Comms reunion Sept 2017

copyright Jane Wolf Elledge, no reproduction without permission













Some of the Pebble Mill Comms team met up for a reunion 28th Sept 2017.

Included in the photo are: Stewart Kelly, Chris Elliot, Graham Hewitt, Arif Mohammed, and Cliff Harvey.

Thanks to Jane Wolf Elledge for sharing the photo.

The following comment was added on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Andy Marriott: …and none of them look a day older than when I first set foot in the Comms Centre back in August 2000. Happy days and fond memories.



The day the Pebble Mill studio opened

This link is to a clip from Nationwide on 15th June 1971. Midlands Today presenter, Tom Coyne gives a guided tour of the brand new Pebble Mill studios. Included in the tour are Studio B, the home of Midlands Today; Studio A, where many dramas were produced; and the Radio studios, home to The Archers, we also see Radio WM in action. There is no mention of Pebble Mill at One, because the programme had not yet been planned.

Thanks to Malcolm Hickman for sharing the link.

Still from Tom Coyne’s piece on Nationwide. Copyright BBC.











The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Keith Warrender:’The EMI cameras were still going in 1983 when they were replaced with Link 125s. Link are long gone but the old factory is still standing unused in Andover.’

Sue Astle: ‘Such an amazing exciting time for us then, we were privileged to have worked there. Susie Bancroft. Ex make up’

Sarah Tongue: ‘My mom ran the Library!’

Helen Smith: ‘Loved watching that, my Dad was the cameraman at the beginning of the clip.’

Michael Fisher: ‘Radio Birmingham as it was at the start!’

Andy Marriott: ‘What was the little mini cart system they were using for spot effects, called?’

Malcolm Hickman: ‘It was a device called a P.E.G. Programme effects generator. They used a spool of tape in a case with a metal loop fitted at one end. When you inserted the cartridge, the machine grabbed the tab and cued the effect. It had loads of slots so a sequence of effects could be built up. A BBC designs department product, IIRC.’

Sue Welch: ‘Actually remember Tom Coyne from Tyne Tees Television. A very long time ago.’

Malcolm Adcock: ‘Happy memories, joined Top Gear in 1988 and our production office was later in the old Pebble Mill at One studio area.’




Comms Centre














Thanks to Stuart Gandy for sharing this photo of the Comms Centre at Pebble Mil. It probably dates from the early noughties. The Comms Centre handled all the radio and vision circuits coming in and out of BBC Pebble Mill.

The photo was first shared on the Pebble Mill Engineers Facebook group.

The following comments were added on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Malcolm Hickman: ‘Dear departed Graham Todd and I were attached to P&ID to build that. Probel supplied the routing system but didn’t appreciate what we wanted. Took 2 man years of programming effort of get it right.’

Andy Marriott: ‘I loved working there. My first proper job in the BBC. I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s towards the end of its life. Certainly post 2001 which is when I left. The old DOS mode CBIS machine appears to have gone from the right of the desk and there appears to be an LCD screen on the left that I don’t remember being there. Interestingly the left bank of Trilogy panels appear to be missing, could they have possibly been taken for use in the Mailbox? Which would put us squarely in 2004.’

Andy Walters: ‘WMs transmitter lines and the inter local radio programme sharing circuits and control systems​ went through there too along with those for network radio.’

Richard Taylor: ‘And the Energis distribution system and Digital TV, both 601 for the studios (those bays are in the background left) and ‘Freeview’ or DTT as it was then. The BBC1 DTT off airs can be seen to the left of the desk displays. BBC2 was to the right. I suspect it was close to 2003? Best desk I ever worked on and I include London Switching Centre and Cardiff CC. And it’s tidy, so can’t have been taken on my shift!’







Radio Links Vehicle at Burghley Horse Trials

Copyright Steve Dellow, no reproduction without permission









The photo shows a radio links van at a mid-point on an outside broadcast at the Burghley Horse Trials, in September 1985. The radio links van would receive the OB signal from the truck at the event, and then send it on to the transmitter, or to another links van.

The following comments were posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Bryan Comley: ‘Burghley is a huge job with 20 plus cameras covering the cross country course, today the cameras all come back to one truck via fibre optics. In the 80’s there were two trucks one at the start/finish and one at Lion bridge, the cameras at the extremes of the course were radio linked to the trucks , Formula one at Silverstone use cross course microwave too.

Too get the pictures on air, links had to be set up to the nearest inject point, either a BBC centre or a transmitter site, the max distances for one link was around 40 miles sure to the curvatures of the earth and signal strength, so mid points on high ground would be set for some OBs. This could fail due to fog if the midpoint was high above the fog and the OB was in fog as the beam would get bent leaving the fog.’

Steve Dellow: ‘Indeed – a big job – and I’ve still got the Comms planning sheets! In 1985, at Burghley Park there were two Comms vans (758 and 602) – ‘Dairy Park’ and Main. The van in the photo (356) was at Tinwell Lodge (with Generator PG50), then 587 at Cold Overton, then onwards to Sutton (and underground circuit to Pebble Mill). Receiver 102R and Transmitter 124T on the top of 356, with Pete Myslowski asleep in the cab! I was supposed to give £25 cash to the site owner (Mr Flint), plus £20 as they hadn’t been paid the year before! The ‘hops’ were 5km, 18.5km, and 69km.’

Comms planning sheet










Malcolm Hickman: ‘On other occasions, we used a different mid point, where the vehicle would pick up the signals (7ghz microwave) and relay them to a receiver located at the Morborne transmitter. We used a passive reflector up the mast to bounce the signals down to a receiver on the ground. They were then injected by BT into a protection circuit to Pebble Mill.’

Roy Thompson: ‘As explained radio links had to be line of sight. This could be a problem for some starter links (the first one from the ob site) especially in town centres. Eagle towers were used, which had a self erecting, two stage tower which would carry the transmitter. It was rigged at 30 foot and then sent up to its maximum height of 60 foot. Have no actual photos but came across this model Dinky toy at my local dentist. Unfortunately the second part of the tower is missing.’

Andy Marriott: ‘I love seeing stuff like this. I joined the comms dept at Pebble Mill in 2000. But by then it was a shadow of its former self. Still got to work on a few OB’s before the plug finally got pulled a year or so later. OB’s aren’t nearly as cool when they’re over satellite or fibre!’











Move to the Mailbox

Mailbox move SG






















Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

The article from the Birmingham Post circa 2002, explains how the move from Pebble Mill to the Mailbox was going to be a positive one, enabling technology and the studios to be improved. The move from the ‘leafy suburb’ of Edgbaston would apparently make BBC Birmingham more in touch with its audience!

Unfortunately these aims were not realised, and the move proved to be symptomatic of the decline of BBC Birmingham.

Thanks to Stuart Gandy to sharing this cutting.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Andy Marriott: ‘Unfortunately pretty much every move is a downsizing event, and it’s not just the BBC. I’ve been helping a friend out with a project at the old Granada site in Manchester and it’s depressing to see the facilities that existed there that they simply don’t have at their new site.’

Jean Palmer: ‘I’m sure that those who worked there could have told them it wouldn’t work. Shame we lost Pebble Mill’

Carolyn Davies: ‘All very sad….BBC Wales about to relocate….hope the same doesn’t happen…..’

Sue Farr: ‘I always suspected that London was jealous of Brimingham’s success and that was what was behind the decisions that were made. None of us believed any of it was going to benefit the Midlands, did we?’

Andrew Langstone: ‘Seems The Mailbox is the BBC’S dumping ground for things it doesn’t know where to put them.’