By Aisling O’Malley, IET Archivist
The UK summer conjures images of barbecues with family and friends, relaxing days on the beach, and the overzealous sunbather’s burnt skin. Yet, a UK summer is not complete without a sports day. The IET Archives holds photographs from the Standard Telephones & Cables (STC) factory at New Southgate, that includes images of sports and leisure activities held for the employees and their families.
The STC, the British telephone, telegraph, radio, telecommunications, and related equipment manufacturer started out life in London in 1883 as International Western Electric before it changed its name in 1925, marking a change in ownership. The New Southgate factory site was bought in 1922 and developed in the following years to manufacture telephone and radio equipment.
During the Second World War, the STC concentrated on producing military radar and radio navigation equipment, bomb guidance devices and ground-controlled aircraft landing systems. The London factories were able to continue with uninterrupted production due to its safeguarding measures, even when sites, such as New Southgate and its headquarters at Connaught House, were subject to V1 bomb attacks.
By the end of the 1960s, the STC had further diversified having been involved in the production of the transatlantic submarine cables TAT-1, produced the general-purpose digital computer the Stantec ZEBRA, and created fibre optic cables which increased the amount of information which could be carried by a single cable.
Although the STC’s focus changed throughout its many years of operation, its commitment to staff welfare remained evident in the social activities and clubs provided by the STC. The above image of two men wrestling on a pole above a small pool, comes from the New Southgate sports day in 1960, an annual event where staff could showcase their athleticism. Other images in the collection show people taking part in athletic races, skipping competitions, a tug of war and children participating in a sack race. By 1964, the annual sports day was altered to incorporate side shows, displays, and attractions to encourage attendance. Evidently, this was successful as the yearly Gala continued into the last years of the STC.
When looking at the history of the STC focus is often on its contribution to engineering. These images provide a valuable insight into the social aspect of the STC and the organisation’s attention to staff welfare.