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Our History



The Foundings

In May 1918, a soldier recently invalided out of the army set up in business in one room of a house at 76, Old Hall Street, Liverpool, with a capital of £600 commuted from his war disability pension.

The soldier’s name was Claude Lyons and his name was due to become a well known name in the electronics industry. It grew out of his one-man business originally dealing in minerals, metals and chemicals.

Claude Lyons had started his career as a chemical engineer and when he left the army in October 1917, he joined the firm of Philip and Lyon in London as a chemist engineer and buyer. In January 1918 he started a branch in Liverpool for Philip and Lyon but shortly after he decided to go into business on his own account.

The single room, for which he paid the handsome sum of 75s a quarter rent, was to become the registered office and northern area sales office of Claude Lyons Ltd.

Mr Claude Lyons photograph

The Expanding field of "Wireless"

Claude’s brother, Lewis, joined him in the business in November 1919, taking charge of the accounting and administrative side of the operation. Two years later, in 1921, the business was turned into a partnership.

Around that time, Claude joined the Liverpool Wireless Society and the firm’s connection with electronics began. Claude rapidly became one of the best-known personalities in the new and rapidly expanding field of the “wireless” and became friendly with Cedric Smith, an active member of the club and who later became Chief Engineer of Claude Lyons Ltd.

The first proper “wireless station” in Cheshire was built by Claude Lyons. It had a 130-foot-high wooden lattice mast in the garden of a private hotel in New Brighton.

Even in those days, the Americans were keeping a little ahead of the UK in the fields of new science were concerned, and Claude Lyons made many pen friends, corresponding with radio enthusiasts in the USA. He was particularly connected with the introduction of the super-heterodyne receiver to the UK.

Mr Lewis Lyons Archive Photograph

Lectures & Demonstration

During 1923 and 1924, he gave many lectures on radio and electronics in general, and the Super-het in particular, to Universities and Colleges all over the country. Cedric Smith usually accompanied him as a demonstrator. He authored “The ABC of the Super-Het”, published by the Manchester Evening Chronicle at the price of 6d (88pp + diagrams).

As a result of his search for improved components for building wireless receivers Claude became acquainted with Melville Eastham, the founder in 1915 of the General Radio Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Melville Eastham became at first the correspondent and adviser and a lifelong friend of Claude’s.

In 1923, when Melville Eastham was visiting London, he discussed with Claude the possibility of this company becoming the exclusive European agent for the range of precision instruments which General Radio were beginning to produce. A selection of instruments was shipped to England on consignment, and shortly afterwards Collinsons Precision Screw Company Ltd (now Colvern Ltd) became Claude Lyons’ first instrument customer.

Claude Lyons rating plate Liverpool England

The World's First

As far as is known this also made Claude Lyons the World’s first technical distributor of imported precision electronics instruments.

The firm was incorporated as Claude Lyons Ltd in 1927, the shareholders and management comprising Claude and Lewis Lyons, Cedric Smith and Alfred Kneen as Company Secretary.

A catalogue of May 1928 makes fascinating reading, at the time it was the most detailed and comprehensive catalogue of electronic instruments and components. It ran to 184 pages and was entitled “Getting the Most out of Radio – an Educational Catalogue of Quality Components and Accessories”.

Beside the products of such famous names as Belling-Lee, Clarostat, Colvern, Cyldon, Ferranti, General Radio and Igranic, there were listed the company’s own products including the Lyons BAT portable receiver.

This was a 2HF-Det-2LF instrument covering 200-600 metres and was only half the weight of competitive instruments.

An interesting product of the time was a range of battery eliminators, forerunners of the DC power supply units of today. They were the first to be made in Europe which used cold-cathode rectifiers.

By 1930, business in the southern part of the country had been exceeding that from the north to such an extent that in May the first London office was opened at 40 Buckingham Gate, SW1. Claude managed the London end of the business and Lewis the Liverpool end.

Claude Lyons London Office 40 Buckingham Gate

The "Variacs"

One of the fields in which Claude Lyons is best known is voltage control equipment, particularly “variacs”. They were the first company to introduce the variable transformers to the United Kingdom. Between 1933 and 1936 these devices were imported from the USA where they were invented, then subsequently British made items were factored. It is interesting that the price of an equivalent of a 1935 Variac rated at 0-270 V 1.5A rated. 2.5A maximum, the RB2 “Regulac” – was only 40/6 more.

Business in the south increased sufficiently to warrant a move to 180-182 Tottenham Court Road, London W1 in January 1939, where the company remained until the move to Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire in 1953.

During the war the company played a special role as the sole consignees on behalf of the British government of all electronic instrumentation, purchased by the UK Joint Buying Commission in Washington, when the company’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the American instrumentation field was thrown into the war effort. All the equipment was checked on arrival, repaired, recalibrated and sent out to the Ministry of Supply.

It was re-tested and a complete inventory of its location and use was made by the firm, who proclaim that not one instrument was lost or became unfit due to any failure on their part.

When the war ended the firm supervised the disposal of the instrumentation to universities and colleges and the sale to industries on behalf of the Ministry.

Lewis Lyons and Cedric Smith both died during the 1950’s and in 1964 Claude retired from his position as managing director and became a life director.

Vintage Regavolt Variable Transformer catalogue
Former Directors of Claude Lyons Group Ltd

Acquired by the Allendale Group

After nearly 100 years of trading the company ceased manufacturing in 2016.

In 2017, The Allendale Group Limited acquired Lyons Instruments Limited, together with the Registered trading names of Claude Lyons, Regavolt, TS, TEC and Bercostat.

The Allendale Group Limited have continued to support Claude Lyons legacy products for which they have stocks of the OEM components, as well as re-introducing some of the well known and still highly regarded products. This includes a new and totally redesigned Regavolt® range which now meets latest standards, an increased range of Portavolt variable transformers and most recently a new range of TS® Voltage Stabilisers, also meeting latest standards. Over 100 years in the business, Claude Lyons continue to design, manufacture and supply and support high quality products throughout the World.

The Allendale Group Warehouse Logo.

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