AP mast (2K)

BBC TELEVISION from ALEXANDRA PALACE

by Arthur Dungate

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Lime Grove demolition

The end of an era

 

In 1993 the end came to the BBC's Lime Grove Television Studios. It was final, and for ever. From March to July that year the demolition gangs moved in, knocked it down, turned it into rubble, scooped it up and took it away.......

Nigel Finnis, who used to work for BBC TV in Lime Grove, filmed its last days in stills and video. His pictures provide a graphic record of the end of an era.

 

  1: In the beginning....

 

In 1912 the Gaumont Film Company acquired land in Lime Grove, Shepherd's Bush in west London on which to build a film studio.

 

 

The building dwarfed the small domestic houses on either side of it and as time went on many of these were incorporated into the film, and later, the BBC Television Studios as the respective organisations grew.

original 'glass-house' studios 1915 (12K) 

 

Leon Gaumont, a pioneer cinematograph inventor, producer and exhibitor was French and the parent company was in Paris. The British branch, prior to the building of these studios, existed mainly as distributors of their French products which consisted mainly of newsreels and cartoons.

 


 Acknowledgment
This short history is based on The Fantasy Factory by Jocelyn Lukins, published in 1996 by Verita Books for The Shepherd's Bush Local History Society.     [ISBN
0 9510288 8X]

The book contains a fascinating and well illustrated list of the films and tv shows made here during the period 1915-1991.

Unmissable!
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  THE PICTURE
This picture, used for publicity, has to be a composite, or of a model, since, with the close proximity of the buildings on the other side of the street it would have been quite impossible to take such a photograph.
  original 'glass-house' studios 1915 (12K)

Gaumont put 30,000 into the construction of the film studio, which, when completed in 1914 was described as "the finest studio in Great Britain and the first building ever put up in this country solely for the production of films".

The all-glass daylight studio was 90 feet by 40 feet by 20 feet high with an end section 30 feet high. The "Glass House" was opened at the end of 1915. Although it was the finest film studio in Britain it had no back lot and was small by US standards.

 
 

In 1926 the Gaumont British Picture Corporation was floated as a public company "Gainsborough Pictures" and afterwards the familiar "Gainsborough Lady" appeared at the start of the films.

[She was played by Glennis Lorrimer. For lots more fascinating information about the studios, you will need to read Jocelyn Lukin's book]

portrait: Gainsborough Lady (7K) 

 

In 1929 the introduction of sound films brought changes to the studio. The glass walls were made solid for sound proofing and the studios became the largest sound studios in Europe.

However, it was realised that the converted Glass House was not ideally suited for sound film production so it was demolished to make way for a new building to be constructed on the site.

On the right of the picture below, the South Block of the new studios opened in the summer of 1932 being on the site of the 1915 glasshouse, with the North Block opening the following year. The Centre Block had been added in 1927 next to the original glasshouse. The new studios were unique in that due to the constraints of the site, squeezed in between the road and the Metropolitan railway at the rear, the sound stages had to be constructed on top of one another.

 

 

 

The 1932 studios (14K) 

 

As reported in The World Film Encyclopedia of 1933: "It is a huge, modern, white faced block, its flat roof towering 90 feet above the pavement. There are five production stages; dressing room accomodation for 600 artists; stars dressing rooms; the last word in comfort and decoration; laboratories with a minimum capacity of 2,000,000 feet (of film) a week; three private theatres; an orchestration room; nine film vaults; a 600-seater restaurant; plasterers and carpenters shops; property rooms; monitor and recording rooms; all the paraphernalia of the last word in modern film studios is to be found at the Gaumont British studios in Lime Grove".

In July 1932 The West London Observer reported that it was "the largest, best-equipped film studio in the country with two acres of studios, the largest 86 feet wide and 136 feet long".

Shortly after the start of the Second World War, the studios came under the control of the Rank organisation. With the decline in the fortunes of the British film industry after the war, the studios were put up for sale, being, it was said, "neither modern in plan, nor economical for big film production".

In 1949 the BBC bought them and began converting them for television use, as a "temporary measure" while purpose-built studios were being built at the former White City site not far away.
[read newspaper report]

 

 

 

studio locations (18K)
Place mouse over picture to see studio locations
 

 

Studio G was towards the rear of Centre Block which was a 1927 extension to the original Glass House, on the site of which now stood South Block. This had the long Studio H with the Theatre above it. On the first floor of North Block was Studio F which was never converted for television use, but left as a scene store. Above, on the fourth floor was Studio E at the front, with Studio D at the rear.

The first studio (Studio D) went live in 1950. So began a 41-year period of television programme production which lasted until the end of July 1991 when the studios finally closed.

With Studio D opening on 21st May 1950, equipped with CPS Emitron cameras and used for children's programmes, Studio G came into service later that year on 23 December, being used for light entertainment programmes. Then in February 1952 Studio H was commissioned and used for talks programmes. Finally Studio E came into service on 21st August 1953 with Marconi image orthicon cameras.

 

 

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Closed but Still Standing

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