Nuclear power in the United Kingdom
Nuclear power in the United Kingdom generates around a quarter of the country's electricity as of 2016, projected to rise to a third by 2035. The UK has 15 operational nuclear reactors at seven plants, as well as nuclear reprocessing plants at Sellafield and the Tails Management Facility operated by Urenco in Capenhurst; the United Kingdom established the world's first civil nuclear programme, opening a nuclear power station, Calder Hall at Windscale, England, in 1956. At the peak in 1997, 26% of the nation's electricity was generated from nuclear power. Since several reactors have closed and by 2012 the share had declined to 19%; the older AGR reactors have been life-extended, further life-extensions across the AGR fleet are likely. In October 2010 the British Government gave permission for private suppliers to construct up to eight new nuclear power plants; the Scottish Government, with the backing of the Scottish Parliament, has stated that no new nuclear power stations will be constructed in Scotland.
In March 2012, E. ON UK and RWE npower announced they would be pulling out of developing new nuclear power plants, placing the future of nuclear power in the UK in doubt. Despite this, EDF Energy is still planning to build four new reactors at two sites, with public consultation completed and initial groundwork beginning on the first two reactors, sited at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Horizon Nuclear Power have plans for 4 to 6 new reactors at their sites and Oldbury. Three reactors were proposed at the Moorside Nuclear Project but the future of these is now in doubt. An agreement has been made which allows for Chinese-designed reactors to be built on the site of the Bradwell nuclear power station. EDF Energy owns and manages the seven operating reactor sites, with a combined capacity of about 9 GW. Six new plants are proposed to be built in the next few decades. All nuclear installations in the UK are overseen by the Office for Nuclear Regulation; the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority was established in 1954 as a statutory corporation to oversee and pioneer the development of nuclear energy within the United Kingdom.
The first station to be connected to the grid, on 27 August 1956, was Calder Hall, although the production of weapons-grade plutonium was the main reason behind this power station. Calder Hall was the world's first nuclear power station to deliver electricity in commercial quantities. In February 1966 it was announced that the first prototype fast breeder reactor in the United Kingdom would be constructed in Dounreay, Scotland, at a cost of £30 million. British Nuclear Fuels Limited was established in February 1971 from the demerger of the production division of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. In 1984 BNFL became a public limited company, British Nuclear Fuels plc, wholly owned by the UK government. In December 1979, in the wake of the industrial disputes of The Winter of Discontent and the 1979 oil crisis, the new Thatcher government announced a new long-term nuclear power programme; the existing state National Nuclear Corporation would complete its existing planned second generation AGR builds, would develop a new programme of building one Westinghouse designed Pressurised Water Reactor per year for at least a decade from 1982.
However in 1981 the Select Committee on Energy and the Monopolies and Mergers Commission produced reports criticising the CEGB and government's demand forecasting and investment assessment justifying the programme. From 1982, after Nigel Lawson replaced David Howell as Secretary of State for Energy, the government began rowing back from this large proposal, in part because the government were beginning to consider privatising the electricity industry. In the end, only the Sizewell B nuclear power plant from the PWR programme was built, between 1987 and 1995, it began producing power for the national grid in February 1995. Its construction followed a four-year, 16 million-word public inquiry; as of 2019 it is the most recent nuclear plant to be constructed in the United Kingdom. Sizewell B was intended to be the first of a smaller series of four new identical power stations, but the rest were dropped as uneconomic in the early 1990s when it was decided to privatise the electric power industry so low interest rate government finance would no longer be available.
A Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant was opened at Sellafield in 1994. Construction cost £ 2.4 billion. In 1996 the UK's eight most advanced nuclear plants, seven advanced gas-cooled reactors and one pressurized water reactor, were privatised as British Energy, raising £2.1 billion. The remaining Magnox reactors remained in public ownership as Magnox Electric. On 30 January 1998 Magnox Electric was merged into BNFL as BNFL Magnox Generation. In relation to nuclear power, the conclusion of the Government's 2002 energy review was that: The immediate priorities of energy policy are to be most cost-effectively served by promoting energy efficiency and expanding the role of renewables. However, the options of new investment in nuclear power and in clean coal need to be kept open, practical measures taken to do this; the practical measures identified were: continuing to participate in international research.
The arms industry known as the defense industry or the arms trade, is a global industry which manufactures and sells weapons and military technology. It consists of a commercial industry involved in the research and development, engineering and servicing of military material and facilities. Arms-producing companies referred to as arms dealers, defence contractors, or as the military industry, produce arms for the armed forces of states and for civilians. Departments of government operate in the arms industry and selling weapons and other military items. An arsenal is a place where arms and ammunition - whether or publicly owned - are made and repaired, stored, or issued, in any combination. Products of the arms industry include guns, ammunition, military aircraft, military vehicles, electronic systems, night-vision devices, holographic weapon sights, laser rangefinders, laser sights, hand grenades and more; the arms industry provides other logistical and operational support. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated military expenditures as of 2012 at $1.8 trillion.
This represented a relative decline from 1990, when military expenditures made up 4% of world GDP. Part of the money goes to the procurement of military hardware and services from the military industry; the combined arms-sales of the top 100 largest arms-producing companies amounted to an estimated $395 billion in 2012 according to SIPRI. In 2004 over $30 billion were spent in the international arms-trade. According to SIPRI, the volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2010–14 was 16 per cent higher than in 2005–2009; the five biggest exporters in 2010–2014 were the United States, China and France, the five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. Many industrialized countries have a domestic arms-industry to supply their own military forces; some countries have a substantial legal or illegal domestic trade in weapons for use by their own citizens for self-defence, hunting or sporting purposes. Illegal trade in small arms occurs in many regions affected by political instability.
The Small Arms Survey estimates that 875 million small arms circulate worldwide, produced by more than 1,000 companies from nearly 100 countries. Governments award contracts to supply their country's military; the link between politics and the arms trade can result in the development of what U. S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower described in 1961 as a military-industrial complex, where the armed forces and politics become linked to the European multilateral defence procurement. Various corporations, some publicly held, others private, bid for these contracts, which are worth many billions of dollars. Sometimes, as with the contract for the international Joint Strike Fighter, a competitive tendering process takes place, with the decision made on the merits of the designs submitted by the companies involved. Other times, no bidding or competition takes place. During the early modern period, United Kingdom and some states in Germany became self-sufficient in arms production, with diffusion and migration of skilled workers to more peripheral countries such as Portugal and Russia.
The modern arms industry emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century as a product of the creation and expansion of the first large military-industrial companies. As smaller countries could no longer produce cutting-edge military equipment with their indigenous resources and capacity, they began to contract the manufacture of military equipment, such as battleships, artillery pieces and rifles to foreign firms. In 1854, the British government awarded a contract to the Elswick Ordnance Company of industrialist William Armstrong for the supply of his latest breech loading rifled artillery pieces; this galvanised the private sector into weapons production, with the surplus being exported to foreign countries. Armstrong became one of the first international arms dealers, selling his weapon systems to governments across the world from Brazil to Japan. In 1884, he opened a shipyard at Elswick to specialise in warship production—at the time, it was the only factory in the world that could build a battleship and arm it completely.
The factory produced warships for many navies, including the Imperial Japanese Navy. Several Armstrong cruisers played an important role in defeating the Russian fleet at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. In the American Civil War in 1861 the North had a distinct advantage over the south as it relied on using the breech-loading rifle against the muskets of the south; this began the transition to industrially produced mechanised weapons such as the Gatling gun. This industrial innovation in the defence industry was adopted by Prussia in 1866 & 1870-71 in its defeat of Austria and France respectively. By this time the machine gun had begun entering into the militaries; the first example of its effectiveness was in 1899 during the Boer War and in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. However, Germany were leaders in innovation of weapons and used this innovation nearly defeating the allies in World War I. In 1885, France decided to capitalize on this lucrative form of trade and repealed its ban on weapon exports.
The regulatory framework for the period up to the First World War was characterized by a laissez-faire policy that placed little obstruction in the way of weapons exports. Due to the carnage of World War I
The cavity magnetron is a high-powered vacuum tube that generates microwaves using the interaction of a stream of electrons with a magnetic field while moving past a series of open metal cavities. Electrons pass by the openings to these cavities and cause radio waves to oscillate within, similar to the way a whistle produces a tone when excited by an air stream blown past its opening; the frequency of the microwaves produced, the resonant frequency, is determined by the cavities' physical dimensions. Unlike other vacuum tubes such as a klystron or a traveling-wave tube, the magnetron cannot function as an amplifier in order to increase the intensity of an applied microwave signal. An early form of magnetron was invented by H. Gerdien in 1910. Another form of magnetron tube, the split-anode magnetron, was invented by Albert Hull of General Electric Research Laboratory in 1920, but it achieved only a frequency of 30 kHz. Similar devices were experimented with by many teams through the 1930s. Hans Erich Hollmann filed a patent on a design similar to the modern tube in 1935, but the more stable klystron was preferred for most German radars during World War II.
An important advance was the multi-cavity magnetron, first proposed in 1934 by A. L. Samuel of Bell Telephone Laboratories. However, the first successful example was developed by Aleksereff and Malearoff in USSR in 1936, which achieved 300 watts at 3 GHz; the cavity magnetron was radically improved by John Randall and Harry Boot in 1940 at the University of Birmingham, England. They invented a valve that could produce multi-kilowatt pulses at 10 cm wavelength, an unprecedented invention; the high power of pulses from their device made centimeter-band radar practical for the Allies of World War II, with shorter wavelength radars allowing detection of smaller objects from smaller antennas. The compact cavity magnetron tube drastically reduced the size of radar sets so that they could be more installed in night-fighter aircraft, anti-submarine aircraft and escort ships. At the same time, Yoji Ito in Japan was experimenting with magnetrons, proposed a system of collision avoidance using FM. Only low power was achieved.
Ito traveled to Germany, where he had earlier received his doctorate, found the Germans were using pulse modulation at VHF with great success. When he returned to Japan, he produced a prototype pulse magnetron with 2 kW in October 1941; this was widely deployed. In the post-war era the magnetron became less used in the radar role; this was because the magnetron's output changes both in frequency and phase. This makes the signal unsuitable for pulse-to-pulse comparisons, used for detecting and removing "clutter" from the radar display; the magnetron remains in use in some radars, but has become much more common as a low-cost microwave source for microwave ovens. In this form one billion magnetrons are in use today. In a conventional electron tube, electrons are emitted from a negatively charged, heated component called the cathode and are attracted to a positively charged component called the anode; the components are arranged concentrically, placed within a tubular-shaped container from which all air has been evacuated, so that the electrons can move freely.
If a third electrode is inserted between the cathode and the anode, the flow of electrons between the cathode and anode can be regulated by varying the voltage on this third electrode. This allows the resulting electron tube to function as an amplifier because small variations in the electric charge applied to the control grid will result in identical variations in the much larger current of electrons flowing between the cathode and anode; the idea of using a grid for control was patented by Lee de Forest, resulting in considerable research into alternate tube designs that would avoid his patents. One concept used a magnetic field instead of an electrical charge to control current flow, leading to the development of the magnetron tube. In this design, the tube was made with two electrodes with the cathode in the form of a metal rod in the center, the anode as a cylinder around it; the tube was placed between the poles of a horseshoe magnet arranged such that the magnetic field was aligned parallel to the axis of the electrodes.
With no magnetic field present, the tube operates as a diode, with electrons flowing directly from the cathode to the anode. In the presence of the magnetic field, the electrons will experience a force at right angles to their direction of motion, according to the left-hand rule. In this case, the electrons follow a curved path between the anode; the curvature of the path can be controlled by varying either the magnetic field, using an electromagnet, or by changing the electrical potential between the electrodes. At high magnetic field settings the electrons are forced back onto the cathode, preventing current flow. At the opposite extreme, with no field, the electrons are free to flow straight from the cathode to the anode. There is a point between the two extremes, the critical value or Hull cut-off magnetic field, where the electrons just reach the anode. At fields around this point, the device operates similar to a triode. However, magnetic control, due to hysteresis and other effects, results in a slower and less faithful response to control current than electrostatic control using a control grid in a conventional triode (not to mention greater weig
Siemens Brothers and Company Limited was an electrical engineering design and manufacturing business in London, England. It was first established as a branch in 1858 by a brother of the founder of the German electrical engineering firm Siemens & Halske; the principal works were at Woolwich where cables and light-current electrical apparatus were produced from 1863 until 1968. The site between the Thames Barrier and Woolwich Dockyard has retained several buildings of historic interest. New works were built at Stafford in 1903 and Dalston in 1908. During World War I Siemens Brothers was bought by a British consortium because most of its ownership was in the hands of enemy aliens. Siemens Brothers and Company Limited was bought by Associated Electrical Industries in 1955. At that time its business was described as follows: manufacture sale and installation of submarine and land cables, overhead telegraph and power transmission lines and private telephone exchanges and carrier transmission equipment for telephone lines and marine radio and signalling equipment.
Through subsidiaries it was engaged in the manufacture of lamps of all kinds, miscellaneous electrical equipment and electrical railway signals. The German Siemens brothers came from a educated upper-middle-class family in humble economic circumstances, their father farmed a leased estate. The elder brothers of the family were born in the Kingdom of Hanover. In 1823, the year William was born, the family moved near Lübeck. Both parents had died by the time William was 17. Sir William Siemens, the fourth of eight surviving sons in the family, his primary interests were in electric telegraphing and lighting, he was adopted by the childless Sir William and his wife and he too became a naturalised British subject. Managing director from 1889 to 1899 he remained on the board until he retired in 1918, aged 70. Profit distribution between the brothers, it reflects contribution not just ownership. On 1 October 1858, the German firm Siemens & Halske established an English firm, Siemens & Halske & Company, a partnership of William Siemens, cable manufacturer R S Newall of Gateshead and Siemens & Halske of Berlin.
Its purpose was to help lay Newall's newly developed submarine communications cable. The London branch was under the control of William Sir William Siemens known as Carl Wilhelm Siemens. Hanover-born Sir William went to England in 1843 to sell a patent, he found employment in Birmingham with engineers Fox, Henderson & Co and became a naturalised British subject in 1859, the same day as he married the daughter of an Edinburgh lawyer. Her brother was Lewis Gordon business partner of R S Newall. During the 1850s Sir William developed the Siemens regenerative furnace. Following various failures in Newall's installed cables the link with them was dropped at the end of 1860. In 1865 Johann Georg Halske, partner in Siemens & Halske, withdrew from the English branch following failures in the London firm's work so it became Siemens Brothers. Siemens Brothers Telegraph Works opened as a new cable factory in Woolwich, London in 1863, it employed more than 2,000 people. In 1869 the London and Berlin firms jointly made and laid a telegraph line from Prussia to Teheran which formed a principal part of the direct line from England to India, 2,750 miles.
Principal cables made and laid by Siemens Brothers between 1873 and 1883: In 1874-5 the London firm alone completed the first direct Atlantic cable, known as the DUS, to USA. In 1876 a direct Paris-New York cable was discussed in France. In March 1879 Siemens Brothers was given the order by banker Pouyer-Quertier, they finished making the PQ cable at Woolwich in the middle of June when the Faraday set out to do the laying under the control of Ludwig Loeffler. The main cable was handed over to the owners in little more than four months. Neither France nor USA had a cable-making factory. 1881 Western Union England to Nova Scotia north cable 1882 Western Union England to Nova Scotia south cableThe construction and laying of cables remained the firm's main occupation until Sir William's death in 1883. Following his death shares were offered, somewhat unwillingly, to London manager Johann Carl Ludwig Loeffler to retain his services, he managed to increase his holding to 25% but there were disagreements as to how the firm was run and Alexander Siemens, William's adopted son, replaced Loeffler in 1888.
Werner bought Loeffler's shareholding. Loeffler died in the Tyrol 18 years leaving an estate in excess of £1.5 million, he was a prominent investor in West Australian mines. The invention of the dynamo in 1867 led to a switch from Siemens' previous strength in light-current products to heavy-current products and processes; the world's first modern high-voltage power station was opened in Deptford East. Designed in 1887 by 23-year-old former Siemens' apprentice Sebastian de Ferranti it was erected by the London Electricity Supply Corporation on the Thames bank at Deptford Creek, two and a half miles west of Siemens' Woolwich site. Berlin was anxious that the London business should break its reliance on the submarine cable business; the London County Council discouraged that kind of development and after consi
The Marconi Company was a British telecommunications and engineering company that did business under that name from 1963 to 1987. It was derived from earlier variations in the name and incorporation, spanning a period from its inception in 1897 until 2006, during which time it underwent numerous changes and acquisitions; the company was founded by the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi and began as the Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company. The company was a pioneer of wireless long distance communication and mass media broadcasting becoming one of the UK's most successful manufacturing companies. In 1999, its defence manufacturing division, Marconi Electronic Systems, merged with British Aerospace to form BAE Systems. In 2006, extreme financial difficulties led to the collapse of the remaining company, with the bulk of the business acquired by the Swedish telecommunications company, Ericsson. 1897–1900: The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company 1900–1963: Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company 1963–1987: Marconi Company Ltd 1987–1998: GEC-Marconi Ltd 1998–1999: Marconi Electronic Systems Ltd 1999–2003: Marconi plc 2003–2006: Marconi Corporation plc Marconi's "Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company" was formed on 20 July 1897 after the granting of a British patent for wireless in March of that year.
The company opened the world's first radio factory on Hall Street in Chelmsford in 1898 and was responsible for some of the most important advances in radio and television. These include: In 1900 the company's name was changed to "Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company" and Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Training College was set up in 1901; the company and factory was moved to New Street Works in 1912, to allow for production expansion in light of the RMS Titanic disaster. Along with private entrepreneurs, Marconi company formed in 1924 the Unione Radiofonica Italiana, granted by Mussolini's regime a monopoly of radio broadcasts in 1924. After the war, URI became the RAI. In 1939, the Marconi Research Laboratories at Great Baddow were founded and in 1941 there was a buyout of Marconi-Ekco Instruments to form Marconi Instruments. English Electric acquired the Marconi Company in 1946. In 1948 the company was reorganised into four divisions: These had expanded to 13 manufacturing divisions by 1965 when a further reorganisation took place.
The divisions were placed into three groups: At this time the Marconi Company had facilities at New Street Chelmsford, Basildon and Writtle as well as in Wembley and Hackbridge. It owned Marconi Instruments, Sanders Electronics, Eddystone Radio and Marconi Italiana. In 1967 Marconi took over Company to form Eddystone Radio. In 1903 Marconi founded the Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada, renamed as the Canadian Marconi Company in 1925; the radio business of the Canadian Marconi Company is known as Ultra Electronics TCS since 2002 and its avionic activities as CMC Electronics, owned by Esterline since 2007. In 1967 or 1968 English Electric was subject to a takeover bid by the Plessey Company but chose instead to accept an offer from GEC. Under UK government pressure, the computer section of GEC, English Electric Leo Marconi, merged with International Computers and Tabulators to form International Computers Limited; the computer interests of Elliott Automation which specialised in real-time computing were amalgamated with those of Marconi's Automation Division to form Marconi-Elliott Computers renamed as GEC Computers.
In 1968 Marconi Space and Defence Systems and Marconi Underwater Systems were formed. The Marconi Company continued as the primary defence subsidiary of GEC-Marconi. Marconi was renamed GEC-Marconi in 1987. During the period 1968–1999 GEC-Marconi/MES underwent significant expansion. Acquisitions which were folded into the company and partnerships established include: Other acquisitions include: Divisions of Plessey in 1989. Plessey Avionics Plessey Naval Systems Plessey Cryptography Plessey Electronic Systems Sippican Leigh InstrumentsIn a major reorganisation of the company, GEC-Marconi was renamed Marconi Electronic Systems in 1996 and was separated from other non-defence assets. In 1999 GEC underwent a major transformation. Marconi Electronic Systems which included its wireless assets was demerged and sold to British Aerospace which formed BAE Systems. GEC, realigning itself as a telecommunications company following the MES sale, retained the Marconi brand and renamed itself Marconi plc. BAE were granted limited rights to continue its use in existing partnerships, however by 2005 no BAE businesses use the Marconi name.
Major spending and the dot-com collapse led to a major restructuring of that group, in a debt-for-equity swap shareholders were given 0.5% of the new company, Marconi Corporation plc. In 1999 Reltec and Fore Systems were acquired at the height of the "dot-com" boom. With its subsequent collapse the Marconi Corporation got into financial difficulties. In October 2005 the Swedish firm Ericsson offered to buy most of the assets; the transaction was completed on 23 January 2006 effective as of 1 January 2006. The Marconi name will still be used as a brand within Ericsson. At the time of the acquisition Ericsson announced that they would be rebranding Marconi assets Ericsson and retaining Marconi only as the name of the Italian research facility; however the company has since labelled its OMS line and its Long Haul Digital Radio system Marconi. The rest of the Marconi company was renamed as Telent. Aerospace industry
Gamages was a department store in Holborn, founded by Arthur Walter Gamage, the son of a Herefordshire farmer. Opened in 1878, it was well known for its toy and hardware departments; the store closed in 1972. Gamages began life in 1878 in a rented watch repair shop and, after becoming a success amongst its customers, was established as a London institution. In time it was to grow large enough to take up most of the block; the store closed in 1972, but prior to, unusual in that its premises were away from the main Oxford Street shopping area, being on the edge of the City of London at Holborn Circus. Gamages ran a successful mail-order business. Many of those who were children at the time remember Gamages because of its unparallelled stock of toys of the day, the Gamages catalogue, a well-loved gift during the autumn, in time for Christmas present requests to be made. One of the store's main attractions was a large model railway which alternated between a day and night scene by the use of lighting.
The railway was provided by a man called Bertram Otto, German by birth. It received many thousands of visitors every Christmas. Gamages had many departments - a much larger number than modern department stores. There was a substantial hardware department on the ground floor which included specialist motor parts and car seat cover sections. There was a photographic department, camping, pets and sporting departments, the latter selling shotguns; the toy department was extensive and there were substantial fashion and carpeting departments and in latter years a small food supermarket. A report of the auction of Gamages Department Store appeared in The Times on 15 July 1931. Mr W. S. Edgson of Hillier Parker May & Rowden conducted the auction, who said it was "regrettable the property had to be put onto the market after only a few months of trading." The report said. The site was self-contained with a frontage of 318 feet to Oxford Street, long frontages to Park Street and North Row, a ground area of 56,800 square feet...
The agreement for the lease was for £30,000 a year from 1932. It might seem a high ground rent, being only 11s. A foot, it was low for Oxford-street." There was no response to an opening offer of £600,000, or of £500,000, "half of what the building cost". The premises was withdrawn from sale at £330,000. During World War I, Gamages manufactured the Leach Trench Catapult. Gamages was an successful and profitable store. In the late 1960s a second store was opened in Essex; this had a short life as the whole company was taken over by Jeffrey Sterling's Sterling Guarantee Trust in the early 1970s and the Romford site was sold off. The Holborn site closed in March 1972 and there is now no trace of the store to be seen. Gamages reopened in Oxford Street in a vacated store but this venture was short-lived. In an episode of the BBC sitcom Porridge titled'Heartbreak Hotel', Fletcher tells his daughter how, at the time of her conception, her mother had'a nice steady job in the hardware department at Gamages'.
In an episode of the LWT TV drama Poirot titled Yellow Iris, Arthur Hastings reads to Poirot from the Daily Express newspaper. A prominent advertisement for Gamages department store promoting a'great sale of furniture at lowest cash prices' can be seen. In an episode of the Granada TV crime drama The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes titled "The Cardboard Box", Mrs Hudson advises Sherlock Holmes to buy Dr Watson's Christmas present at Gamages. We see Holmes arrive with a parcel with the Gamages label; the gift is revealed to be a poncho. Gamages 1913 catalogue at Jonathan. "Retail Difficulties: Gamages in 1930... What shops today can learn from the bleak festive season of 1930". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 9 March 2016. Gamages Lathes
Metropolitan-Vickers, Metrovick, or Metrovicks, was a British heavy electrical engineering company of the early-to-mid 20th century known as British Westinghouse. Diversified, they were well known for their industrial electrical equipment such as generators, steam turbines, transformers and railway traction equipment. Metrovick holds a place in history as the builders of the first commercial transistor computer, the Metrovick 950, the first British axial-flow jet engine, the Metropolitan-Vickers F.2. Their factory in Trafford Park, was for most of the 20th century one of the biggest and most important heavy engineering facilities in Britain and the world. Metrovick started as a way to separate the existing British Westinghouse Electrical and Manufacturing Company factories from United States control, which had proven to be a hindrance to gaining government contracts during the First World War. In 1917 a holding company was formed to try to find financing to buy the company's properties. In May 1917, control of the holding company was obtained jointly by the Metropolitan Carriage and Finance Company, of Birmingham, chaired by Dudley Docker, Vickers Limited, of Barrow-in-Furness.
On 15 March 1919, Docker agreed terms with Vickers, for Vickers to purchase all the shares of the Metropolitan Carriage and Finance Company for thirteen million pounds. On 8 September 1919, Vickers changed the name of the British Westinghouse Electrical and Manufacturing Company to Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company; the immediate post-war era was marked by continued labour unrest. Fortunes changed in 1926 with the formation of the Central Electricity Board which standardized electrical supply and led to a massive expansion of electrical distribution and appliance purchases. Sales shot up, 1927 marked the company's best year to date. On 15 November 1922 the BBC was registered and the BBC's Manchester station, 2ZY, was opened on 375 metres transmitting from the Metropolitan Vickers Electricity works in Old Trafford. In 1928 Metrovick merged with the rival British Thomson-Houston, a company of similar size and the same product lineup. Combined, they would be one of the few companies able to compete with Marconi or English Electric on an equal footing.
In fact the merger was marked by poor communication and intense rivalry, the two companies worked at cross purposes. The next year the combined company was purchased by the Associated Electrical Industries holding group, who owned Edison Swan; the rivalry between Metrovick and BTH continued, AEI was never able to exert effective control over the two competing subsidiary companies. Problems worsened in 1929 with the start of the great depression, but Metrovick's overseas sales were able to pick up some of the slack, notably a major railway electrification project in Brazil. By 1933 world trade was growing again, but growth was nearly upset when six Metrovick engineers were arrested and found guilty of espionage and "wrecking" in Moscow after a number of turbines built by the company in and for the Soviet Union proved to be faulty; the British government intervened. During the 1930s Metropolitan Vickers produced two dozen large diameter three-phase AC traction motors for the Hungarian railway's V40 and V60 electric locomotives.
The 1640 kW rated power machinery, designed by Kálmán Kandó, was paid for by British government economic aid. In 1935 the company built a 105 MW steam turbogenerator, the largest in Europe at that time, for the Battersea Power Station. In 1936 Metrovick started work with the Air Ministry on automatic pilot systems branching out to gunlaying systems and building radars the next year. In 1938 they reached an agreement with the Ministry to build a turboprop design developed at the Royal Aircraft Establishment under the direction of Hayne Constant, it is somewhat ironic that BTH, their erstwhile partners, were at the same time working with Frank Whittle on his pioneering jet designs. In mid-1938, MV's were given a contract to build Avro Manchester twin-engined heavy bombers under licence from A. V. Roe; as this type of work was different from their traditional heavy engineering activities, a new factory was built on the western side of Mosley Road and this was completed in stages through 1940. There were significant problems producing this aircraft, not least being the unreliability of the Rolls-Royce Vulture engine and that the first 13 Manchesters were destroyed in a Luftwaffe bombing raid on Trafford Park on 23 December.
Despite this the firm went on to complete 43 examples. With the design of the much improved four-engined derivative, the Avro Lancaster, MV switched production to that famous type, supplied with Rolls-Royce Merlin engines from the Ford Trafford Park shadow factory. Three hangars were erected on the southside of Manchester's Ringway Airport for assembly and testing of their Lancasters, before a policy switch was made to assembling them in a hangar at Avro's Woodford airfield. By the end of the war, MV's had built 1,080 Lancasters; these were followed by 79 Avro Lincoln derivatives before remaining orders were cancelled and MV's aircraft production ceased in December 1945. In 1940 the turboprop effort was re-engineered as a pure jet engine after the successful run of Whittle's designs; the new design became the Metrovick F.2 and flew in 1943 on a Gloster Meteor. Considered to be too complex to bother with, Metrovick re-engineered the design once again to produce double the power, while at the same tim