Southend’s Ekco factory paved the way for electronic gadget manufacturing in its heyday

MODERN technology has taken to the next level in the 21st century, with iPods replacing CD players and digital tablets becoming commonplace in homes.

But Ekco’s former office and factory, located near Southend’s Priory Park, was making a line of electronic gadgets in its heyday.

Televisions, radios and heaters are just a few of the items that come out of the Prittlewell Chase factory.

The company was named after its founder Eric Kirkham Cole, who was born in Rochford in 1901 and started a business in a shed on Beedell Road, Westcliff, 21 years later after graduating from Southend Technical College.

Much Appreciated – Eric Kirkham Cole, Founder of the Ekco Factory

Mr. Cole, an electrical engineer, named the company Ekco in 1926, and four years later it became the first company to use plastic cabinets for its radios, which led to the installation of the first plastic presses. on a large scale in British manufacture.

Ekco produced the first serial radio dial in 1931, while the company pioneered car radios three years later.

Car radios were often seen in Rolls Royce vehicles.


At the time, Ekco’s office and factory was based near Southend’s Priory Park

At its peak, the company employed over 8,000 people in Essex and played a key role, along with the War Department, in helping to end WWII.

However, after seeing his business become a smash hit in the tech industry, Mr. Cole died in his Barbados nursing home in 1966.

Six years later, the Ekco building was acquired by the Joint Credit Card Company, later becoming an Access credit card center, then part of the Mastercard operation.


Exhibition – Ekco exhibits, including a radiator, were exhibited in 2011

The old factory and the office building no longer exist, the site having been redeveloped into a housing estate more recently.

But progress has been made so that the history of the site is not forgotten, with the subdivision being named Ekco Park.

The 228-home estate was completed two years ago, but Mr. Cole’s legacy lives on.


Ekco Park – Beginning of the construction of a subdivision in 2015

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Scroll down to see more shots from the Ekco factory.


Employees – workers leave the company office and factory


Complex – employees manufacturing Ekco products



Rolling back the years – the interior of the Ekco factory, which has since been demolished


Tribute – a life-size sculpture in honor of Eric Kirkham Cole was created


Author – Peter Brown wrote a book about the Ekco factory and the history of the company in 2014


Going under the hammer – Mark Stacey, of Staceys Auctioneers and Valuers, Leigh, and his brother Paul, sold some of Ekco’s gadgets in 2009

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