Ekco radio

The architect, Wells Coates, designed the first in the series of this radio but who continued the series?

Ekco radio
case solved
Case number - AIBDC : 006891
An Ekco type A22 radio manufatured by E.K. Cole of Southend-on-Sea in 1945. This model has a 360 degree tuning dial, the case is of 'Walnut' bakelite and it has a 'Florentine bronze' loud speaker surround. This was the last of a series of five round designs by E.K. Cole, the first one, the AD-65, having been desinged by architect Wells Coates in 1932. In 1945 the A22 was shown in a moulded green cabinet, a one-off non standard colour produced specially for the Britain Can Make It exhibition.
View more images on the MoDiP site
DesignerUnknown - Wanted
ManufacturerE K Cole
CountryUK
Date1945
Dimensionsheight 360 mm, width 335 mm, depth 200 mm
Materialsplastic, bakelite - generic term, PF, phenol formaldehyde, Perspex, acrylic, PMMA, polymethyl methacrylate
Methodcompression moulded
Colourbrown
href=" http://10most.org.uk/artefact/ekco-radio"

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30/05/14

Ekco radio AIBDC : 006891 This object is part of a trial to see if giving specific guidance on research methods makes the game a more successful means of obtaining information about the objects featured. Such a modern design so its interesting that the phenol formaldehyde, better known as Bakelite. has an old-fashioned walnut effect. It's based on a stunning design by Wells Coates but we want to know who it was that continued the series. Books and websites on the hstory of radios may well have the answer as may people at Southend Museum where Ekco was located. Follow the investigation here: http://10most.org.uk/artefact/ekco-radio.

30/05/14

This is Wells Coates postwar design 1950-1.

30/05/14

correction , this was first shown at the 'Britain Can Make It Exhibition ' at the V&A 1946. when full scale production started maybe Southend Museum will know from their records. When I joined Ekco Industrial Design Studio in early 1951 it was in production then.

30/05/14

Designed by Wells Coates. First produced 1945. See - http://www.classicwireless.co.uk/ekcol.htm

31/05/14

Thank you David and Ian for your comments. I love the bright green version done we believe especially for the Britain Can Make It Exhibition. MoDiP acquired the radio recently. Professor Sir Christopher Frayling chose it as his My Plastic object. One of my colleagues catalogued it and I think they will have had good reasons for thinking that a designer in addition to Wells Coates was involved. I have waiting to hear from them on that.

31/05/14

I would be most interested to see re " designer in addition to Wells Coates was involved " Coloured thermosetting moulded sets often suffered from stress cracking due to internal temperatures from valves etc & cold air passing over the outer surface. Black & brown phenolic was very much stronger material, also buyers preferred the walnut effect because it was more suited to the furniture of the period.

31/05/14

The Britain Can Make It Exhibition green A22 was mottled. These two red and green A22 cabinets were produced in urea formaldehyde for use at trade exhibitions.

01/06/14

A lovely red one too. No, the MoDiP one has a walnut finish. I find it hard to believe that that would have been Wells Coates's choice.

01/06/14

A couple of context photos from The Bulletin of the British Vintage Wireless Society March 1988.

01/06/14

British Industries Fair 1935.

08/06/14

What wonderful images they are. Fabulous...but if only they did not pre-date colour photography.... My colleagues have now got back to me. They have no positive evidence one way or the other as to whether Wells Coates was involved in this particular version of the radio. I find it odd that after those wonderfully coloured versions he should sanction one imitating walnut. Does anyone have any views on that?

08/06/14

The coloured cabinets were experimental prototypes only used for exhibition purposes. They were never meant to be manufactured. The green onyx cabinet was put into production but, along with the pearl ivory, was an instant commercial failure - only very few were made. The general public wanted the security of their radio cabinets to look as if made of wood. This from Tom Going, (written about the 30s but in this case also applicable to the 40s) -

09/06/14

Very interesting, Ian. Thank you so much.

09/06/14

David, at the start of this you said that it was designed by Wells Coates. Did you say that because you know he had to do with this particular version of the design or were you making an assumption? Sorry to be so ferret like about this...! It would be wonderful to call it solved. Do you think we can?

10/06/14

I was at at E.K.Cole Ltd ( 1951) when Wells Coates was presenting designs in the final period under contract. As a young designer I was familiar with most of Wells Coates work before joining EKCO , from Southend Art School. Upon becoming part of the Industrial Design Studio under J.K.White the chief designer I absorbed every thing possible about the Wells Coates designs for the Company . There were I recollect some nine variations of the AD 65 (1934 - 1945 ) The moulding tools were made in such a way that changes could be undertaken without incurring major tool costs. I believe all design changes were undertaken by Wells Coates and were his work alone. Finally this question of colour. Chermaff & Wells Coates first choice was always black phenolic with chrome plated trim . This suited the modernist's , whilst mottled walnut was the preferred for traditional home market interior . The first real use of primary colours and mid grey , stunned most of us who visited the Festival of Britain 1951. We were living in a drab post-war period which the Festival of Britain showed what could be aimed for……………. David Harman Powell

19/06/14

David that is fantastic testimony. We will on your say so give it to Wells Coates. You are a star. Thank you.

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Case notes

Susan Lambert's picture

Ekco radio: Case AIBDC : 006891

This object is part of a trial to see if giving specific guidance on research methods makes the game a more successful means of obtaining information about the objects featured.

Such a modern design so its interesting that the phenol formaldehyde, better known as Bakelite. has an old-fashioned walnut effect.  It's based on a stunning design by Wells Coates but we want to know who it was that continued the series. Books and websites on the hstory of radios may well have the answer as may people at Southend Museum where Ekco was located. 

Walnut finished radios exhibited beside brightly coloured ones at th British Industries Fair of 1935

01/06/14

Thank you, Chief Agent Holdsworth, for this stunning image. The capiton says: 'Radio cabinets and other mouldings on display on the Ecko stand at the British Industries fair of 1935. Cabinets inclded ones in simulated walnut, green onyx, pearl ivory amd black with chrome trim'. What a splendid sight it must have been.

The case is solved: it was designed by Wells Coates

10/06/14

Special Agent Harman Powell was a young designer at Ekco at the end of the period when Wells Coates was presenting designs there under contract. He tells us that there were 9 variations of this radio between 1934 and 1945 and that the moulding tools were made in such a way that changes could be made without incurring major costs.  Wells Coates' preference was for black phenolic with chrome plated trim. The walnut finish of the MoDiP example was aimed at the more traditional home market. He also says that he was stunned when he saw bright colours at the Festival of Britain in 1951. It showed 'what could be aimed for...'. To read Harman Powell's text please go to the evidence locker.

Case solved

Designer: Wells Coates

Participating agents: David Harman Powell and Ian Holdsworth