Webpage created: July 10, 2019
Webpage updated: July 10, 2019
PLYMOUTH REDIFFUSION SERVICES LIMITED
In March 1928 the Broadcast Relay Service Ltd was formed to relay BBC radio programmes over cables attached to the power supplies being used by the tramway systems operated by the British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BET). This was a subscription service only and within twelve months the towns of Braintree, Hull and Ramsgate were connected. Subscribers paid three shillings per week, which was quite expensive but still cheaper than buying a wireless set. It should also be remembered that in many cases the properties were not served by electricity anyway.
The name of the business was soon changed to Rediffusion, which is exactly what the service did: it re-diffused or re-broadcast existing BBC programmes. The enterprise was immediately successful and the company quickly added the manufacture, sale and hire of radios to their activities.
Rediffusion (South West) Ltd was formed around 1932 and covered the cities of Bristol, Southampton, Exeter and Plymouth. Their customers included hospitals, schools, factories, canteens and meeting-places as well as private residences.
In 1935 Plymouth Rediffusion Services Ltd had its head office at 34 Mutley Plain. In addition it had two relay stations, at 62 Union Street, Plymouth, and at Swilly Road; an amplifying station at 28 Market Street, Devonport; and wireless engineers at the rear of 17 Beatrice Avenue, Mount Gould, which it shared with Mr George Archibald Lear, an undertaker.
The relay station at Swilly Road was situated at the Beacon Park end of Greatlands Crescent and consisted of two huts. There was evidently an office as well, as the late Mr Sydney Moseley, who at the time lived in Beacon Park Road, recalls going there to pay for the service.
Several developments happened in 1947. The British Electric Traction Company took a minority shareholding and when a new venture, Cable Television Rediffusion, started to broadcast television in the London area they also started to manufacture television sets.
A new company was formed in 1954 when Rediffusion went into partnership with Associated Newspapers and under the name of Associated Rediffusion became the first of the Independent Television companies.
During the Second World War Lord and Lady Astor had made broadcasts from the main station on Mutley Plain and all the Civil Defence announcements had come from there as well. So it was with some sadness that with the turn of a key the station at 34 Mutley Plain was closed down on Tuesday January 31st 1961. All the equipment had been transferred to a new headquarters in Sawrey Street and a new showroom was opened at number 56 Cornwall Street. The branch manager was Mr W B Bourdon and the engineer-in-charge of the station was Mr H R Merritt. Both had been with Rediffusion since the beginning.
In 1967 BET became the controlling shareholder and in 1983 they bought the business outright. Not long afterwards BET realised their folly -- radios were much cheaper to buy than rent -- and the cable network was sold off to Maxwell Communications. The TV rental shops were taken over by Granada.
Rediffusion programmes were first listed in the Western Evening Herald on Thursday May 17th 1934. There were two programmes, A or B, chosen by pushing the channel selector up or down respectively. Both started at 6pm, programme A with the news and programme B with a selection of music.
During that Thursday evening Rediffusion A relayed an eye-witness account by Eleanor Helme of the Ladies' Golf Championship at Porthcawl; a Spanish Talk; and "From Tolpuddle to TUC", about trade unionism since 1915. There was another news at 9pm, which was followed by "Europe's Centre of Gravity", by Graham Hutton, and music from the Wireless Military Band. At 10.30pm there was a short religious service and then Howard Jacobs and his Band played until close-down at Midnight.
Programme B spent most of the evening on tour, visiting Athlone, Berlin, Paris, Radio-Normandie, Vienna and, if conditions were favourable, even America.