George Kent Ltd

Founded in 1838,[1] George Kent Ltd was initially a manufacturer of household gadgets, then a manufacturer of munitions during World War One, and became the largest British manufacturer of instruments for Industrial control systems.[2]

George Kent Ltd
IndustryInstrumentation, Military, Domestic appliances
Founded1838; 183 years ago (1838)
SuccessorBrown Boveri Kent in 1974
Number of locations
Luton, St Neots
Key people
Walter George Kent
ProductsArtillery fuses, linear actuators, flow meters, ice boxes, clear view screens

Corporate historyEdit

The company was founded in 1838.[3]

The company was incorporated as a Limited Company in 1907,[1] and was managed by the founder's son Walter George Kent.

World War OneEdit

During World War One, Kent's had a factory in Luton with over 3,000 workers, mostly 'munitionettes', i.e. women producing fuses for artillery shells.[3] They were producing 140,000 shell fuses a week.[4] After the war, this grew to 5,000 workers.

International growthEdit

George Kent grew to have significant reach worldwide, including establishing a subsidiary in Malaysia in 1936.[5] Currently, as an independent organisation, the Malaysian company George Kent provide engineering and metering solutions in South-East Asia,[6] with a diverse set of activities including the integration of railways and the manufacture of water meters.

Acquisitions and George Kent GroupEdit

In 1968, George Kent Ltd acquired Fielden Electronics[7] and Cambridge Instrument Company[8][9][10] forming the George Kent Group. This was the UK's largest industrial instrument manufacturer. Tony Benn as Minister of Technology answered questions about the Cambridge Instruments takeover in Parliament.[11]

Fielden ElectronicsEdit

Fielden Electronics of Wythenshawe, Manchester produced a recorder known as the Servograph[12][13] and a capacitance-sensing proximity meter[14] alongside a variety of scientific instruments and process control devices.[15] These included the bikini[16] temperature controller, a temperature recorder,[17] and the E296[18] level controller.[19]

Acquisition by Brown BoveriEdit

An acquisition in 1974 of George Kent Group by Swiss instrument company Brown Boveri caused a rename to Brown Boveri Kent, along with the spin-out of company Scientific and Medical Instruments which eventually became Cambridge Instrument Company,[20] resurrecting that brand. Brown Boveri eventually merged with ASEA and is today the industrial giant ABB.

Notable productsEdit

Domestic equipmentEdit

Kent's breakthrough product was a knife sharpener, first available around 1850.[21][22] Later products included an ice cabinet, being a well-insulated damp-proof box suitable for storing meat and dairy products; a miniaturised one appeared in Queen Mary's Dolls' House.[23]

Industrial instrumentationEdit

Early Kent industrial products include water flow meters.[24] The company motto was "From drops to rivers".[25]

Power cylinders were first manufactured in the 1950s in Luton.[26] These are a type of linear actuator featuring a control loop where the position of the actuator is governed by some input pressure signal. Power cylinders continue to be manufactured, alongside similar linear actuators featuring digital control technology.[27]

Other itemsEdit

Kent's produced the clear view screen, a spinning transparent panel that provided visibility in wet weather. Kent also produced avionic equipment, including aircraft fuel gauges and fuel flow meters.[28]


  1. ^ a b "George Kent - Graces Guide".
  2. ^ "Kent – Heritage brand". ABB Group.
  3. ^ a b "George Kent's factory | Great War Stories".
  4. ^[bare URL]
  5. ^ "Corporate Profile – George Kent".
  6. ^ "George Kent".
  7. ^ "Fielden (Electronics) Limited | Science Museum Group Collection".
  8. ^ Cattermole, M.J.G. (1987). "The Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company from 1881 to 1968". IEE Proceedings A. 134 (4): 351. doi:10.1049/ip-a-1.1987.0054.
  9. ^ "Cambridge Instruments History".
  10. ^ "The early history of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company: 1878-1968". July 1988: 1–8. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ "George Kent and Cambridge Instruments (Takeover) - Monday 22 July 1968 - Hansard - UK Parliament".
  12. ^ "Industrial and Technological Information". Journal of the Textile Institute Proceedings. 47 (2): P158. 1956. doi:10.1080/19447015608665213.
  13. ^ "Fielden "Servograph" in timber case, English early 20th Century. 36cm. - Price Estimate: $80 - $120".
  14. ^ "Fielden (Electronics) - Graces Guide".
  15. ^ "Fielden Electronics Ltd | Science Museum Group Collection".
  16. ^[bare URL]
  17. ^[bare URL]
  18. ^[bare URL]
  19. ^[bare URL]
  20. ^ "Cambridge Instrument Co - Graces Guide".
  21. ^ "Kent's knife sharpening and cleaning-machine, c. 1905. | Science Museum Group Collection".
  22. ^ "Image of kent's knife sharpening and cleaning machine, c 1905. by Science & Society Picture Library".
  23. ^ "George Kent, Ltd - Ice safe".
  24. ^ "Flow Meter - George Kent LTD, Type A 'Orivent' Water Meter Recorder, No.1 Well, MMBW Spotswood Sewerage Pumping Station, 1923".
  25. ^[bare URL]
  26. ^ "Power Cylinder Products • the history of the Kent Power Cylinder".
  27. ^[bare URL]
  28. ^[bare URL]