Pebble Mill office block

Pebble Mill admin block detailed sketch of admin block





















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

These sketches of the BBC Pebble Mill administration block are from 1965, although the building was not finished until 1970/1. They were presumably sketched by architect John Madin, or someone from his office. The second sketch is very detailed, and from my memory seems very similar to how the building was laid out when I joined in 1987.


Pebble Mill Master Plan

Master plan 1Master plan 2 Master plan 3



















Master plan 4
Master plan 5
Master plan 6
Master plan 7Master plan 8
Master plan 9

Master plan 10





































































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

This master plan for the BBC Pebble Mill site was produced by John Madin architect. It shows the existing green field site, of playing fields, as well as the plans for the building. The plans at this stage still included the helix car park and OB garage, which were never built, due to the cost.

John Madin and the Donnellan documentary – Six Men

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

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














In 1965, the maverick film maker, Phillip Donnellan, produced a documentary which featured the architect of BBC Pebble Mill, John Madin, amongst other prominent Birmingham men. The documentary was called Six Men – Portraits of Power in a Modern City.

The film was not universally popular, and caused John Madin some issues.

The filming was quite intensive, and involved Madin being followed round by cameramen for a three-week period, in order to capture a candid view of the architect’s working life. John Madin had requested that he would be able to see the finished film before broadcast, because of the need to maintain professional etiquette. However, this did not happen until very late in the day, and Madin was unhappy about his lack of editorial input into the film. He was frustrated that his repeated requests to see the commentary script, which was to be presented by the writer and broadcaster, Rene Cutforth, were not answered, until at 10.30pm on Thursday 25th March, when he was allowed to see the as yet unfinished script. Madin expressed concern about some of Cutforth’s remarks, but was told that he would ruin the programme if he insisted on these being omitted. Some changes were made to the script, but Phillip Donnellan proved very elusive, and in the end more changes were eventually agreed over the phone, as Donnellan was recording the commentary at a London studios, with Cutforth. The programme was transmitted with Madin still unhappy with certain views expressed.

But the matter did not end there. A local architect complained that the documentary was a breach of professional etiquette, in that it ‘advertised’ Madin’s work, and he referred the matter to the Architects’ Registration Council, who had the power to strike Madin off. A hearing was arranged for December 1965. Patrick Beech the Controller of Midland Region, was supportive of Madin, and explained in a memo that eleven out of thirteen of the accusations brought against Madin, were contained in Cutforth’s commentary, which Madin had not had any editorial control over.

Fortunately, the hearing was short-lived, with a decision being made quickly to dismiss the case. Madin clearly felt bruised by the whole experience.

(This blog was informed by letters and memos held at the BBC Written Archives in Caversham, in file M10/27)

New Midland Centre Press Release 1962

(This Press Release, held at the BBC Archives in Caversham, announced the intention of building Pebble Mill, although the actual studios did not open until nine years later. Notice that the Release concentrates on the spiral car park – which was never built, and the canteen and Club – which certainly were! It does not mention the television or radio studios, which is strange because it emphasises that the Midland Region centre would be the first broadcast centre in Europe to combine both television and radio facilities.)

Photo, Model, February 1962. This digital resource is available under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0 license, with kind permission of the Birmingham & Five Counties Architectural Association Trust, thanks to the Architectus project (part of the Jisc Content Programme 2011-13).

Photo, Model, February 1962. This digital resource is available under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0 license, with kind permission of the Birmingham & Five Counties Architectural Association Trust, thanks to the Architectus project (part of the Jisc Content Programme 2011-13).
















BBC Midland Region Press Service

For release 12 noon, Monday 12th November, 1962

New BBC Midland Region Broadcasting Headquarters

Statement by R.H.S. Howell

(Head of Building Department BBC)

For a long time it has been the BBC’s policy to re-house its Regional Headquarters in more efficient and up-to-date buildings equipped with the most modern plant, and with this in view suitable schemes for other Regional centres are now in various stages of development. In all of them the common aim and object is to accommodate the whole activities of each centre on one site.

The Midland Region is one of the first to benefit under this policy and the proposed Birmingham Headquarters is unique in that it is the first headquarters in the Country and, indeed, in Europe, which has been planned and designed from the start to fulfil the carefully integrated requirements of both sound and television broadcasting under one roof. The new building will provide facilities for all types of sound and television productions and will include a base for outside broadcast vehicles and their equipment, with a ramped spiral car park above for approximately 350 cars and, of course, an administration block in which will be included a staff restaurant and BBC Club premises.

The scheme has been prepared in association with the BBC’s Building Department and in accordance with BBC detailed requirements which, amongst other things aimed to satisfy the following principles:

  1. To take advantage of the natural amenities of the site.
  2. To design a building complex which has identity.
  3. To provide clear pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow.
  4. To design a functionally efficient regional centre for broadcasting.
  5. To be sufficiently flexible as to facilitate development or technical change.

Additionally, the Architect was requested to plan the building complex in such a way that, if future needs arise, a second medium-size television production studio can be added at a later date as a second stage of development along with an increase in the size of the scenery production area, extra dressing rooms etc., and with minimum disturbance to the then existing buildings.

All these factors have contributed to the physical grouping of the elements. Clearly the functional requirements of broadcasting are of prime importance, but the resultant forms evolve from these in relation to the principles outlined above.




Why Television is not a source of revenue – 1969

Radio verus TV viewing figures



















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

The document above is from a BBC report from Spring 1969. It shows how daytime radio figures have remained pretty consistent from the 1940s, to the end of the 1960s, but that evening listening figures have fallen enormously from about 14 million in the 1940s, to under 2 million at the end of the 1960s. The decline is due to people watching television instead. Television was only on during the evening in the early years.

The report below is a transcript from an earlier section of the same report, and explains why television is not going to be able to provide financial support to bolster the radio deficit. The late 1960s were a time of enormous technical change, with the transfer to colour production, and the building of the new regional broadcasting centres at Pebble Mill, and the planned building of Oxford Road, Manchester. Most viewers at the time only had the cheaper black and white TV Licence. The BBC wanted to roll out the proposed new local radio stations, but it was unclear how this was to be paid for. This financial issue was one of the reasons that the Pebble Mill building was economised on, for instance with the helix car park section and OB base, being scrapped from the original plans by architect John Madin.

(BBC Report from 21/5/1969)

1.     An estimate of Television financial requirements for the four years to 31st March 1974 shows a final deficit of £12m rather than a surplus of £8.5m as shown in the Finance Division projection submitted to the Board on 13th February 1969.

2.     It should be emphasised that this conclusion is based on preliminary figures which will be refined when a full scale estimate is prepared in the Autumn. They are, however, accurate enough for conclusions by the Board of Governors on possible sources of revenue for local radio.

3.     Although the £12m deficit must be regarded as an approximation, it is undoubtedly conservative because:

a)    Provision for cost of living increases has been made at slightly less than 5% per annum compared with an average of rather more than 5% over the last 10 years. In an era of continuing inflation, the 5% provision could well prove inadequate.

b)   Provision is made for Network programme development expenditure of only £400K per annum.

c)    Additional licence income of some £18m is included due to reduced licence evasion, yet the Post Office is already falling behind present estimates.

d)   Over 80% of total capital expenditure of £38m is already explicitly or implicitly committed (e.g. Manchester, U.H.F., Colour)

e)    No provision is made for extra hours, – colourising Schools output or the establishment of new T.V. areas.

4.     It must be concluded from these figures that it will not be possible for Television to finance either the radio deficit or expenditure on local radio.