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Contents:

Presentation about 2LO, the BBC's first transmitter
Demolition of the BBC Radio 3 MF transmitter mast at Dodford
Droitwich transmitting station being constructed in 1934
BBC Transmission Reunion
BBC Transmission: Aiming at the Future
Television arrives in Northern Ireland
Divis Antenna replacement 1992
Wenvoe Open Day - 1965
Holme Moss Open Day - 24 April 1961
Equipment Department

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Presentation about 2LO, the BBC's first transmitter
 

This is a presentation given by Martin Ellen on 14th November 2002 (the BBC's 80th birthday), at premises used by the Science Museum in London. A week earlier the transmitter was donated to the Science Museum by the joint owners: the BBC and Crown Castle (a company that was formed as a result of BBC Transmission being privatised in 1997).

This video is published with kind permission from the Science Museum, which was responsible for the production.

 


 

Demolition of the BBC Radio 3 MF transmitter mast at Dodford

 

When the BBC's Third Programme started in 1950 it was transmitted from a new mast at Dodford, near Daventry in Northamptonshire, England. It became redundant in 1978 and was demolished in 1985.

This film, made by the Technical Operations section of the BBC's Engineering Training Department, was contributed to BBCeng by George Bath.

Click here for more information (in a large article on Daventry that was contributed by Don Bowman).


 

Droitwich transmitting station being constructed in 1934

 

"The world's most modern long wave transmitter" being built in 1934.

(Click here for a very good article on Droitwich Tx.)

The film was contributed to BBCeng as a result of help from Neil Wilson of the Washford Radio Museum, John Phillips, Jeff Cant and Dave Porter.

© BBC (Publication Policy)

The original film was 14 minutes long but it has been edited down to just under 10 minutes by Martin Ellen in order to avoid having to split it before uploading to YouTube.  The commentary has not been cut, but some relatively unimportant scenes have been shortened (e.g. a bucket being hauled up the side of the building). [A new version will be uploaded in due course as a few short gaps in the sound appeared after rendering!]

Sound by E.A. Pawley, who later became editor of the book BBC Engineering 1922-1972.



BBC Transmission Reunion
 

On Wednesday 31st October 2007, 149 people attended the first BBC Transmission reunion.

This video of the event was made by Graham Smith.

© TSR Video Productions (Publication Policy).


BBC Transmission: Aiming at the Future

In 1987 the Transmission Engineering and Transmission Operations departments merged to become "BBC Transmission" and a new headquarters building was established at Warwick.  In the run up to this, Transmission Engineering had been formed from Transmitter Capital Projects Department and the Projects part of Communications Department.  Also Transmission Operations had been formed from Transmitter Operations and the Operations part of Communications Department (although the latter subsequently moved to another part of the BBC).

In 1988 the possibility of privatisation emerged and, in this context, it was decided that a video should be made to help people appreciate the scale and diversity of activities carried out by BBC Transmission.  The budget was tight and the video needed to be produced by people with a good appreciation of broadcast engineering.  Fortunately two BBC Transmission engineers based at Lerwick had the necessary professional experience, expertise and equipment, so they were commissioned to make the video.  John Waters and Andy Long visited representative sites around the UK and the result, with narration by John Fergusson, can be seen below.

The video was made in 1990 and as a result of privatisation in 1997 the copyright was transferred.
It is now owned by: VT Communications and National Grid Wireless.
Their permission for publication on www.bbceng.info in 2007 is gratefully acknowledged (Publication Policy).

Part 1 Part 2

Divis - The Movies!

Contributions provided by Norman Marsden, ex-EiC Lisnagarvey
(where he was also responsible for other sites in NI, including Divis)

 

Television arrives in Northern Ireland

The BBC set up the first television transmitter in Northern Ireland at Glencairn, a GPO receiving station just down the hill, on the Belfast side, from Divis Mountain.  This temporary mobile transmitter was one of a number set up in the UK in 1953 to give coverage of the coronation broadcast, in advance of permanent transmitters being built.  In 1954 the BBC made and broadcast a television programme about this transmitting station and the initial building of its permanent replacement site at Divis. 

© BBC (Publication Policy).

Video edited for bbceng.info by Martin Ellen.

On seeing this video David Savage commented: "I visited the trailer parked by the Glencairn Road around the start of transmissions. As I recall, it was equipped with two ex-US Army transmitters which had been modified to handle TV vision and sound. The modifications were said to have been developed by Francis McLean working on one in his garage, thereafter referred to as Uncle Mac's Shack. There is a nice shot of one of Gordon Parker's Type B Waveform Monitors which had been designed before any one had even heard the word Tektronix."

Divis Antenna replacement 1992

The UHF antenna and cylinder replacement involved using a temporary UHF antenna.  As this resulted in reduced coverage for a few weeks, the NI region put out announcements and a ‘trailer’ warning of the event and explaining the necessity of the work. These raw unedited shots were made as part of the publicity (only a few seconds were actually broadcast).  The video was put together by Peter Melly an ex-transmitter engineer who transferred to Belfast studios.

© BBC (Publication Policy).

Video edited for bbceng.info by Martin Ellen.

Click for information on Specific Transmitter Sites.


Wenvoe Open Day - 1965

A film by Norman Marsden

This silent film, shot on super 8mm film, is of variable quality but shows an example of the one of the last transmitter open days to be held.  Colour television was being broadcast on BBC2 but only in experimental service (full service commenced in 1967) and many people had never seen a colour TV set which may explain the huge numbers of visitors.

© Norman Marsden (Publication Policy).

Click for information on Specific Transmitter Sites.

Notable scenes:

  • Queue of visitors in late morning.
  • External views (the white cylinders on the ground were part of the transmitting antennas for Pontypridd, Aberdare and Kilvey Hill relays).
  • General external view with OB vans on site.
  • Clive Hosken (rigger), Dave Jagger (TMT Leader) in the ‘Skyclimber’.
  • By mid afternoon the queue of visitors had grown enormously as shown in this shot from the roof of the building.
  • A television camera being inspected.
  • EiC Jack Broadbent talks to SME Pete Thomas and Ron Weaver.  No doubt the subject is how to cope with the number of visitors!
  • AEiC Dave Sandbrook with (unknown) and Jack Broadbent.
  • Clive Hosken and TA Cliff ??
  • Engineer Ron Weaver (later transferred to Cardiff studios) sets up a camera.
  • A Dalek on loan from TV Centre was an added attraction.  It turned out to be very useful in enticing visitors out of the colour theatre where there was serious congestion, as they wanted to stay and watch the colour TV pictures!.
  • Dalek revealed! Engineer Alan Davies with son(s?) show how the dalek is operated. Norman Marsden tried this himself and says that he takes his hat off to anyone who can control this fiendish contraption!

TMT  = Transmitter Maintenance Team
EiC    = Engineer in Charge
AEiC  = Assistant Engineer in Charge
SME  = Senior Maintenance Engineer
TA    = Technical Assistant
Dalek = A fictional extraterrestrial race of mutants from the British science fiction television series Doctor Who!

Norman Marsden transferred the 8mm film to VHS tape some years ago and then, in 2007, transferred the VHS recording to DVD-RAM mpeg files using a Panasonic DVD recorder in ‘standard play’ quality (about 4Mb/s).  He then transferred the DVD-RAM file to PC hard disc using VideoReDo plus which replaces/repairs any lost frames and time code tags.  After receiving the file on DVD, Martin Ellen edited it using Pinnacle Studio and uploaded it to bbceng on YouTube.


Holme Moss Open Day - 24 June 1961

The first television transmitter for the North of England was built at Home Moss and it opened on 12 October 1951.  Over the next ten years a large proportion of the 13 million people in its service area started to enjoy watching television for the first time, and nearly 8000 of them were so fascinated by the new technology that they visited the transmitting station during its open day on 24 June 1961. 

The event was captured on film and it is now available for viewing on this web site.  You will see that this is not a professional BBC production, but it gives a good flavour of the day. 

I do not know who produced the film.  If you know then please tell me so that I can give due credit on this web site.
Click here to see relevant information from John Ames.

© ? (Publication Policy).

Click for information on Specific Transmitter Sites.

 

Judging by the technical quality, I expect that it was shot on Standard 8 cine film using a hand held camera.  At some point it was transferred to video and I received it on a VHS cassette*, complete with commentary.  The cassette starts with a higher quality monochrome film of people looking at the television transmitter itself and this was probably produced by the BBC TV News cameraman who is mentioned in the commentary.

I edited the film for this web site in order to:-

  1. Incorporate monochrome scenes of people looking at the transmitter.
  2. Synchronise the commentary with the scenes.  (It is a good commentary, but in those days it was very difficult to edit pictures and sound without professional equipment. This probably explains why the commentary was out of synchronisation.)
  3. Remove brightness fluctuations following scene changes (possibly caused by the camera exposure meter or film splicing).
  4. Remove dark areas around the edge of the picture.  (By cropping the picture.)
  5. Improve colour balance and brightness.

Despite this, the technical quality is poor.  Also, some of the scenes are a bit meaningless but I have retained them to go with the sound track, which is virtually unedited.

The North of England is renowned for its brass bands, so perhaps this explains the choice of background music.  The commentary, by someone with a good 'northern' accent, is quite amusing and it captures the mood of the day very well.
I hope you enjoy it. ME

* Thanks are due to Mike Salmon who sent me the VHS tape in about 1995 when he was responsible for Holme Moss and many other transmitter sites in the North of England.

Information related to the Holme Moss Open Day film from John Ames:

I think that the voice over is Joe Eastwood, but, like the film, my memory is fading fast!  Others that I can identify, with approximate timing of their appearance, are:

 

Soon after the start - Joe Eastwood (A.E.i.C.) closely followed by Donald Hinchliffe (E.i.C.) leaving the main entrance.

 

At about 1 min 18, Peter Pearson and Tommy Skelton were handling one of the traffic light units.  Peter and Tommy were T.A.s at this time.

 

At about 1m 30, Will Harper (Station Electrician, as he was called in those days), in the white boiler suit, is 'adjusting' the traffic lights control trailer.

 

Next recognised was one of the S.M.E.s but the nearest I can get to a name is E. Thomas.  I cannot recall a forename for him.  He first appears measuring the toilet hut, and later pointing at part of the Marconi FM Drives - the 'Station Monitor' I think.  My memory suggests that he was never without that pipe!

 

At about 1min 58, Frank Orme - a fellow T.A. at the time - walks across the forecourt away from the building.  Frank and I joined the BBC at the same time, and were both first posted to Holme Moss.  We both knew each other's staff number, they were only 6 apart!  Our careers joined paths several times, and we kept in informal contact throughout our time in the firm.

 

I cannot confirm that it was me at the Control Desk, but it is possible.

 

Finally, close to the end Will Harper was shown climbing the first few feet of the mast in his tweed jacket.

Note: no climbing belt or other protective clothing, and he certainly would not have worked in that jacket.  He always wore a white boiler suit when working; it was more than a T.A.'s life was worth to borrow one of those!

 

There are a few other staff that I cannot recognise now, but as I left Holme Moss in the autumn of 1961, it is not too surprising.  Although I returned about 11 years later, many of the staff of the earlier days were no longer there.  If Frank sees this, he may be able to help as he spent much more of his career at the Moss.

 

Regrettably, I can't offer any clue about the film maker, but either Peter Pearson or Joe Eastwood could have been involved.  As they both appear, it may indicate a joint effort.  For me, it will remain a mystery.

 


Equipment Department

Contributed to BBCeng by David Brown

It was made in 1984 for an exhibition that was held at the BBC's Woodlands building in West London.  Originally the video was 8 minutes long, but for this web site it has been reduced by Martin Ellen to the part that includes a commentary and it is now 3 minutes long.  The remaining shots were mainly of workshop equipment and while this was appropriate for the exhibition in 1984 they are not really relevant for this web site.

© BBC (Publication Policy).

Click for information on Equipment Department.


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Demolition of the BBC Radio 3 MF transmitter mast at Dodford
Droitwich transmitting station being constructed in 1934
BBC Transmission Reunion
BBC Transmission: Aiming at the Future
Television arrives in Northern Ireland
Divis Antenna replacement 1992
Wenvoe Open Day - 1965
Holme Moss Open Day - 24 April 1961
Equipment Department