Thorn Electrical

It is hoped this article will document, inform and educate the reader about one of the largest electrical manufactures the United Kingdom has known. In its latter stages the document attempts to show by way of photos the television Chassis’ that came out of their stable.

It all started in the closing year of the nineteenth century with the birth of its founder Jules Thorn.


1899 On the 7th February 1899 company founder Jules Thorn was born in Vienna Austria to Jewish parents Leibisch Thorn and Teme Thorn. Conscripted into the Austrian army, Thorn served in WWI. After the War he studied at the Handelshochschule (Business School) in Vienna.

Sir Jules Thorn


1923 Thorn moved to the United Kingdom as a sales representative for Olso, an Austrian manufacturer of gas mantles.

1928 Olso went bankrupt and Thorn chose to set up business with Alfred Deutsch and founded the company in March 1928 trading as the Electric Lamp Service Company. Deutsch, an Austrian engineer, visited Thorn in 1928 and was persuaded to stay to help organize the company’s production process. Everybody thought Jules was mad when he decided to build a 30-million-a-year capacity lamp factory. But he went ahead and built more than 70 factories around the world, not just for lamps but also for luminaires, control gears and lighting accessories.

Also in 1928 he married Dorothy Olive Tanner and together they went on to have one son and one daughter.


1931 Thorn opened his first shop renting radios.

1932 Jules Thorn acquired a controlling interest in Chorlton Metal Co Ltd, established in 1926, dealer in electric lamps and radio goods.

1933 Began making Atlas light bulbs in Edmonton, north London. Jules Thorn and L. M. Glancy formed Lotus Radio Co to acquire the Lotus Co to carry on the business of manufacture of radio receivers. Jules Thorn acquired a controlling interest in Chorlton Metal Co Ltd, established in 1926, dealer in electric lamps and radio goods.

1936 Acquired Ferguson Radio Corporation. Company became public and the name changed to Thorn Electrical Industries Ltd; incorporated The Electric Lamp Service Company and Chorlton Metal Co and Lotus Radio Co including acquiring the outstanding interests in those companies. The lamp manufacturing part of the company grew rapidly to become Thorn Lighting, one of the world’s largest producers of lamps, luminaires and lighting components. Capacity for manufacturing cathode ray tubes.

1937 Thorn Electrical Industries had the sole distributor rights for Ferguson radio receivers. 1938 Acquired British Electric Domestic Appliances which made Mary Ann vacuum cleaners and Bedal washing machines.


1939 Formation of DER, a small subsidiary to enable Thorn to enter the television business. Post-war this became the television rental arm of Thorn.

1939-1945 : World War II


1946 Rights issue to finance the acquisition from the chairman of the entire share capital of Ferguson Radio Corporation. First Ferguson television produced.

1947 Developed fluorescent lamps and fittings; lamp factory moved to Enfield; new plant in South Wales. Listed Exhibitor – British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of “Atlas” Electric Lamps, Incandescent and Fluorescent, “Atlas” Lighting Fittings, “Ferguson” Radio Receivers, “Mary Ann” Electric Domestic Appliances. (Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. C.1528). Showed the 841T television at the 1947 Radiolympia.

Thorn Factory Merthyr Tydfil

1948 Technical exchange agreement with Sylvania which was issued some shares. 2400 employees; share issue to finance development and expansion in lighting products. Subsidiaries were Ferguson Radio Corporation, Lamp Presscaps Ltd, Domestic Electric Rentals Ltd, British Electric Domestic Appliances (1938) Ltd, as well as South African interests. Introduced television sets.



1950 In a move to concentrate electric lamp production, Thorn Electrical Industries acquired 51% of Ekco-Ensign Electric; lamp production at Ekco’s Southend factory ceased but their Preston factory was expanded. The sales organisations of the 2 companies continued to be separate.

1951 Acquired Tricity Cookers; the start of a move into a new and booming field of domestic electrical appliances.

1953 Manufacturer of TV sets.

1955 Announced intention to manufacture television tubes on a large scale in conjunction with Sylvania Electrical Products of USA.

1956 Opening of Sylvania-Thorn Colour TV Laboratories.

1957 Took over the manufacture of the HMV and Marconiphone range of consumer products from EMI. The 2 companies would jointly own the British Radio Corporation.

1959 Thorn acquired an interest in Multi-Signals Ltd, a company which established relay systems in six towns. Deal with Philco of US on making radios and televisions using Philco’s technology including the Philco business in the UK and the factory at Chigwell. Thorn sold the controlling interest in Tricity Finance, its hire purchase subsidiary, to Lombard Banking.



1960 Acquired Brimar cathode ray tubes and valve business from STC; Brimar Electronics formed to allow Thorn’s scientists and engineers the opportunity for developing some of their ideas.

1961 Purchased Ultra Radio and Television which consolidated Thorn’s position as a leading manufacturer of radio and televisions. Had 35 subsidiary and associated companies. 15,000 group employees. Formed a joint venture with AEI to merge the 2 companies’ interests in manufacture and sale of valves and cathode ray tubes. Tucana Ltd was formed as a subsidiary of Thorn to take over retail shops where the owners were retiring or the shops were threatened by bankruptcy or liquidation.

Thorn Merthyr Tydfil factory 1960’s

1962 Orders had been received from 55 airfields for the visual approach slope landing indicator system developed by Thorn under licence from Royal Aircraft Establishment.

1963 The newly-formed Thorn Electronics, which served various specialised markets including TV studios and metallurgy, had rationalised its activities with production concentrated at the Nash and Thompson factory.

1964 Formed joint venture Thorn Parsons Ltd with C. A. Parsons and Co to exploit new products from fundamental research by the 2 companies. Lighting was an important business for the company but there was need for increased scale to compete internationally, and to handle new technologies such as production of fluorescent tubes, so merged the company’s lighting interests with those of AEI – the new venture was called British Lighting Industries in which Thorn had a controlling interest, one of the largest lighting groups in Europe. Multi-Signals became a wholly owned subsidiary of Thorn.

1964 Jules Thorn was knighted.

Thorn House – Thorn Electrical Industries H.Q.

1965 Thorn took over Glover and Main, gas appliance manufacturers.

1967 Joint Venture with Bendix, Thorn-Bendix, of their specialised electronics interests, including Thorn Electronics, Thorn Special Products, Thorn Electronics Laboratories, Bendix Electronics and M. P. J. Gauge and Tool Co; this included around half of the Thorn’s R&D activity. Acquired Metal Industries after a contentious battle with Aberdare Holdings. This was said to be to ensure supplies of sheet metal, essential to the production of cookers, but was the start of a diversification into engineering. This acquisition included Lancashire Dynamo Electronic Products which was later renamed Thorn Automation. At the same time the bid was announced, AEI bid separately for one part of Metal Industries, Lancashire Dynamo and Crypto. Acquired AEI’s minority interests in British Lighting Industries.

Thorn did something pretty spectacular in 1967 for the launch of the colour service in the UK, they offered the worlds first all transistor colour television.  All their competitors at the time were offering hybrids (Valve and transistor). Thorns monumental achievement however saw them unable to recoup the development costs on set sales, Jules Thorn stating they sold every 2K set at a loss. However Thorn set the benchmark, showed the industry the direction it would inevitably be pursuing, namely solid-state, the nail in the coffin with regards to valves in televisions.

Prototype Thorn 2000 colour television
1968 Thorn Electrical Industries acquired K. M. T. (Holdings), and Tucana, a private retailer of television sets. Many of the television sets rented through DER were made by Thorn in the summer months when other orders were not available. Tucana had 206 retail shops. Multi-Broadcast had 87 outlets in London, the Home Counties, and the Midlands. Competition Commission report on the proposed merger between Thorn Electrical Industries Ltd and Radio Rentals Ltd. Thorn took over Radio Rentals and merged their radio/television activities. Acquired Kenwood, manufacturer of food mixers. Acquired Triangle as part of the acquisition of K. M. T. (Holdings), and amalgamated it with Crypton Equipment to form Crypton Triangle.

1969 Acquired William Sugg and Co, central heating company. Later acquired International Janitor from its 2 owners who could not provide sufficient support for its central heating developments.


Thorn continued to innovate throughout colour TV development well into the 70’s and early 80’s achieving a number of other firsts. The first SMPS with the 3000, the first sub £200 CTV with the 8000 bringing colour to the masses. Not forgetting how they shook up and startled the industry in 1975 with the release of SYCLOPS and finally the TX range.

1970 Sold Crypton Triangle to Tube Investments.

1971 The Thorn group’s principal activities were: Radio and Television, Lighting, Domestic Appliances, Engineering, as well as a number of other companies. Acquired Parkinson Cowan range of gas cookers and meters. Thorn had also invested £1,250,000 in the lighting laboratories at Enfield. George Kent sold Evershed and Vignoles to Thorn Electrical Industries; the senior members of the board resigned and were replaced by directors of Avo and Taylor Electrical Instruments. Also owned Record Electrical Co. Formed Thorn-Ericsson Telecommunications

Jules married for the second time, to Jean Norfolk, in 1971

1974 Acquired Clarkson International Tools

1975 Further expansion in consumer appliances on purchase of J. and F. Stores

1976 Acquired Cleveland Twist Drill.  Sir Jules Thorn retired as Chairman of the business.

1979 In October, Thorn Electrical Industries merged with EMI to form Thorn EMI.

1980’s – 2000’s

1980 Sir Jules Thorn the founder of Thorn Electrical industries, one of the United Kindom’s largest electrical businesses dies in Westminster on 12 December 1980. Not long after seeing his company execute a successful takeover of its long-time rival, EMI.

1996 On the 16th August 1996 Thorn EMI shareholders voted in favour of de-merging Thorn. The electronics and rentals divisions were divested as Thorn plc.

1998 Future Rentals, a subsidiary of Nomura Group, acquired Thorn it subsequently passed to Terra Firma Capital Partners who set up the BrightHouse chain.

2007 The remainder of the company was sold to a private buyer in June 2007.

And Finally

Sir Jules was a noted philanthropist supporting many medical, educational, artistic and humanitarian charities and endeavours. A large number of legal and medical scholarships as well as museums carry his name. Sir Jules and his company Thorn, were true pioneers who left a mark on the world of industry and electronics.

Having covered the life and history of Sir Jules Thorn, his remarkable journey, lets now move on to cover what most of us here are interested in, namely the development of their Television chassis’.

Thorn TV Chassis Development Through the Decades.

Thorns place in the Television history books was rightfully earned. This Article will now show Thorn TV chassis development from 405-line Black and white thru B&W dual stand, Colour dual stand and finally colour single standard. Photos to follow

500 Series

600 Series

700 Phase II Series

waiting for exhibit

800 Series

waiting for exhibit

850 Series

waiting for exhibit

900 Series

950 MKI Series

waiting for exhibit

950 MKII Series

waiting for exhibit

960 Series

970 Series

waiting for exhibit

979 Series

waiting for exhibit

980 Series

981 Series

1400 Series

1417 Series

waiting for exhibit

1500 Series

1525 Series

waiting for exhibit

1540 Series

waiting for exhibit

1580 Series

1590 Series

1591 Series

waiting for exhibit

1600 Series

waiting for exhibit, assuming any survived the fires and purge.

1612 Series

waiting for exhibit

1613A Series

waiting for exhibit

1615A Series

1615B Series

1690 Series

1692 Series

waiting for exhibit

1694 Series

waiting for exhibit

2000 Series

3000 Series

No frontal shots as I have so many 3000 to choose from just hop on over to the collection pages to view various examples.

3500 Series

No frontal shots as I have so many 3000 to choose from just hop on over to the collection pages to view various examples.

4000 Series

8000 Series

8000A Series

This place holder will remain empty, unless someone has a specific example for inclusion. There’s little if no difference visually, between the 8000, 8000A & 8500. Circuit-wise the differences are detailed elsewhere on this site.

8500 Series

8800 Series

9000 Series

9600 Series

9800 Series

TX9 Series

TX10 Series

TX90 Series

waiting for exhibit

TX100 Series

Just as the CRT television industry came to an end, its a reminder that “all good things must come to pass”, likewise so must this article. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.

If you’ve had your taste buds tickled for more vintage domestic electronics, then you’ll find many more articles, brochures and magazines available up top. Why not visit the forum and follow various discussions and repairs, you might even consider joining us, registration takes but a couple of seconds.

The End


Time-line sources gleaned from: graces guide  wikipedia  radios-tv

Other Thorn articles at Radios-TV

Chassis Guide

Chassis Numbers






3 thoughts on “Thorn Electrical

  1. Nice to see a 1580! Not right that it has horizontal speaker grill slats though on 1580 they were vertical. That’s the easiest way to tell a 1580 from a 1590 at a distance. Some plastics have been swapped on that set, either just the controls moulding or possibly the whole front if there is also a redundant earphone socket hole.

    There was also a 1540 chassis. Schools and colleges set I think?

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