Recollections of BBC engineering from 1922 to 1997
The British Broadcasting Corporation
web site is: www.bbc.co.uk
Savoy Hill to Avenue House, Clapham
By A.C Patrick
Thanks are also due to "L.G." Smith who passed the article on for publication on this web site.
Reg Patrick joined Sound Section of S.P.&I.D. in 1934 and in 1939 installed the wartime tape recording facilities at Wood Norton. He became A.E.i.C. Wood Norton where he remained until 1941. He then returned to London where he became E.i.C. Technical Recording Section, Maida Vale and later, Asst. Superintendent Engineer, Recordings. In 1957 Reg transferred to Bush House, where he became Asst. to Senior Superintendent Engineer, External Broadcasting. He retired in 1964.
In the absence of reliable information, I am depending on my own memory of people and events. My first impulse was to check points with other ex-members of E.D. staff but on second thoughts, I decided that controversy could be a good thing in arriving at the truth and may cause readers to write in pointing out how wrong I am.
By 1926, the Broadcasting Service was expanding at such a rate that there was no room at Savoy Hill for the additional staff required to deal with this expansion. It was accordingly decided to find other accommodation in London for the Head Office staff who were not directly concerned with day to day programme requirements. The first to be affected were the specialist engineering staff, comprising Engineering Development Section under Mr.H.L. Kirke and Engineering Research Section under Capt. A.G.S. West. At Savoy Hill, their ancillary services, workshops and stores were small, being housed in the basement. Transport consisted of two vans, one a Chevrolet, the other a one ton chassis, powered by a Model T Ford engine, driven by Cyril Law. Other transport was hired as occasion demanded. At that time studio equipment was designed and manufactured by Development and Research Departments, transmitters were purchased from outside suppliers. The growth of the BBC at this time meant that better workshop, stores and transport facilities were required and additional buildings were therefore provided when suitable new premises were found at Avenue House, 87, Kings Avenue, Clapham Park. This house, purchased by the BBC in 1927, was originally the official home of the Governor of the nearby Brixton Prison.
The move to the new premises took place on 1st January 1928, but no female staff were transferred, the only lady on the premises being the wife of a local gentleman, who, between them ran the canteen. The General Stores was in the charge of "Daddy" Campbell, assisted by Arthur Cook and Jimmy Herring. The Workshop was in the charge of L.W. Midsin, transferred in that capacity from Savoy Hill with about a dozen staff of whom Peter Paul, Frank Child, Bill and Bert Matthew, Bill Ansell, Arthur Newman, Andy Hancock and Sandy Hartwell, come to mind. L.G. Patmore was in charge of Workshop Stores. Hugh Lucking liaised with outside manufacturers and his job grew in importance as requirements for equipment grew, and it became necessary to put more and more work outside.
I remember crossing the yard one day when a stranger walked up the drive and introduced himself to me as a Mr. Dark. He said he had heard that the BBC was interested in getting work done outside and he had just started a small workshop in an iron shed at Ilford and they were calling themselves Plessey! I introduced him to Mr. Dimmock.
I think Cyril Law was put in charge of the garage from the outset. The maintenance of staff sets, next to the garage was in the charge of H.A. Boughton. The handyman who looked after the place generally was Jack Lewis - a forthright Welshman, and a great character, who was liked by all.
Avenue House, Clapham was a two-storey building, with the two "beasties" on guard outside the front entrance. The ground floor rooms, housed the Development Section and Research Section staff and some of the well-known occupants included Capt.A.G.B. West, T.C. MacNamara, K.C. Patrick, L.G. Odell and J.K. Byers.
The first floor management and support offices were occupied by many famous names in Engineering Division, including E.W. Tack, J.H. Mewett, C.H. Colborne, H.L. Kirke, H.S. Walker, A.B. Howe, B.N. Maclarty, F.M. Dimmock and W.P. Wilson.