BICC Ltd

BICC Ltd was a cable manufacturing company, the result of the reconfiguration of British Insulated Callenders Cables Limited (BICC) in 1975.

Four operating divisions made up BICC Ltd: BICC Cables Ltd, BICC Industrial Products Ltd, BICC International Ltd, and Balfour Beatty Ltd.

In 1999, BICC Ltd sold its power cable making business to General Cable Corporation and its optical cable business to Corning. The remaining operating divisions became known as Balfour Beatty.

BICC Ltd has a long history with its roots in two earlier companies, Callenders Cable and Construction Co and British Insulated Cables.

William Ormiston Callendar founded his first company, Callender and Amos, in London in 1870. This business imported asphalt for road building. Callender dissolved this first company the following year and set up a new company, W O Callender, for the same purpose. In 1877, Callender obtained an interest in the import of bitumen from Trinidad for road-making and other waterproofing purposes. He brought his two eldest sons, Thomas and William, into business as refiners of bitumen and suppliers of asphalt for paving. He renamed the company Callender and Sons.

Thomas Callender travelled to Russia in 1880 and visited the electrically lit St Petersburgh Opera House. In order to exploit the developing market for electric lighting, he proposed turning the family business towards the production of large-capacity insulated cables. In 1881 William Callender patented vulcanised bitumen, for use as a cable insulator.

The family established Callender's Bitumen Telegraph and Waterproof Company in 1882, to finance the development of vulcanised bitumen, and built a new factory at Erith in Kent.

The success of the company meant that, by 1896, it had outgrown the its resources as Callender’s Bitumen Telegraph and Waterproof Company. The family incorporated Callender’s Bitumen Telegraph and Waterproof Company as a limited company and reconstructed it as Callenders Cable and Construction Co, registered on 24 July 1896.

In 1945, Callenders Cable and Construction Co merged with British Insulated Cables to form British Insulated Callenders Cables Limited (BICC).

British Insulated Cables Limited began its existence in 1890 as the British Insulated Wire Co of Prescot, near Liverpool. One of the company’s founders, J B Atherton, had attended a meeting where he heard a discussion on the importance of paper-insulated cables. This led to the founding of the British Insulated Wire Co. Around the same time, Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti was working on developing a paper-insulated power cable capable of transmitting electricity at 10,000 volts, for use at Deptford Power Station. Ferranti sold his invention to the British Insulated Wire Co and joined the board.

In 1902, the British Insulated Wire Co acquired the Telegraph Manufacturing Co Ltd and reconstituted as British Insulated and Helsby Cables. In 1925, the company changed its name to British Insulated Cables Ltd (BIC).

The 1945 merger of Callenders Cable and Construction Co with British Insulated Cables Ltd was prefigured by their joint research organisation, Cable Research, established in 1926.