[Boatanchors] A "bit" off topic - Demise of Mullard's, Once the World's largest Vacuum Tube Factory

lmpicard lmpicard at rogers.com
Sun Jan 15 14:19:32 EST 2012

Blackburn firm switched on the world’s TVs

4:10pm Thursday 24th September 2009

By David Watkinson

FOLLOWING the closure of the ‘Mullard’ factory after Blackburn Microtech 
Solutions went into administration this week we chart the rise and fall 
of a Blackburn firm that once employed 7,500 workers.

AT its height the Mullard factory in Blackburn was the largest of its 
kind in the world — highly productive and meeting a growing demand for 
radios and television sets.

Forty years later, and the factory which once employed 7,500 people has 
been shut down, as a successive number of firms at the site struggled to 
keep up with the rapidly-evolving technology.

High-definition flat-screen sets are now the must-have gadgets for many 
households but the business in Blackburn has failed to keep up.

Graham Coxon, of the GMB union said: “As Mullard’s it was one of the 
biggest factories in the town but it has diminished as the market has 

“In the past years the company has just not been able to adapt to the 
changing needs of the market.”

Blackburn MicroTech Solutions (BMS), as the firm was known in its latest 
incarnation, specialised in making cathode tube for televisions but the 
technology is on the verge of becoming obsolete.

Bosses had banked on a third-world market for the now old-fashioned 
sets. But the writing was on the wall as BMS was one of the only 
factories of its kind in the world.

Over the years the huge 64-acre site in Whitebirk was known as Mullard, 
Phillips, LG Phillips, and latterly BMS.

Initially in 1920 Captain Stanley R Mullard set up the Mullard Radio 
Valve Company Limited.

Four years later and wanting to expand as the valve demand continued to 
grow Captain Mullard sold half his shares to NV Philips 
Gloeilampenfabriken of Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

Mullard actually sold all of his shares to Philips in 1927 but the Dutch 
firm continued to use the brand name Mullard in the UK until 1988.

In 1938 work started on what was to become the largest valve assembly 
works in the world. Hundreds of thousands of valves were being 
constructed every day and by 1961 gas and electricity generation had 
been installed to make the site independent of the local town supplies.

There were five main feeder factories set-up to support Blackburn. In 
1949 and 1951 two factories were set up in Fleetwood, 1953 saw a factory 
in Rawtenstall and in 1954 a factory in Lytham and a final factory in 
Southport were opened.

The emergence of the transistor saw the demise of the valve but 
Mullard's diversified and moved into production of television tubes and 

With the boom in ownership of televisions the factory in Blackburn went 
from strength to strength. A factory in Simonstone was opened and in the 
1970s there were 3,500 people working there, producing, among other 
things, television screens.

But throughout the 1980s and 90s the business was hit by a series of 
setbacks. Thousands of jobs were axed at the sites in Blackburn and 
Simonstone, along with their other smaller factories across East Lancashire.

Philips suffered a crisis after the failure of a scheme to launch a 
laser disc format.

At Blackburn sections of the Whitebirk site were sold off while others 
were closed down and rented out to other firms.

A huge CD factory at the site, PDO (Philips Du Pont Optical), used to be 
part of the Philips empire but was sold off and became Entertainment 
Distribution Company (EDC).

EDC is another firm that has felt the impact of changing technology and 
the factory will close at the end of the year.

Most of the 260 jobs have already been lost there.

Now the question is what will become of the former Mullard site.


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