On Your Farm













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

This cutting is from a Pebble Mill newsletter from 1984.

The article commemorates the 1,000th edition of On Your Farm, the Saturday morning Radio 4 programme, produced and presented by Tony Parkin. Tony had a long career at Pebble Mill which included working on Midlands Today, and Farming as well as being the agricultural editor on The Archers.

Thanks to Robin Sunderland for sharing the newsletter.

History of the BBC in Birmingham

photo by Ben Peissel, 2003, no reproduction without permission

photo by Ben Peissel, 2003, no reproduction without permission













History of the BBC in Birmingham

(taken from notes held at the BBC Archives in Caversham)


1922 Nov 15               British Broadcasting Company begins transmitting from rooms at the GEC Works at Witton. Managed by Percy Edgar and Pat Casey, it consisted of three room: one contained the transmitter, one was the office and the other was the 12x20ft studio.

1923 Dec 6                 The first ever Children’s Hour comes from Birmingham. Children’s circle established, proceeds of which were donated to West Midlands Children’s charities.

1924                            Witton premises too small. Moved to top storey of 105 New Street. One studio and a suite of offices.

1926                            New Street premises too small (and rat infested). Purpose built studios at 282 Broad Street acquired. Largest studio could accommodate a full orchestra and chorus.

1927 Jan 1                   British Broadcasting Company dissolved and the British Broadcasting Corporation constituted under Royal Charter.

1927                            Daventry ‘Experimental Transmitter’ replaces 5 IT at Witton.

1938                            First episode of Paul Temple attracts 7,000 fan letters.

1949                            Sutton Coldfield transmitter opens bringing television to the Midlands.

1951 Jan 1                  The Archers first appears on the Light Programme. Brookfield Farm was located in Studio 2 at Broad Street for 20 years.

1951                            BBC acquired the lease for Pebble Mill site.

1954                            Carpenter Road, Edgbaston became the new Broadcasting House.

1955 Dec 29                First Midland Region television studio opened at Gosta Green, Birmingham.

1956                            Gardening Club (now Gardeners’ World) began.

1957 Sept 30               First BBC Midlands TV News broadcast each weekday evening. 6.10-6.15.

1962                            Nightly TV magazine programme – Midlands at Six  

1962                            A model of proposed BBC Pebble Mill Broadcasting Centre was show to the press.

1964 Sept                    First episode of  Midlands Today presented by Barry Lankester and produced by Michael Hancock. News items were a football bribery trial, a new course on local government, Swedish sport and an item called ‘the body beautiful’.

1965                            Immigrants Unit set up by Patrick Beech to provide Hindu/Urdu programmes. BBC’s first bi-media department, making programmes for both radio and television.

1967                            First BBC Local Radio Station in Leicester.

1967                            Pebble Mill – first sod was cut by then Director General Sir Hugh Greene.

1970 Nov 7                 Pebble Mill began with Radio Birmingham, later became Radio WM.

1971                            HRH Princess Anne officially opens the new Pebble Mill studios.

1972-86                       Pebble Mill at One, presenters included Donny Macleod, Bob Langley, Ross King, Judi Spiers and Alan Titchmarsh.

1976                            Saturday Night at the Mill – live. All staged in either one of the studios or outside the front of Pebble Mill. The courtyard around the back was constructed into a mini ice-rink with a canopy area for if it rained when live bands were on.

1977                            The Horror of Fang Rock, only episode of Dr Who to be filmed here at The Mill. The set consisted of a lighthouse built in the studio, and it was the setting for a battle with an alien shape shifter. The story featured the one and only appearance in the series of a Rutan – seen in its natural state as an amorphous green blob with trailing tentacles. It was the fifteenth season of the series and the  Doctor at the time was Tom Baker. It was transmitted between 03/09/1977 and 24/09/1977.

1988 Oct                     Midlands Today became the first regional news programme to include a nightly sports section.

Midlands Today tracks

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

Here is a set of tracks from Midlands Today, composed by Richard Myhill. They include unused versions, stings and beds, and date from about 1996.

Thanks to Peter Poole for sharing the audio.

Midlands Today newsroom, photo by Ivor Williams

Midlands Today newsroom, photo by Ivor Williams

Studio Operations (part 10) Conditions of Service – Ray Lee

Conditions of service

A quirk of the conditions of service at that time, was the ability to take overtime as time in lieu, so that if you worked an hour’s overtime which would normally be payable at 1.25 T you could take the 1T as time in lieu, and just be paid the 0.25T.  I made quite extensive use of that option when I was not short of money, as one cannot be taxed on time in lieu, but later with a growing family money became quite important. However I cannot compare to the master of the system Elson Godbolt. As he was part of the O.B. rotation he tended to get a lot more overtime than I did based largely in the studio, and he managed to amass weeks of leave, and around every 2 years, put this together with his annual leave and PHL leave, and took 3 months off during the winter season, on full pay. It was a good job no-one else wanted much leave at that time or it would have broken the system. If all the staff had taken all overtime as time in lieu, there would not have been enough staff to cover all the requirements, as no-one would ever have been working for more than their basic hours in any one year, and the staffing levels were such that some overtime was almost inevitable, especially as some studio sessions would overrun.

Other payments included extra payment if you worked on a public holiday, 2T for working on Christmas day, payments for working over 12 hours, payment for a less than 10 hour break between duties. All of these were intended to discourage scheduling staff for unreasonable duties, but for occasions like Election Night, where staff quite often ended up working though for 24hours at some O.B. sites, they were laughing all the way to the bank!

The engineering staff both in operations unit, and engineering services, were (as far as I am aware) all on irregular hours working conditions, which attracted a 15% lift on basic salary. In some areas many of the staff worked quite regular shift patterns and some even worked days patterns, but to maintain flexibility in moving staff around all were given the same irregular hours conditions. This may have caused some disquiet among some staff they worked alongside who were on normal days conditions and therefore flat rate salary, but I was never aware of it becoming an issue, it was just seen a a quirk of the system. The downside was that non of these extra payments counted towards pensions, so people used to receiving a lot of them, could, on retirement, see quite a cut in their income. From what I have seen since leaving the BBC, pensions have got a whole lot worse!

Ray Lee

Ray Lee

Ray Lee





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

Stuart Gandy: ‘Commenting on Ray’s mention of Elson Godbolt, I do remember that in my first weeks at pebble Mill at the start of 1980, I wondered who he was. By the time I had been there a few weeks I had probably met all the ops engineers except Elson. His name being on the rota as showing weeks and weeks of leave. Other allowances I remember back then were the MHW, or meal hour work-through. This was when you could get an extra payment if your meal time was disturbed. Then there was the sssa, soft soul shoe allowance which was meant to pay for footwear for people who had to walk on the studio floor. I think this was the massive sum of £4 when I started, and as far as I know, didn’t increase at all right up until it was abolished. It was quite a time consuming task though, filling in all the forms if you wanted to claim these things.’

Peter Poole: ‘And don’t forget meals over five at base. It was a small allowance with a luncheon voucher.’

Brian Johnson: ‘Wow, Elson Godbolt stirred a memory. Sorry this might be slightly off subject………however……When I transferred from London to my home town of Birmingham as a Technical Assistant in 1969, (pre-P.Mill) I had to do a few weeks in every engineering section. One of those was the film processing area at Gosta Green that dealt with all the News film each day. It was an unusually hot summer and we could not get the processing tanks down to the right temperature. I was being supervised by Elson and we had to buy in lots of ice to put into the huge tanks of developer and fixer to enable us to process the film. Midlands Today (I think it was called that then although I might be wrong) sent a camera crew to film us doing it and it went out on the news programme as part of the item on the unusual heat. We obviously managed to develop it ok!’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Brian as a former worker in News film processing in the BBC I can sympathise…we also had an annual maintenance weekend where we stripped the processor down and cleaned every tank and roller having to get it all up and working again by 9am Monday. Informal arrangements were made to cover any emergencies by having film processed at the local ITV studios should the need arise…it never did!’

Alternative Midlands Today Sig.Tune

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

This signature tune was an alternative ending for Midlands Today from around 1992, composed by David Lowe. It was almost certainly never used.

Thanks to Peter Poole for sharing this signature tune.

Photo of Pebble Mill Newsroom by Ivor Williams

Photo of Pebble Mill Newsroom by Ivor Williams