Letter to the Director General

Cutting of the first sod ceremony, 7th April 1967

Cutting of the first sod ceremony, 7th April 1967













The following is an excerpt from a letter sent by Patrick Beech, the Controller of the Midland Region, to Sir Hugh Greene, the Director General of the BBC, in March 1967. The letter discusses the press release speech that Patrick Beech was writing, to be delivered by Sir Hugh Greene, at the cutting of the first sod ceremony, for the building of Pebble Mill, on 7th April 1967. Patrick Beech was using the speech to negotiate an increase in BBC Birmingham’s power, and ability to “sign the cheques”! He cleverly added his own thoughts and opinions into the section of the speech looking into the future of Pebble Mill. It is perhaps down to Patrick Beech that Pebble Mill became a lot more than “a warehouse for London”.

“[I] enclose some ideas for 7th April for you to play around with. The “Past and Present” section is factual; the “Future” is strongly fringed with my own beliefs, which you may or may not agree with! I could, of course, have put it in a much more emphatic way, but have tried to leave it in such a way that you were not over-committed.

There is, of course, little argument about the regional position in radio, but in television – which the journalistic job is accepted – there are divergences of opinion about the extent to which we should do programmes “across the board”. I personally am convinced that we must, and, moreover, that we should be in the same editorial position in Television as we are in radio. If we can’t take the decisions – which means signing the cheques – here in Birmingham we shall be building no more than a warehouse for London at Pebble Mill. It will be a body without a heart.”

Patrick Beech

I found the original letter in a file about Pebble Mill held at the BBC Archives at Caversham. The file did not seem to have been viewed by anyone else, since it was lodged in the BBC Archives.

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.