Photos by Philip Morgan, no reproduction without permission.
The Pebble Mill canteen was on the seventh floor of the office block, and had a great view over leafy Edgbaston and the Birmingham skyline.
Most staff would have their lunch in the canteen, and enjoy a reasonably priced hot meal. Their hot puddings, served with custard, were particularly prized. The canteen were also renowned for their tasty cheese scones, ready mid morning, and their afternoon cakes, which came out at around 3.30pm. Breakfast and a hot evening meal were also available, so that staff working early or late were catered for.
The door you can see at the back of the second photo is the entrance to the smoking area of the canteen – a small separate area usually veiled in a smoky fog.
For the BBC staff who moved to the Mailbox, the loss of the facilities of the Pebble Mill canteen were keenly felt.
These memories of the canteen were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:
Ruth Barretto: ‘I remember seeing so many different ‘celebrities’ but the ones I remember were Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran in the canteen. Or various actors and actresses in their period costumes. The little annexe at the back of the canteen was where my department (engineering) organised my surprise champagne wedding breakfast. I shall have to venture into the loft and see if i can find the pics. I have to say I do miss Pebble Mill they were definitely the good old days.’
Liz Munro: ‘I loved the food and the lovely staff in Pebble Mill canteen. Sometimes you’d bump into dozens of people in full Edwardian garb taking a break from some drama. Another time there was a group dressed as accident victims or you’d see really famous faces tucking into apple crumble or fish and chips. Random and absolutely awesome.’
Pete Simpkin: ‘The canteen………sorry Restaurant……as we were instructed to call it was particularly great for breakfasts after the early programmes on Radio Birmingham/WM. Also I recall on the odd occasions when the lifts failed watching some of the more portly members of staff struggling with the endless flights of stairs and ‘nonchalantly’pausing on the landings in various states of red faced breathlessness. Many of us used the stair climbing as a ready and basic ‘keep fit’ climb. Finally I remember getting into a lift to go back down and being greeted by a film crew and an actor shooting a lift scene, as it was mute the director just said ‘ignore us, look normal’ and we descended as normal….Ii never saw the end result !’
Andrew Hewkin: ‘On the rare occasions we’d come over to the bright lights of Birmingham, usually for a training or refresher course, a visit to the canteen was a ‘must’. At Radio Shropshire, the catering facilities amount to not much more than a microwave and a kettle – so being able to have a proper, fairly cheap, lunch was quite a novelty. How the other half lived!’
Stuart Gandy: ‘As Ruth says, the canteen was really the focal point for everyone, celebrities would be there on the next table to us staff quite often. One memory that sticks in my mind was just after I had started at Pebble Mill back in 1980 when my Mum had asked me to try and get Christopher Timothy’s autograph. She was a big fan of his in All Creatures, which was a regular production from Pebble Mill back then. She assumed that as I now worked for the beeb, I would know all the famous faces!. As an junior engineer this was not the case usually, but on this one occasion I found myself in the queue at the food counter standing next to him. So I took the opportunity to ask for his autograph, for which he duly obliged. The good old days definitely.’
Caroline Feldon Parsons: ‘Ah those cheese scones … if you succumbed to one mid-morning you never needed lunch! And does anyone remember the Christmas meals, when each department would book a table, and there would inevitably be a food fight just before the pudding?’
Hilary Anne Hughes: ‘I remember using the stairs from the Wardrobe in the basement as part of departments keepfit regime. One day there was a really handsome man who caught my eye until I saw that his shirt was tucked into his boxer shorts!!!!Preferred the crush bar tbh as it wasn’t so far to go.’
Jane Ward: ‘Lots of lovely canteen memories: when I first arrived in early 1986, there were still those funny little shelves under the tables, where you’d stow your plates once you’d finished your first course and were tucking into puds…(I didn’t actually like bread & butter pudding until I came to Pebble Mill & sampled theirs…!).For several years after they’d disappeared you could spot people who had temporarily forgotten and nearly ended up with a dirty plate full of cold gravy on their laps…! I remember being pretty chuffed to have been standing next to David Essex in the tea queue.Also memories of cheese scones (thanks Caroline!) and, of course, the famous Frank Carson impromptu stand-up one Christmas lunch… And I agree about the view…must have been one of the best in Birmingham! I never tired of it!’
Marie Philips: ‘When I joined Pebble Mill my first experience of the Restaurant was seeing so many seemingly crash victims on crutches, bandaged and even bloodied. I was aghast until told they were the cast of the medical drama the name of which escapes me (age) ! I was another fan of the cheese scones and the bacon butties. I stood behind Bee Gee Barry Gibb and actually touched his jacket !! There were so many celeb spotting chances but when I was in Personnel it was drilled into us that their lunch times were not to be interrupted. Knowing my devotion to Cliff Richard,Steve Weddle, with Andy Tylee’s blessing, “assigned” me to him for one day to look after him. I was never so proud as when I took him to the Restaurant for coffee – wow ! Do you remember the Manageress, Eileen Bywater – a “formidable” lady to say the least. Happy, happy times.’
Tim Manning: ‘The hospital series was Angels. I remember being in the breakfast queue with David Hasselhoff, who at the time had quite an effect on those behind the counter…’
Lynn Cullimore: ‘the scones were to die for and I used to try and limit myself as they were big and calorific. Who remembers Edna the canteen lady who used to sing at the top of her voice and never passed her driving test? I remember seeing Charlton Heston and nearly fainting on the spot!’
Hilary Anne Hughes: ‘I had to press Charlton’s shirt and take it into Quick Change for him…I shook like a leaf in awe of him x Also had to take in Sophia Loren’s outfit she was stunning x’
Lorraine Randell: ‘My favourite was the cheese scones – if you got there at the right time, they were still warm and the butter just melted on them. I still blame them for my weight gain. I also remember the Christmas meals – and didn’t fancy being on the cleaning party after we left. Good memories.’
Lynn Cullimore: ‘oh the christmas dinners were great and I remember after we had had ours management used to have to serve the canteen staff to theirs! I remember the days when Poldark was recorded at Pebble Mill – they would all be in their in costume and you got to see Robin Ellis – a real looker in his day.’
Coral: ‘Found memories of the Beeb canteen, I remember haveing a bit of an argument with Jeremy Clarkson for juming the queue infront of me…. I see nothing has changed with him!!!!!! But the food was fab and the canteen staff great people, great place to meet up with mates who worked in different depts.’
Patricia Hodge Robinson: ‘Ahh! Those Cheese scones were delicious!’
Suzy Cadman: ‘pregnant me couldnt get enough of those scones!!’
Pete Simpkin: ‘Lorraine I’ll never forget those cheese scones and you going up there to get them! Thanks!’
Tracy Crump: ‘I was one of those that made those cheese scones! My confidence has hit an all time high, I made scones from 1991 to 1992, loved working there, but never thought I was good enough, now I know folk loved what I cooked, xxx.’