manager, carrying out his duties from Television House.  Mr. Barnes was formally Midland area sales manager, and has been with the Ultra organization for over 25 years.  C.H. Claxton has been appointed an area sales manager, and can be contacted at Magpie Hall Road, Bickley, Near Bromley, Kent ('phone Imperial 1159).  L. J. Thatcher has been appointed an area sales manager also, and can be contacted at Chamber Cottage, Strawberry Lane, Carshalton, Surrey ('phone Wallington 8016).


Thorn Buys Ultra Radio and TV

Will Preserve Separate Identities Of Ultra And Pilot:  Ultra Electric To Concentrate on Electronics

Rumours which have been current for some time were set at rest on Monday [article of 20th May 1961] when Thorn Electrical Industries Ltd. announced that they have acquired from Ultra (Holdings) Ltd. the entire share capital of Ultra Radio and Television Ltd. and Pilot Radio and Television Ltd. and their subsidiaries.  The transaction is for cash and includes Ultra's modern factory at Gosport, Hants, and other premises at Ruislip, Eastcote and Park Royal.  The official statement continues:

"It is intended to preserve the separate identities of Ultra and Pilot as working and marketing units, and the management will remain substantially unchanged. T.C. Standeven, formerly general manager and director, becomes managing director.  The head office of Ultra remains at Eastcote, to which all correspondence and enquiries should continue to be sent.

"This acquisition of Ultra and Pilot by the Thorn Group, which already in the field of radio and television manufacturers and markets Ferguson and Philco, and in association with Electric & Musical Industries Ltd., "His Master's Voice" and Marconiphone, further consolidates their position as the largest group in the industry. It is expected that with the considerable resources now available the expansion which has taken place in recent years in the Ultra mark will be still further accelerated."

E. E. Rosen's Statement

Announcing the 2.4M sale of Ultra radio and television interests, Edward E. Rosen, chairman of Ultra Electric (Holdings) Ltd., explained that in current conditions the size of an economic unit within this industry must be considerably larger than the company possessed.  After rejecting the idea of acquiring in this field, the board decided on the alternative course of adding its share of the market to another substantial unit in the industry.

"The monies being received from the sale," he said, "will be used to relieve pressure on liquid resources and will also be sufficient to meet the demands of expansion in the electronics field without raising additional capital."

Ultra Electric (Holdings) Ltd. recently announced an agreement between Ultra Electronics Ltd. and an American company, Electronics Investment Management Corporation, for the complete interchange of information on research, development, marketing and production of electronic equipment.  At the same time 40 per cent of Ultra Electronics Ltd. was sold to Electronics International Capital Ltd., the first International Capital Banking institution to concentrate its investments in electronic companies in the free world.  At that time the chairman forecast considerable expansion of Ultra Electronics Ltd. in all electronic fields. 

Ultra Electronics Buy New Trix Electronics Company

Ultra Electronics Ltd. announced this week [ 20 May 1960] that they have acquired Trix Electronics Ltd., a subsidiary of the Trix Electrical Co. Ltd. (The formation of Trix Electronics as a new company to acquire the Trix Electrical Co. Ltd. was reported in the Trader last week.)
Ultra Electronics Ltd. also state that Trix Electronics will continue to manufacture and install sound amplification equipment for PA and aircraft.

1962

"Sarah" Saves Scott Carpenter

Extract: 2 Jun 1962: The "Sarah" radio beacon equipment developed by Ultra Electronic Ltd. and widely used throughout the world, was responsible for locating spaceman Scott Carpenter when he came down in the sea after his successful orbits of the earth last week.

Ultra "Smart Set" Range Launched

Extract: 2 Jun 1962:  Last Tuesday a complete new range of receivers by Ultra Radio and TV Ltd. named the "Smart Set" was previewed by the press.  The range comprises three 19" TV, two radiograms, four transistor sets (one a VHF table model) and a mains operated record reproducer.

All the models in the range have a frame surround giving them a squared up appearance. An elm veneer finish gives the TV sets a new presentation.  The company's Bermuda trade mark is being retained and all sets are fully convertible to 625 lines.

 

People: 28 Apr 1962: M. C. Goodrich, Ultra/Pilot representative in the S.E. London postal areas and Kent, can now be contacted at his permanent address: Maxwell Drive, Maidstone, Kent.

28 Jul 62: T. R. Stewart, Ultra representative for South West Scotland and Cumberland, can now be contacted at his new address - Merrylee 0346.

1970s: What Little Survives 

1974 The Ultra brand name was finally dropped as the now consolidated (but brand name-heavy) industry fought against the very strong Japanese imports.

 

References
Throughout   The Setmakers by Keith Geddes and Gordon Bussey
Radio Radio! by Jonathan Hill
[1] The Radiophile issue 55 & 56
[2] The Radiophile issue 57
[3] The Radiophile issue 69
[4] The Radiophile issue 71
[5] The Radiophile issue 73
[6] BVWS bulletin Vol. 23 No. 3
[7] BVWS bulletin Vol. 26 No. 1
Green text This is an extract from the Wireless and Electrical Trader of the mentioned date.
Note: When addresses have been used, numbers have been deliberately left out.