Broadcasting House in the 1930s

Seventh and Sixth Floors

Control Cubicles The Line Testing Room The Office Telephone Exchange Control Cubicles Studio 7B Studio 7D Studio 7A Transmitter Gramophone Effects Studio 6E Battery Room Motor Generator Gramophone Effects Studio 6E Effects Studio 6D Corridor Lounge Listening Room Battery Room

There was a total of ten studios on the sixth and seventh floors and they were collectively known as the 'Productions Group'. All were designed by Wells Coates. It was in these studios that plays and large feature programmes were produced. Enough facilities were provided for two productions to be underway at once. The technique of using several studios, the outputs of which were mixed together in a remote room, had been developed at Savoy Hill and used in regional centres and it would be used in BH until the war years when the production departments were evacuated from London.

In Broadcasting House in 1932 the two 'Dramtic Control Rooms' were on the eighth floor. The box to the right of the page has links to photos and a description of the equipment in these rooms.

Perhaps the most interesting studios in the Productions Group were those which were used to produce sound effects.

Effects Studio 6D
6D floor plan
The largest of the effects studios was 6D. It was 23' x 19' x 19' high, 8,300 cu. ft. and had a dead acoustic. Looking into this double height space were the two gramophone effects studios, 6E and 7E, one above the other. The floor plan shows how the various items were arranged in the studio.

Studio 6D

The first photo (left) shows the view from the vestibule door looking across the curved windows of 6E towards the water tank.

Here's how the 1933 "BBC Year Book" described the area:

"The dramatic effects studio is as exciting as a magician's cave, and indeed would be taken for such by a savage. For one machine makes thunder; another howls like a February gale. Two neat boxes produce electrical noises; a tank, the prattle of a stream or the roar of a waterfall. A rotating table in the middle has a surface divided into six compartments made of different substances for various percussion effects. The floor has a concrete area and a wooden area for different footsteps. One corner is dedicated to railway noises. All this apparatus is housed and disposed with extreme neatness and compactness. Two microphones suspended from the ceiling and operated by two long jointed arms can be placed beside any 'effect' while it is in operation. Even a layman can enjoy all the ingenuity and efficiency of these contraptions, but it probably requires a specialist to appreciate to the full the apparently effortless success of Mr. Wells Coate's achievement."

Studio 6D
In the next photo (right) we are still standing by the door, but now looking diagonally across the studio. A thunder sheet was in the recess to the left of the far corner. The door in the back wall led to a storage area. Electrical effects run along that wall.

Studio 6D

Moving into that far corner and looking back (left) shows the windows of 6E and, above it, 7E. The acoustic treatment of walls and ceiling was 2" of packed rockwool covered by various fabrics, the outer one being a light cotton dyed grey. At dado level a more durable facing material was used, in the form of a perforated 3/16" rubber sheet.

Studio 6D

Duke of Windsor
above - The table, with its six different surfaces not only rotated but could also be raised and lowered. A wind machine stands behind it and the area of concrete floor can be seen. The suspended microphones left the floor free of stands and cables.

right - The Duke of Windsor was an early visitor to 6D and he is seen here in 1932 watching the classic horse footsteps effect being created - though not with coconut shells!

The equipment was generally in laminated wood, cellulosed a light mauve-grey, with tubular steel supports and fittings, some in anodised aluminium alloy and others stove-enamelled a dark grey. The flush plywood doors were veneered with Australian walnut, grey-brown in tone, and the skirting was ebonised hardwood.

Water effects
Metal Effects

This group of photos show 6D at work. Top left Metallic noises are being created and, above, the water tank is in use.

The last three shots are from the later 1930s and show Type A microphones in use. Presumably these mics were too heavy for the ceiling mounts and required floor stands. The original table-top has been replaced by a smaller one.

Studio 6D in 1938

Studio 6D in 1938

Effects Studios 6E and 7E
Studio 6E

Studio 6E
In the two gramophone effects studios six turntables were provided, four for 12" records and rotating at 78-80 rpm and two for 16" discs which ran at 33 1/3 rpm (but were coarse groove). The outputs were combined on a six-way mixer.

Studio 6D in 1938

Admire the attractive curved window and woodwork - and wonder why no one thought of providing space for a script! There wasn't much space to play with, though: 6E and 7E were 12' x 8' x 9', 860 cu. ft. and untreated acoustically. The curved windows were double glazed and the metal-work was anodised aluminium alloy. The central sliding frame allowed communication between the studios and 6D. Below is a view of 6D from 7E.

Studio 7E

Effects Studio 7D

Studio 7D
In accordance with the policy of providing facilities for the production, or rehearsing, of two independent plays simultaneously, two studios were provided for the provision of effects. 7D was a smaller version of 6D at 13' x 12' x 9', a volume of 1,400 cu. ft..

Studio 7B
Studio 7B

It seems that there are few pictures of the other studios in the Productions Group, probably because they were not completed in time to appear in the 1932 book of pictures. Here, though, is 7B, which, like the similarly sized 6B below it, was intended for speech in plays and for piano music. They could also be used for talks which required piano illustrations. 7B was 19' square and 9' high (3,200 cu. ft.) and had a reverberation time of 0.6 seconds.

The other studios in the Productions Group

7A had a dead acoustic for speech in plays and was used in association with 6A. The microphone output was fed to the mixer in the adjacent 6A listening room. Within a couple of years it was being used exclusively by the Empire Service. 13' x 13' x 9', 1,500 cu. ft.

7C also had a dead acoustic for drama use. 19' x 19' x 9', 3,200 cu. ft.

Studio 6A
6A (right) was the largest studio in the Productions group, occupying two floors. It was 36' x 16' x 18', 10,000 cu. ft., with a reverberation time of 0.85 seconds. It could handle three microphones which were mixed in its listening room on the seventh floor. A microphone in 7A was also available to the mixer.

6C was again used for speech in plays and was 19' x 19' x 9', 3,200 cu. ft., with a dead acoustic.

Listening Rooms (Seventh and Sixth Floors)
Listening Room
6B and 6C shared a listening room of approximately triangular shape. Windows linked this room to the two studios and also to 6A. A similar arrangement applied to the seventh floor with studios 7B and 7C. These triangular rooms contained no mixers but were equipped with loudspeakers and used for co-ordinating the performances in the various studios.

Corridor and Waiting Area (6th floor)
6th Floor Corridor
Waiting Area

A waiting area for people taking part in productions was open to the corridor leading to Studios 6A, 6B and 6C.

The first opening beyond the lounge held a spiral staircase leading to the seventh floor thus providing a fast route for actors needing to move between studios.

Music Control Cubicle (7th floor)
Music Control Room
One of the Music Control Cubicles, showing the control desk and loudspeaker. Here, "a musician with the music score in front of him" carried out "the necessary controlling of the music, checking the quality by means of the loudspeaker shown at the right of the picture." There is more information about how the Music Control Cubicles fitted into the system in the technical section.

Lines Test Room and Telephone Switchboard (7th floor)
Lines Test Room

left - The Line Testing Room, the place where "the many telephone lines used for broadcasting" were "tested for their frequency response."

below, left and right - The Office Telephone Exchange. Like the Control Room, the Telephone Exchange would be moved to a safer location during the war years.

Telephone Switchboard

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Telephone Switchboard

Control Room Battery Room (6th floor)
Battery Room
This room was tucked into the space beneath the sloping roof on the east side of the building.

Battery Room

above left - The batteries for the high tension supply to the amplifiers in the Control Room and, above right, those powering the relay-switches and signal-lights.


Rotary-Converters (mains driven DC generators) and Switchgear for charging the Control Room batteries. It's not clear where these pictures were taken, but it's presumably the room at the north of the building marked as 'Motor Generator' on the floor plan.

Ultra-Short Wave Transmitter (7th Floor)
Ultra-Short Wave Transmitter
A Marconi type SWB4 transmitter was installed on the seventh floor feeding an aerial slung between two of the masts on the roof. It was used for ultra-short wave experiments. The Marconi advert appeared in the 1933 Year Book.

Marconi Advert

Later - Studio 7A used by the Empire Service

Studio 7A in 1934
Following test transmissions from the Marconi Works at Chelmsford which began in November 1927, the Empire Service began transmitting from Daventry on 19th December 1932.

Six days later King George V gave the first Christmas Message, speaking from Sandringham.

The new service required extra studios and 7A seems to have been rebuilt and used exclusively by the Empire Service by 1934. A new studio was later built on the fourth floor.

Studio 7A in 1934