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 150,668 pages of information and 235,204 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.

Siemens Brothers and Co

From Graces Guide


1880s alternator from the first central power station in Tivoli (Rome), on display at the Milan Museum of Science and Technology
Detail of 1880s alternator in Milan
1893. Steam Dynamos at Kingston Electric Lighting Station.




1898. Waterloo and City Shunting Locomotive No. 75S. Exhibit at the Shildon Locomotion Museum.
1898. Exhibit at the Shildon Locomotion Museum.
June 1898.
August 1899.
August 1899.


Two-Phase Alternators. 1906.
July 1908.
June 1909. Leads for Motor Cars.
1912. Extension at Woolwich
1914. Experimental station at Woolwich Works.
September 1920.
Dec 1921.
1926. Woolwich Works.
1929. Ceiling Thermometer.
1929. Temperature Recorder.
1929. Electrical Pyrometers.
1929. Revolution Indicator.
1929. Multi-Way Switchboard.
1929. Electric Ships' Telegraph.
1929. Navigation Lights Indicator.
Telephone. Exhibit at Galley Museum, Queenstown.
June 1936.
July 1938. Siemens Automatic Telephones for Shell-Mex House.
May 1939.
June 1945.
July 1945.
November 1946.
Probably telegraphy equipment from c1900. ?
Galvanoscope with telegraphy equipment.
Detail on possible telegraphy equipment.

Electrical and Telegraph Engineers of Woolwich, London, SE18. (1937)

Siemens and Halske

1847 Werner Siemens and Johann George Halske established Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens und Halske in Berlin to develop telegraph equipment. This grew into a business also installing telegraph cables in several countries, and eventually into submarine cables.

1858 The submarine cable business had developed to such an extent that the Siemens brothers decided to establish works in England, and a small factory was opened in Millbank. This was the works of Siemens and Halske.

1864 The merger between Glass, Elliot and Co and the Gutta Percha Co had put Siemens in the position of buying cable core from a competitor (they had previously purchased cable core from the Gutta Percha Co and then applied armour to it).

1864 Siemens and Halske won a contract from the French government to lay a cable from Oran (Algeria) to Cartagena (Spain). Three attempts were made to complete it but they all failed. The failure involved the company in legal proceedings and cost it £15,000 which represented most of its capital. The disaster affected William Siemens keenly. Pressure from Halske finally brought this venture to an end. At the close of the year, Johann George Halske severed his connections with the English branch of Siemens and Halske. For a time Siemens lost interest in submarine cables.

Formation of Siemens Brothers

1865 William Siemens raised capital in England to set up a new company and on 1 January 1865 - Siemens Brothers was incorporated. The partners were Werner Siemens, William Siemens, and Carl Siemens. The Berlin firm retained the old name of Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens und Halske.

1866 William Siemens set up a demonstration at the Sample Steel Works in Birmingham to show his regenerative furnace process.

1866 The works were transferred from Millbank to Charlton in Kent, which eventually became the great works of Siemens Brothers and Co, eventually employing 3,000 men.

1867 The Russian government gave permission for Messrs Siemens Brothers to lay a cable from England to India via Russia[1]

1869 William was joined by his brother Carl Siemens who persuaded him to build a cable factory, which they did at Woolwich, although it took them two years to obtain their first order.

1874 The Cable Ship Faraday was launched for the company by C. Mitchell and Co of Newcastle[2]

1880 The business was turned into a limited company; the brothers Werner, William, and Carl Siemens remained as directors, together with a new director, Mr. Loeffler. The company was registered on December 28th, to take over the business of telegraph engineers, Messrs. Siemens Brothers. [3]

1881 The first public electricity supply to people in their own homes was installed in the autumn at Godalming, Surrey[4]. The supply was provided by a firm whose main interest was street lighting, using a Siemens generator driven initially from a water-wheel in a local mill. Neither William Siemens nor any other member of the family seems to have been involved in the original undertaking but before long they had taken over the running of it[5].

1884 Two trans-atlantic telegraph cables were made by Siemens Brothers at Woolwich to the orders of two American millionaires - Messrs. Bennett and Mackay[6].

1889 Alexander Siemens was appointed Managing Director.

1894 Constructed Bristol Electric Light Station with Willans and Robinson. Illustration. [7]

1894 Constructed an electric light dynamo and engine for the Caledonia with Tangyes. Illustration. [8]

1899 Company was reorganised with new capital brought in; George van Chauvin became Managing Director.

1901 One of 3 suppliers to the Admiralty of an order for wireless telegraphy equipment, totaling 54 sets[9]

1903 The dynamo works were moved from Woolwich to Stafford.

Separation of the Dynamo Works

1906 The Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works was put into a separate company together with the electric light, power and traction work which was transferred to them.

1908 The German firm Siemens and Halske acquired a controlling interest in the company but this connection was not made public at the time[10]

1912 A major extension of the Woolwich factory was completed; it had been designed by the company's staff.[11]

1914 Siemens Brothers and Co were telegraph and electrical engineers, manufacturers of electrical cables, instruments, dry and fluid batteries, electro-chemical and electro-medical apparatus, railway and other signalling apparatus, Tantalum and Wotan lamps, etc. and contractors for the manufacture, laying and maintenance of submarine cables and cables for electric light and power, for the erection and maintenance of land telegraph and telephone lines and for the installing of railway power-signalling equipment and wireless telegraphy. Employees 2,000. [12]

Directors: Arnold V. Siemens (Chairman), Sir Walter R. Lawrence, Bart., G.C.I.E., Alexander Siemens, Carl F. von Siemens, Wilhelm von Siemens, and G. von Chauvin (Managing Director).

Electric Lamp Factory at Dalston, London S.E.

WWI The company, with its factory at Woolwich, was taken over by the Custodian of Enemy Property[13] and subsequently the shares were acquired by British interests[14]. Orders for telephone exchanges virtually ceased. Demand for batteries, rubber covered cables and submarine cables increased considerably, mainly from the Government. Many types of specialised lamps were manufactured at the Dalston Lamp Works.[15]

Post WWI Recovery

1918 The company's Articles of Association were altered to prevent shares being held by enemy subjects.[16]

1918 Alliance made with Dick, Kerr and Co to amalgamate the sales organisations and coordinate designs.

1918 Made and installed an automatic telephone exchange at Grimsby using the Siemens-system which was similar to but not identical to the Strowger system[17].

1919 Further Siemens-type exchanges were opened at Stockport and at Southampton in 1923.

c.1919 Electric lamp manufacture retained in the Caxton Electric Developments Ltd subsidiary when the rest of the Dynamo Works business was sold to English Electric.

1920 Working arrangement with English Electric Co to reduce sales costs.

1920 Board of Trade report into the "Electric Lamp Combine" recognised the Electrical Lamp Manufacturers Association was set up principally in the interests of BTH, GEC and Siemens Brothers and Co[18].

1920 Company took over the lamp and supplies department of Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works. These lamps were to be sold under the trade name 'Xcel' which applied to all metal filament lamps manufactured by the company.[19]

Demand for submarine cables and for manual and automatic telephone exchanges had picked up considerably[20]

1921 Formalised the sales arrangement with English Electric Co in the form of a joint venture English Electric and Siemens Supplies Ltd which had taken over the sales activities of that company and some of those activities of Siemens[21].

1921 The Post Office installed its first Rural Automatic Exchange (RAX) at Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, made by Siemens; it had capacity for 40 lines[22].

1922 The Post Office chose the Strowger system as its standard automatic exchange for the public network so no further Siemens-type exchanges were ordered for towns and cities.

1922 Exhibited a crystal set at the 1922 Wireless Exhibition

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.

1923 Patent - Improvements in or relating to telephones[23]

1924 The company had substantial shareholdings in English Electric Co, as consequence of sale to them of the dynamo works at Stafford, and in Elliott Brothers which carried out most of Siemens' business in scientific instruments. Major business was in submarine and underground cables and in telephones, especially automatic telephone exchanges; smaller departments were ebonite, broadcasting , batteries, woodwork and railway signalling[24].

1924 The company had 5,300 employees.

1925 The directors of the company announced that, owing to advancing years, Mr George Chauvin has resigned his position as managing director of the company, which he has held since April 1899, during which time the work s and manufacturing activities of the company have been very largely expanded. He remained on the board as a director. The board appointed Mr Francis Hird to succeed him as managing director.[25].

The demand for automatic telephony was such that Siemens had to expand its capacity or face losing the business to competitors. The company supplied both manual and automatic exchanges, at home and abroad. Was also involved in supplying wireless sets to shipping. Had developed and tested a wireless direction finder for ships. Won contract to supply signals for the Post Office Tube Railway. Continued demand for cable, for telegraph and for electricity distribution, justified expansion of the cable factory.[26]

1925 The telegraph section was transferred to the associated company, Elliott Brothers, in order to centralise under one management the activity of the 2 companies in this area[27]

1926 Siemens and General Electric Railway Signal Co was formed by amalgamation of the railway signalling departments of Siemens Brothers and Co and GEC[28]

1929 Patent - An electric dry cell. [29]

1929 Issued 15 percent of the equity to Siemens and Halske AG of Berlin in exchange for equivalent value of that company's shares[30]

1931 Siemens Electric Lamps and Supplies Ltd was a subsidiary which made or sold lamps, Xcel fires and domestic appliances, and batteries for wireless sets[31].

1935 The Submarine Cable divisions of Siemens and of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co were combined to form Submarine Cables Ltd. Each parent company held 50% of the shares in the new company.

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) [32]

1937 Manufacturers of electric wires, cables, telephones, batteries and ebonite. [33]

WWII The cable company was taken over by the Custodian of Enemy Property. The company was also heavily involved in the Pluto pipeline project.

Post WWII - without the cable factory

Post-WWII: Hackbridge Cable Co acquired the cable company at Woolwich[34]

1951 AGM told that largest subsidiary was Siemens Electric Lamps and Supplies Ltd (fully owned); others were Submarine Cables Ltd jointly owned with Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co Ltd and Siemens and General Electric Railway Signal Co jointly owned with GEC. Discussions underway about disposal of the block of 15 percent of the shares that had been held by the Custodian of Enemy Property[35].

1951 The block of company stock owned by Siemens and Halske AG and held by the Custodian of Enemy Property was sold to AEI[36]

1952 Alfred Graham and Co was a subsidiary; designed starter relays for Xenon lamps for HMS Eagle[37].

1954 AEI increased its minority interest in the company[38]. One of the principal subsidiaries was Alfred Graham and Co manufacturers of miscellaneous electrical equipment.

1955-6 The rest of the interest in Siemens was acquired by AEI. Siemens and Edison Swan Electric Co were amalgamated as Siemens Edison Swan[39].

1965 Siemens AG re-established a UK operation - see Siemens (United Kingdom)

1967 Siemens Edison Swan was absorbed into GEC when it took over AEI.

Lamps and Supplies

Electricity Generation and Transmission

Railway Signalling

Telephones and Telegraphy

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Aug 22, 1867
  2. The Times, Feb 20, 1874
  3. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  4. First public electricity supply in the world
  5. ODNB: Biography of Sir William Siemens
  6. The Telegraphist, 2 June 1884 [[1]]
  7. The Engineer 1894/08/24 p169 & p172
  8. The Engineer 1894/12/14 p533
  9. The Engineer 1901
  10. The Times , Nov 09, 1921
  11. The Engineer 1912/09/27
  12. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  13. The Times Feb 05, 1968
  14. The Times, Jun 12, 1918
  15. The Times, Jun 13, 1919
  16. National Archives [2]
  17. BT Archives [3]
  18. The Times, 17 March 1920
  19. The Engineer 1920/06/11, p 614.
  20. The Times, May 24, 1921
  21. The Times, 28 April 1921
  22. Bt Archive [4]
  23. [5] Wikipatents
  24. The Times, 30 May 1924
  25. The Engineer 1925/04/24
  26. The Times, May 28, 1925
  27. The Times Jun 01, 1926
  28. The Times, Feb 05, 1926
  29. [6] Wikipatents
  30. The Times, Jul 02, 1951
  31. The Times, 22 May 1931
  32. 1937 British Industries Fair Advert p564; and p412
  33. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  34. The Times, Feb 05, 1968
  35. The Times, 2 July 1951
  36. The Times, Jul 01, 1952
  37. The Times, 1 July 1952
  38. The Times, 21 December 1954
  39. The Times, Jun 12, 1958