ORBEM
The Washford Radio Museum

The Washford Radio Museum, Somerset

Neil with museum sign
Neil Wilson together with the Museum sign in the Tropiquaria car park. This SHF dish is from Ardgour link station near Fort William and was part of the network distributing BBC 405 line TV to the Highlands of Scotland.
The Washford Radio Museum is attached to Tropiquaria, a wildlife park and tourist attraction which is housed in the redundant part of the Washford Transmitting Station, a grade 2 listed example of industrial Art Deco architecture.

The museum was opened in 1993 by Neil Wilson, a lifelong radio enthusiast and engineer, and aims to describe the building's history as well as offer an insight into radio broadcasting in Britain from the 1920s onwards.

Opened in 1933, the BBC West Regional Transmitting Station at Washford Cross was the first high-power broadcasting station in the south west and the museum contains photographs and information about the station from the 1930s through to its present use by Arqiva to broadcast BBC Radio Wales, Absolute Radio and TalkSport.

Many items of early BBC equipment and ephemera are on display, some rescued from the Washford station before its re-engineering in the late 1970s, along with a collection of radios, televisions and related artifacts and literature.

In the photos on this page can be seen a selection of the items held by the Museum.

Moorside Edge A Unit
Moorside Edge A Unit


An 'A' unit from one of the Moorside Edge Regional (Marconi PB2) transmitters which were dismantled in 1984. This is identical to the original 1933 transmitters at Washford, one of which survived until 1979 when all the old equipment was scrapped. This unit was rescued by Bill Pozniak, a vintage radio enthusiast who kept it for about 10 years in a cellar, excavated for the purpose, beneath his house in Oldham before loaning it to the Museum. The picture on the right shows part of the interior of the unit.

Display board
Display board


Two display boards made, possibly, by Jim Butterworth when the original Washford transmitting equipment was re-engineered c.1979. Items from the Machine Room and Transmitter Hall on the left and from the Engine Room on the right.

Transmitter valves
The Transmitting Valve display. Most of the larger examples are from BBC transmitters from the 1920s to the present.

Miscellaneous BBC equipment
Test bay


(above) One of two cases with BBC equipment, including an OBA/8, and disks. The other is larger and is mainly concerned with recording, including the Type C disc recorder and EMI 'midget', Ficord, Uher and Nagra tape recorders as well as a spool of Philips-Miller film.

(right) An AC/48 Test Bay dating from 1948 and once used at Washford.


Disks


Disks
Some disk labels. The first two are sound effects disks. The first one dates from late 1933 or 1934. The Gramophone Co trademark on the second disk reminds us that the BBC had no means of mastering disks until they acquired their first MSS machine in April 1934.

The third example is 60 rpm disk from BBC Recorded Programmes Library, Bristol. This is part 1 of a programme by George Bernard Shaw broadcast on the National Programme, 6th February 1934.

(left, top) King Edward VIII's Abdication Speech, part 1, 11th December 1936. Note the instruction to "play from centre" round the perimeter of the label. By recording alternate disks from the centre the change of quality when going from one disk to the next was eliminated.

Finally one of several test disks, this one being three minutes of 1kHz tone.


BBC microphones


Some of the microphones in the museum collection. The one in the bottom left corner is a carbon granule type constructed by Neil Wilson from bits to resemble those used in the very early BBC studios. All the other microphones shown are described elsewhere on this site. From left to right we see a Marconi-Reisz carbon granule (1927), an STC 4017 (1930), and an STC 4021 - often called the apple and biscuit (1935). Just in front of that is an STC 4017A (a variant of the 4017 with a different connector) and a BBC Type B (1937). Behind that is a pair of STC 4035s (1949). In the centre is the classic BBC AXBT (1944, developed from the original Type A of 1934). Then come an STC 4038 (mid-1950s) and a BBC PGS from which the 4038 was developed (1953). Partly hidden by the body of the PGS is an STC 4037B. Finally an STC 4105 (c.1955).

The museum has a large collection of books, magazines, BBC publications and other literature relating to radio, television and broadcasting (both technical and cultural). Access is by prior appointment and a small donation to museum funds is appreciated.



These papers and diaries once belonged to Stuart Hibberd, the BBC's Chief Announcer from 1925 to 1951, and were acquired by the late Len Kelly of Kelly Books who generously donated them to the museum.

The diaries run from 1944 and the papers consist of many original scripts and memos, some dating from the 1930s, with Hibberd's own annotations. Included (above) is part of the script of "Men of Goodwill", the Christmas broadcast of 1947; the final closing announcement on the Forces Programme, 26th February 1944; the continuity announcement for the broadcast of the opening of the 1948 Olympic Games, 29th July; a 1942 letter from Hibberd to an appreciative listener; a script for "2LO Calling", also from 1942 and looking back at the early days of radio; an invitation to a concert marking the 80th Birthday of H.M. Queen Mary and a newspaper clipping recording a rare on-air slip-up by Hibberd.

Above, right is the invitation from the Director General, Sir William Haley, to a farewell luncheon when Hibberd retired as chief announcer in 1951.

Coronation documents


A collection of documents relating to the broadcast of the Coronation in 1953, including a chart of line allocations, the opening announcement, operational procedure instructions and a timetable of overseas broadcasts.

Radio receivers

Television receivers
Portable radio receivers
The collection also includes domestic receivers from 1922 onwards, some of which are seen above left, with a display of valve and transistor portables below. There are also large quantities of service data for radio and television receivers (1920s to 1990s) as well as advertising literature. Some of the TV receivers in the collection are shown above; there are also a few console models and many others in store.


Jig-saw puzzle
BBC flag


Finally, a couple of novelties - a BBC flag, possibly from Droitwich, and a jig-saw puzzle of Broadcasting House.

Tropiquaria is on the A39 between Williton and Minehead. Look out for the tall radio masts. Buses 28, X28 and 12 stop outside the gate. The postal address for the museum is: Washford Radio Museum, Tropiquaria, Washford Cross, TA23 0QB.

2014 Opening times:

February 15th to November 17th, 10.30am - 5.00pm. (July 23rd -August 31st, 10.00am - 6.00pm).

Winter: Weekends and Mondays, 11.00am - 4.00pm.

Christmas: December 20th - January 5th, 11.00am - 4.00pm. (Closed December 25th & 26th).

Admission to the whole of Tropiquaria (including the Museum):
Adults: 9.00 Children, OAPs, students: 7.50
BUT if you let the staff on the gate know you are interested in just the museum they will let you in for 2.50 each.


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