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The Plessey company was founded in 1917 in Marylebone, central London. The original shareholders were Thomas Hurst Hodgson, C.H. Whitaker, Raymond Parker and his brother Plessey Parker. A talented German engineer, William Oscar Heyne was employed by the company. Heyne later became the Managing Director and Chairman of Plessey and was one of the key figures in the development of Plessey during the 1920s and 30s. The company moved to Cottenham Road in Ilford early in 1919 (and then to Vicarage Lane where it remained). In 1925 the original company was wound up and a new one formed with a greater share capital. Most of the early work carried out by the company was mechanical engineering rather than electronics.

During the 1920s Plessey began to diversify into electrical manufacturing. Important contracts included the manufacture of early radios for Marconi and the production of telephones for the GPO. Because of the increased production, Plessey moved to Vicarage Lane Ilford in 1923. In 1929 the television pioneer John Logie Baird had his first production televisions produced by Plessey. The company also produced the first British made portable battery radio in the same year.

The manufacture of electrical components also became a key area of growth for Plessey. A vast array of different components were manufactured by the company, many under licence from overseas companies. Plessey became one of the largest manufacturers in this field as the radio and television industries grew. In 1936/7 turnover was more than ₤1 million and Plessey became a public company on 17 March 1937.

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