Television and the Crystal Palace


Fred Peskett

Apart from all the exhibitions, concerts and many other events the Crystal Palace is less well known for its contribution to the early experiments in television and broadcasting. In 1933 John Logie Baird rented from the Trustees of the Crystal Palace several floors of the South Tower, and in

the July of 1934 a further 30,000 square feet of the Crystal Palace ground space, and the whole of the South Tower for up-to-date laboratories, studios, dressing rooms and office accommodation. The June and July 1934 editions of Practical Mechanics give a comprehensive view of the work that was being carried out at the Baird studios. It suggests that between 500 and 20,000 homes were tuning into the experimental transmissions using receivers constructed from plans given in journals such as the Practical Mechanics. The exact numbers of televisors in being (name given to early television sets) were unknown at the time, but Baird's transmissions covered the whole of Greater London. Two other companies. Electrical and Musical Industries (E. M. I.) and Cossor were also competing to provide the first Television Broadcasting Company along with a lesser known firm, Scophony. The Baird system had first started back in 1925 so had a fair head start.

The transmitting aerials were situated at the top of the South Tower with all the transmitters at the base of the tower. The Baird equipment was saved from the fire which destroyed the Crystal Palace on November 30th 1936, it is doubtful if the studios and other areas on the ground floor of the Palace survived. The Baird Company did not get the contract for Television Transmission this went to E.M.I, never-the-less, the Crystal Palace played its part in the development of the goggle box.

Baird Television Limited advertised their "Televisor" for the first time in September 1930. The advert shown above is from the September 1930 edition of the Journal of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The Receiver and "Televisor" or a kit of parts were available long before formal television broadcasts. An interesting advert on the back of this page is a Harrison Line Cruise to the West Indies lasting six weeks for 67. (all found) Those were the days.

Three of the original Televisors are still in existence, one at the Science Museum, one at Bognor Regis Museum and one at Milestones, Basingstoke. The one at Bognor actually works via a time delay push button! using a recording of an original Baird Transmission.