Most electrical retailers just retail, possibly also doing a certain amount of repair work on the items they sell. A small percentage is involved additionally in electrical contracting. Not one has ever dabbled in so many facets of the electrical/electronics industry as CandL.

They were electrical contractors from the start. Over the years they were responsible for the temporary/permanent floodlighting of York Minster, its Guildhall and Mansion House as well as several churches. Many of the larger retail, commercial and industrial properties, not to mention a large percentage of the pubs, all had electrics installed and maintained by CandL.

They also did some manufacturing, which is dealt with in the CandL Golden Book.

Then there were the one-offs or at any rate small quantities. An early advert offered to “Supply, fit, install and wire up a “Fish and Chip” sign for £5”. This illuminated sign made by CandL was two feet long and 18 inches tall, had a strong wood frame, was covered in sheet iron and came with a scrollwork bracket for wall mounting.

In 1950 the Goodramgate Traders decided to finance the Christmas lighting of their street and it fell to CandL to carry out this work. In addition to coloured lights all along the street they built and mounted a GOODRAMGATE sign the full width of the street at the King’s Square end which was plainly visible from Parliament Street.

For factories wanting music-while-you-work sound systems, RAF stations wanting radio diffusion systems in the living quarters, the university requiring specialist recording facilities,  churches hoping to enable their congregations to hear the priest’s every word, etc CandL would produce custom built racks (see right).

As part of the design of the office for the new service department opened in 1956 CandL came up with the idea of a rotating core (which would hold the binders containing the service histories) to the purpose built desk. This enabled up to six people to access records without moving around or disturbing anyone else. The design was centred around a scrap lorry brake drum and stub axle bought from Ken Tye’s scrapyard on Hull Road. The system worked amazingly well and eventually there were ten such desks used by CandL for stock control, credit and rental accounting as well as service work. Executives of the East Midlands Electricity Board visiting CandL service department on a trade open day were so impressed with them that they ordered a batch for use in their offices (see above).

From the 1930s Candl had provided (and usually manned) public address equipment for outdoor events. Horn loudspeakers (about five feet long and mounted on tripods), valve based amplifiers and petrol fuelled electric generators formed the basis of the system. By the late fifties 60 watt transistorised amplifiers which could run for a whole day on one car battery became available. It was time for a re-think. CandL set to and built an audio rack to accommodate four 60 watt transistorised amplifiers and four microphone pre-amplifiers (of CandL design and build) which could either be operated on the rack or from the microphone locations if they were some distance away (this had the advantage of reducing interference).

The pre-amps had a tailored frequency response to improve speech intelligibility. The horn loudspeakers were demoted to use at small events and replaced with three Pamphonic 6 foot column loudspeakers mounted on scaffold poles. The whole outfit was driven to the venue by a Bedford van with a CandL made roof rack which doubled as a support for the speakers. The advantage of these speakers was that they concentrated the sound into a shallow beam with a horizontal spread of about 120 degrees. This meant that the three could cover a large area from one spot. They did yeoman service at many point-to-points and numerous other outdoor events.

Pictured Left - 1958 Cyclists Rally - York Knavesmire.

In the late fifties men needed a lot of persuasion to switch to electric shavers and what better way than to let them try one out. But if shavers were put on open display they would quickly disappear. CandL came up with an answer – Thiefoil (pictured, right being demonstrated by Bob Binks). When the shavers, up to four in number, were plugged into this device a very loud alarm sounded if anyone tried to remove one.

Using Thiefoil enabled CandL to sell a large quantity of shavers without risk of stock disappearing. Mark 2 and 3 versions made in the seventies similarly protected transistor radios and video recorders.

Maybe because CandL staff were heavy handed, or possibly because the units were used so much, but commercial intercoms and paging systems never lasted very long at CandL. The solution was obvious – they built their own. The Transicall (pictured, left) was a 30 way intercom to enable conversations between office staff and all service engineers at their benches. The paging amplifier, based on CandL’s Ren-Tel 10 watt amplifier could cover selected areas or the whole of the Walmgate site. Very useful for locating people who had gone walk-about.

In 1960 CandL bought a black-and-white television camera from EMI to be used for publicity stunts. A few weeks later the chap who had sold CandL the camera rang up to ask if they would be interested in helping out EMI at the launch of the RMS Empress of Canada (pictured right) at the Vickers-Armstrong yard, Walker-on-Tyne. This 27,284 ton ship was built for the Canadian Pacific Steam Ship Ltd. She was sold to Carnival Cruise Line in 1972 and renamed Mardi Gras. In 1993 she was sold again, this time Epirotiki who renamed her several times, finally settling on Apollon. They were contracted to provide CCTV and were a bit short of gear and personnel to install it. It was the start of a lengthy combined operation.

The two most prestigious jobs were the launch of HMS Dreadnought (the first British atomic submarine - pictured right) at Barrow in Furness and the official opening at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Bedford of the HSST (a supersonic wind tunnel which blows air at mach 5.5 and 4 atmospheres pressure through a 4 ft by 3 ft specimen chamber - pictured below).

The super-sonic wind Tunnel at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Bedford - 1961

These two jobs gave a wonderful insight into British security or lack of it in the sixties.  

The launch of the Dreadnought  took place on the 21st October 1960. So Denys decided to travel to Barrow in Furness on the previous  Sunday to take all the required gear and having decided on its location, install and hopefully test it out. Any snags and he could bring replacement gear when he returned on launch day. Denys, accompanied by Vera, arrived at the shipyard in the early afternoon and went to the gatehouse to ask a security man where the post launch lunch would take place. Having given Denys instructions he then asked if Denys would like a gang of labourers to unload all the gear. Denys gratefully accepted the offer and a gang duly arrived and did all the unloading. Having completed their task they asked if Denys had had a look at Dreadnought. He replied that there was no way he would be allowed anywhere near the submarine. The labourers said that if he wanted a look around  they would arrange it with their friends still working on the sub. At no point did anyone ask for identification or to examine what was in the cardboard boxes in a van which had no connection with the firm (EMI) who were contracted to do the CCTV.

When Big John asked Denys to assist with the CCTV at the official opening of the HSST (high supersonic speed tunnel) wind tunnel at the RAE (Royal Aircraft Establishment) Bedford Denys assumed it would be on the same site as the huge airship hangars, then part of Bedford RAF Station, which he remembered from his undergraduate days, when had cycled from Cambridge to marvel at their size. However  when he drove into RAF Bedford, having been waved in by the guards on duty, he could see no building which was likely to be a wind tunnel, so he went into the officers' mess to ask for help. A very obliging young officer directed him to a site a few miles distant. 

This second site looked more promising with a building he felt could well be a wind tunnel, although he had never previously seen one. The receptionist inside the building confirmed it was indeed a wind tunnel albeit that she had no knowledge of an official opening ceremony. Nevertheless Denys began unloading his gear. As he took the third load into the building he was stopped by a man who said he was the director of the site and demanded to know what the ----- was going on. Denys told his story only to be informed that this site was part of Hawker Siddeley and had been running for eighteen months. However the site director did give Denys precise directions to RAE. So Denys set off again in search of the elusive wind tunnel, north up the A6 and then  right at a road sign saying RAE Private Road and along a straight inclined road cut deep into the steeply rising land until on reaching the end of the incline and coming to a huge plain, there was a scene which could have come from a sci-fi movie. Stretched out before him was a line of eight wind tunnels set in an enormous grassed area which was enclosed by a high barbed wire fence. Arriving at what appeared to be the only gate in the fence he stopped, gave his spiel to the gatehouse security guard who straightway showed him the route to the HSST.  Denys had finally arrived at the right spot.

Towards the end of a morning's unloading and setting up his gear Denys was approached by the deputy director of the whole site asking where he intended to eat. Denys said he and Vera wanted to eat in the RAE's canteen, if that was possible, which would save the time and hassle involved in driving into Bedford in search of sustenance. "The food is dreadful there" said the deputy director, "Why not come with me to the airfield where the food is much better".So that is what they did, being saluted by the guards at the various security gates along the way. Driving along the perimeter track of the airfield (which is adjacent to the wind tunnel site) the deputy director spotted that Denys seemed very interested in the line of aircraft (all of which were on the secret list at the time) parked on the dispersal points and asked if Denys would like a look around them, adding that the airfield's deputy director was a good friend of his, so he was sure a close inspection could be arranged.

In June 1961 Denys and wife, Vera, together with Big John (their EMI contact and so called because of his large stature) and his assistant returned to the Vickers-Armstrong Shipyard at Walker, Newcastle to prepare for the launch of SS Northern Star, a 24,731 ton ocean liner built for the Shaw, Savill and Albion Line (pictured, left). This time the action was away from the shipyard.

At lunchtime on the first day the four of them set out to find a pub where they could eat. Unfortunately every pub they found was “men only” and eventually they ended up in the canteen of a Salvation Army hostel where the food was basic and the drinks non-alcoholic, much to the disgust of Big John. 

On the morning of the third day Big John was late in arriving at the yard and when he did arrive he was not his normal ebullient self. Eventually the reason for his moroseness emerged. After dinner on the previous evening he had retired to the hotel lounge where he ordered a crate of beer from the barman and then sat down in a quiet corner to sup his way through the dozen bottles. Some time after the bar had closed and its steel shutters had been lowered there was commotion as the local chief hoodlum with his entourage of dollybirds and minders appeared. They created general mayhem until a very frightened barman arrived and opened up the bar. The hoodlum ordered champagne which duly arrived in a bucket with a plentiful supply of ice. Seeing Big John in the corner of the room the hoodlum invited  him to join the party. Big John politely refused saying champagne was not his tipple and he was very happy with his beer, but the hoodlum persisted much to the annoyance of Big John who eventually snapped. He picked up the ice bucket, threw away the bottle of champagne, then upturned the bucket and thrust it over the hoodlum’s head and finally hammered it firmly down with both fists. As the hoodlum cried out in pain as a mixture of melted ice and blood dripped from the bucket onto his expensive suit Big John retired to bed. 

Sometime later after the police had been called, who in turn had called the fire brigade to cut the ice bucket from the hoodlum’s head, there was a knock on Big John’s bedroom door. The police wanted a statement. For a whole host of very different reasons it was not in the interest of any of the parties involved to take the matter further. The ship launch went ahead on the 27th June 1961 with the EMI/CandL gear performing to perfection.

CandL later modified their camera by adding a three lens turret with viewfinder and a sound channel. The whole system (pictured, right being operated by Ron Thompson) was hired to many electrical retailers in the UK.


In 1973 it was fifteen years since the great King’s Square showroom extension and refit had taken place. Time for an update. This time it was to be a DIY job. With help from Denys’ in-laws, who did most of the woodwork, CandL built a whole new interior – contemporary and fit-for-purpose.

The “transistor bar” (see above) was a first floor showroom dedicated to radios and portable cassette recorders. They were all on display behind counters on which they would be demonstrated by staff. How things have changed!

In 1977 an inspector from Health and Safety tried to impose their dangerous edicts on CandL’s service department. The latter responded by devising an electronic safety unit far in advance of any available. If any even remotely dangerous situation arose it would cut off all electrical supplies to the bench, being over fifty times more sensitive than the leakage trips currently installed in all new homes. It had the added advantage of detecting faults which for various reasons had never previously been found. The rule book was subsequently modified.