History of the Murphy Radio Company

By Roger Filler

Murphy Radio Workshop 1930
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

On a wet day in 1928 Frank Murphy arrived at the WGC Estate Office and asked to see ‘some sort of workshop where radio experiments could be carried out’. He set himself up in a garage in Brockswood Lane before moving to a sectional factory site in Broadwater Road later that year. By the end of 1928 the workforce had increased from eight to seventy.
In 1930 Murphy launched its four valve portable wireless. It was something of a revolution, its chief merit being its extraordinary simplicity of control compared to its rivals in the market.

Growth

Initially, the workforce was seasonal, but very quickly demand increased and by 1932 the company announced a new factory which would double the output and by the following year Murphy’s were employing 500, producing some 33,000 radio sets a year. They had become one of the leading companies in the town and saw continued growth up the Second World War, when they were one of the big six in the radio world. During the war they produced thousands of radios for the armed forces.

With the advent of television, a decision was made in 1948 to build a completely new factory to incorporate TV production and work began on the site in Bessemer Road, opening in two phases, 1955 and 1959.

Rank Organisation

In 1962 the Rank Organisation took over Murphy Radio and the firm became Rank, Bush, Murphy. TV and radio production ceased in 1964 when the company expanded into electronics. In January 1969 the company announced they would be moving to Ware and the following year another Rank company Rank Xerox moved into the site. By the 1980s Rank Xerox employed a workforce of 1,400 producing electronic assemblies and materials for its copier divisions.

This page was added on 20/06/2009.

Comments about this page

  • My mother Ruth Parsons was a secretary to a manager and would have left in 1957 to have me.

    By Carl Passons (21/11/2017)
  • Murphy built HF/MF/LF/VLF receivers for the British Royal Navy, and in the early days, the receivers were fitted in small vessels surface and sub surface and also in larger vessels.

    HF/MF receiver B40 and the LF/VLF receiver B41 which the British Royal Navy called a CAY and a CAZ respectively. 

    In collectors circles they are fondly know as lighthouse receivers.

    I collect and restore military and naval radio sets, and my journey with Murphy began when I first came across a Murphy B40D tucked away in a garden shed in Cape Town.

    Since then my collection and knowledge has grown and I now focus solely on collecting and restoring B40, B41, B62 sets.

    l’m constantly on the lookout for Origional manuals, doccumentation, receivers, accessories etc .. 

    My contact detail : wotalark@gmail.com

    By Shawn Williams (27/03/2016)
  • I worked as secretary to the Productoon Manager from 1957 to 2001 when Rank Xerox UK moved.  When I originally joined it was Murphy Radios, and then Rank Bush Murphy in 1962 and then Rank Xerox in 1969.   The site remains today I believe.

    I worked 9:05am to 5pm for five days a week, and I travelled from Great Amwell near Ware. Long bike ride through Hertford (& Heath) before arriving to the huge factory on Bessemer Road. Bike racks were in the main car park and nobody bothered locking them up, just like cars were never locked back then.  We were all carefree back then obviously.  Clocking on and off was a busy period as everybody started at the same time practically. 

    My desk was adjacent to Enid’s desk, the stenographer. She operated the switchboard and was also the department receptionist. Busy lady was she.  I did much more than that  -  telephone calls, transcribing shorthand, typing, keeping an appointment diary and much more. The shorthand I learnt was Pitmans at school and then I used Teeline shorthand after it was introduced in 1970.  Lot more easier.  I did love shorthand dictation; it was my speciality!!

    By Howard Fendon (26/02/2016)
  • I wasn’t a resident of Welwyn Garden City but for a time when we lived nearby I worked as secretary to the Production Manager. That would be 1956 to 1957.  I remember a prompt start at 9:10am for me and I was always last to finish although I had four kids at home.   Staff canteen served lovely delicious lunches, and brought round a tea and coffee tray at 11:35am and you could count that they were always at my desk at that exact time every working morning.

    As someone else mentions ICI was also nearby and it caused massive hassle as buses were crowded of people trying to get to work. I lived in Royston so I had a long commute, and after arriving at the station I remember the footbridge was packed with commuters and I walked to work instead of catching a bus.  Always clocked in at the same time as others and it was bloody mayhem!!!!  Clocking off was easy, and then I caught the 407 bus from ICI to Hertford North station so I could get a quick ride home After work as the commute was long enough.

     

    I utilised my studying of typing and Gregg shorthand as a secretary at Murphy, and I had constant work to do.  When new recruits were hired it was my job to show them to their correct place within the company. I also had to show them how to correctly operate a telephone and also telephone courtesy for good customer service.  I remember having the stenographer at her desk next to me and her name was Enid.  

     

    Fun and intriguing memories of working there, and sadly they no longer exist.

     

    By Oswald Henson (26/02/2016)
  • i worked at bessemer road from 1960 to 1966.names i remember are. barry fry of football fame, john stride, ron ferguson,stan kelly, tony gardener and harry jenkins.

    By MICHAEL PICKER (01/11/2015)
  • Dad started working at Murphy Radios just before I started Peartree Primary in September 1949. He was in the Engineering Department fitting parts for about two years then he replaced the Fitting Supervisor for about 10 years. As a fitter he earned £3 a week, and then when he was Fitting Supervisor a whopping £10 a week. Dad went to Headway in 1961, then onto De Havilland in 1963. I remember Mum dropping me off at Peartree Primary then driving onwards up to Broadwater Road to Murphy’s factory (later to Bessemer Road) then to The Stores car park to work herself. At about 5:45 every weekday in the evenings, me and Mum got in the car and we went to pick up Dad.

    By George Boston (11/10/2015)
  • Dad worked there for 23 years as an engineer then as a production supervisor, before going to the Engineering Department of ICI. He worked from 9am to 6pm, 5 days a week. By 1947 he was earning £2 15/- a week which by 1955 was £5 a week and then by 1960 it was £11 a week.

    By George Stevens (10/08/2015)
  • I worked at Murphy Radio in Bessemer Road from 1959 to 1964. My dad also worked there, Bert (Jock) Nichols) also my sister worked in despatch which at that time was at Mill Green Camp¬†

    By Liz Hogg (Nee Nichols) (14/04/2015)
  • My wife, when we were married in 1954, worked at Murphy Radios. She worked from 8:30 am to 6pm and was paid £13 a week. She enjoyed her job there, that’s why she stayed there until 1960.

    By Joseph Peterson (31/03/2015)
  • My dad, from 1956 to 1965, worked at Murphy Radios as a fitter. I remember finishing work at Welwyn Department Stores then cycling over to Murphy Radios to meet my dad.

    By Wendy Johnson (31/03/2015)
  • As a kid I was told by my mother and grandmother that my uncle Harold Lampitt of Wolverton was a friend of Murphy and that they started off not long after the end of WW1 making crystal sets on the kitchen table at my grandmother’s house in, I believe, Cambridge St. I have a papier mashe draughts board with drill holes in the back of it where they used it to protect the table top when drilling holes for the components. Their “friendship” broke up for some reason and they went their separate ways. Murphy went on to become famous and my uncle opened a radio shop in Stratford Rd. near to Wolverton Station where it said over the shop “Your Murphy Radio Dealer”. My Uncle had been a merchant navy radio operator durinf WW1 and volunteered for the RAF in WW2 and became the CO of various radio op. training camps around the world including Egypt and India. He left his shop in the care of a couple of employees whose names I recall as George Trimmer and ? Gunston. ¬†

    By Bill Woodward (03/03/2015)
  • I remember getting a summer holiday job at Murphy Radio in Bessemer Road, it must have been around 1962. I was employed tuning and testing radio telephones used in taxis etc. It was my first experience of factory work, shortly before going to Bristol University. I remember being the butt of good natured fun by the older guys, but one thing that gobsmacked me was that one of the guys was a nazi sympathiser who claimed the holocaust never happened. I’d never come across anyone like that before, and thought that bizzarre! My other memory of that time was clocking off time, when hundreds of bycicles and cars would flood onto Bessemer Road, which was then a cul-de-sac ending at the old Hertford Railway Line. The junction with Bridge Road East was contolled by a policeman on point duty, and was pandemonium! There were buses put on for the workers which got jam packed, such as the 315 to Kimpton. Tewin Road did have a bridge under the railway but it was too low for normal double deckers, so the workers’ bus from Black Fan Road (ICI) to Woodhall Parade was the 330B and was operated by specially-built low-roof double deckers. In those days most people walked, cycled or caught a bus, so the busses were often very crowded. It was a totally different world!

    By Peter Douglas Cockbain (28/04/2013)
  • As a young teenager I used to enter an old long abandoned office above a shop in Hounslow with my tearaway friends. I found many old letters with stamps (which I collected) I also rescued a very old looking bound book. That book, currently sitting on my lap and smelling old, is called ‘Murphy News volume 12: Jan to June 1939’ It contains 12 (what passed as colour then) copies of the companies newsletter magazine, with many photos, diagrams and news. Most interestingly to me, articles talk about the oncoming war and it shows a London Underground wall advert stating ‘Television is coming! you cant avoid it!~” I treasure this and bow to my foresight against the odds of my unfortunate circumstances at the time. I rescued a national treasure.

    By Mark Joseph (09/03/2013)

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