OXLEY – THE NEXT SIXTY YEARS
By Julian Nettlefold
27 Jun 08. Oxley Developments is a unique and remarkable Company; it first caught my eye when I worked for Defence Magazine in the eighties. It took a small segment in our annual Defence diary outlining its capabilities, which, even then appeared to be technically ahead of the opposition. Since then, again uniquely for a small to medium electronics Company, Oxley has survived the technology shocks on world stock markets and competition from much larger and better funded Plcs. Thus, when I started BATTLESPACE in 1998, I chose Oxley to be the first Company we featured in our Company Overview section. That visit in 1998 turned into a relationship between Oxley and BATTLESPACE which endures to this day. Thus, in our tenth year and the sixty sixth for Oxley, we visited in May for another look. Remarkably, very little has changed outwardly, but within, Oxley appears to have been able to successfully focus on developing some of their core technologies in order to expand into new markets and applications for defence systems.
The one recent black spot was the sudden and unexpected death of Dr Geoff Edwards in March who steered the Company as Managing Director for 15 years having joined Oxley as a Technical Manager in 1972. His successor, Peter Cotterill has grasped the nettle of change and as we will see from this feature, Oxley is well placed to meet the challenges of the next sixty years.
Another key figure, is Freddie Oxley’s widow Ann Oxley, now Life President of Oxley Group Ltd, who, after Freddie Oxley died in 1988 decided to take over the management of the Company and has staunchly steered Oxley from that day on, to the international company it is today. This includes a strong U.S. presence with Oxley Inc. established in 1976, operations in Australia and various technology partnerships around the world.
History of Oxley
It is worth looking at the history of Oxley to understand the uniqueness of the Company, its technology and its employees.
Oxley Developments was founded by Freddie Oxley (1909-1988) in 1939, who was, in his own words, ‘…a physicist by training; an engineer and inventor by vocation and a businessman by necessity’. He was born on August 16th 1909 in Antwerp, of English parents, related to the family of Florence Nightingale. It was the gift of a pocket torch by his German uncle which sparked his interest in things electrical. He published his first article aged 16 in the French wireless magazine L’Antenne. After his first real job with Celestion in Paris, he accepted a tempting offer from the Telegraph Condenser Company (TCC) in London where he rose to become Export Manager, speaking five languages fluently by his early twenties.
When World War II broke out, Freddie Oxley started his own company designing and manufacturing components for the communications industry. At the time of the German offensive in May 1940, he was instructed by the Ministry of Aircraft Production to arrange the supply of essential capacitors for the war effort. He located a supplier in Paris who had a stock of German-made ceramic capacitor parts used in the British radar network. Just before the fall of Paris in 1940, he was sent there by the Ministry on a special mission from Hendon, paid cash for the complete stock and carried it back to England, thus ensuring the supply of vital components for the British radar and military communications systems.
His London workshop and office were razed during the 1940 Blitz, and, as his work was of vital national importance, the Ministry of Aircraft Production instructed him to move to an area safe from German bombs. So he arrived in Ulverston in the Lake District where he established a factory in the Market Place – the building still stands today.
In the early fifties, having outgrown this premises, the Company moved to its current location at Priory Park, where he established a complete in-house capability for making c