Belmont Street

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Belmont Street was the home of the BBC's first studio and offices in Aberdeen, a property it occupied from 1923 until 1938.

Description

In 1923, ahead of the launch of the BBC's first radio station in Aberdeen, 2BD, the Company agreed to rent the first and second floors of a building at 17 Belmont Street which belonged to the Aberdeen Electrical Engineering Company. It was located in the centre of Aberdeen, just one minute from the railway station.

On the first floor was the station director’s office, the studio and an annex where the engineer controlled the amplification.

The studio, at roughly 20ft x 28ft, was bigger than the studios at other stations, and was draped with scouring cloth and casement cloth. It benefitted from Sykes' Amplifiers, which had most recently wrought beneficial changes to the London station, and the latest Sykes microphones. Unlike all other microphones at the time, the Sykes had no diaphragm, but relied for its action upon a changing magnetic field. This meant that it produced less distortion (or 'blasting') and no longer made it necessary that the sound should be projected right at it, with the result that choirs, bands and orchestras no longer had to cramp themselves directly in front of the microphone, but could adopt easy positions a distance away. Through a glass partition there was a control room in which the engineer had full view of the studio. He listened-in on an ordinary receiving set, and was able to vary the degree of amplification to suit individual voices.[1] The apparatus in the control room was made by Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd.

The building also had an artistes room, a typists' room and an amplifier room.[2]

Expansion

In July 1924 two additional rooms on the ground floor were found necessary to accommodate the growing staff, which now included a woman assistant (Mrs. Callis, or Miss Winifred Manners as she was also called) and four or five engineers working under Mr. C. G. Harding, the engineer-in-charge. In the following year this accommodation was again found to be inadequate, and from May 1925 three more rooms were taken over on the first floor and a separate and exclusive entrance made, the address being changed from 17 to 15 Belmont Street.

In July 1926 part of the accommodation on the ground floor was given-up and in exchange further rooms in the basement and on the second floor (and in October of the same year, further rooms on the 3rd floor) were taken.

In November, 1929, part of the first floor was given up, keeping accommodation in the basement, first, second and attic floors.

In April,1932 additional accommodation was acquired on the first floor in the rear, as a studio and waiting room

The BBC chief at Aberdeen by the mid-1930s was Moultrie Kelsall. He was joined by half a dozen secretaries and a dozen engineers, thus completing the staff for this outpost.[3]

By late 1935 a process of modernisation and expansion was in progress, with a fourth studio and a new all-mains control room planned. The shop which occupied the ground floor was taken over for conversion into a waiting room. Prior to this, when a cast of more than ten arrived for a show they had to wait on the stairs![4]

The station not only landlined items to the Scottish Regional programme in Edinburgh, but also produced occasional, exclusive features of its own— for the programme radiated by the Aberdeen transmitter was a combination of National, Regional and local items, an arrangement unique in the BBC system at the time.

Closure

By 1936, Aberdeen was unique among Scottish stations in being the only one still housed in its original premises. Having long outgrown the property, it identified new premises at Beechgrove Terrace in the King's Gate district of the city. Beechgrove House, or 'Broadcasting House' as the BBC renamed it, was a three-storey building containing around 22 rooms. The BBC moved-in on 14 November 1938 (check it wasn't 12th), at which point the old premises in Belmont Street were given up.

Farewell, Belmont Street

More than 50 people took part in an hour-long special programme to mark the BBC's departure from its original Aberdeen premises. Farewell, Belmont Street, broadcast on the Scottish Regional Programme on the night of Saturday 29 October 1938, was devised by Arthur Black and produced by Alan Melville and featured a number of speakers and artists associated with the past 15 years of broadcasting in Aberdeen, including Moultrie Kelsall, R.E. Jeffrey and artistes such as Harry Gordon, Arthur Black, Alexander Keith, Christine Crow and 'Rab the Rhymer'. The programme overran by 12 minutes.[5] [6]

References

  1. 'Aberdeen Broadcasts To-Night', Courier, 10 October 1923, 3.
  2. Director of Programmes' report on visit to Aberdeen station, 24 and 25 January 1924, BBC WAC R13/370.
  3. Wireless World, 27 December 1935, 662.
  4. Wireless World, 27 December 1935, 662.
  5. 'Early days of radio: Aberdeen medley programme', Press and Journal, 31 October 1938, 8.
  6. 'A Radio Commentary: Aberdonian retrospect', Glasgow Herald, 31 October 1938, 8.