The 1940s BH Control Room

The 1940s Broadcasting House Control Room - page 1

View from balcony

The Frontbench

The Frontbench
The original 1930s Broadcasting House Control Room was on the 8th floor. With the approach of war, a small emergency control room was built in the basement but it soon proved necessary to take over the large light entertainment (vaudeville!) studio in the sub-basement, Studio BA, and that's where the control room still was more than 20 years later, as can be seen in these 1962 photos.

As you entered, you were faced by some steps as, long before the invention of computers, they had sensibly put in a false floor to contain all the cabling. In front of you now was a line or rack of bays as they are known in the BBC. (The rest of the world would call them a bay of racks). These bays, referred to as the front bench, were largely covered with jackfields but there were also two manual telephone switchboards with candle stick telephones for the operators and an array of drop indicators, one for each caller. When a ring was received, the flap dropped, revealing the name of the caller and sounding a common buzzer if it wasn't already ringing.

Front bench


The switchboard to the right of the "front bench" (shown on the right) was known as "Incomings" and dealt mainly with the regions and transmitters. If someone lost programme, it was "Incomings" who rerouted it and reported the fault to "Trunk Test", the bit of the Post Office that provided all long distance line connections for the beeb - and everybody else. Most music lines had intermediate Post Office repeater amplifiers but there was still a line to Daventry (DX 689) consisting of solid copper wires. Along with an extension to Birmingham, this could be used in either direction.

To the left was, yes, "Outgoings" (below right) and this was where calls were answered from local studios and channels and the large number of outside studios around London to which radio had spread.

Rear of bays

The view, above, shows the rear of Outgoings and other bays.

The colour view of the front bench from the balcony, below, was taken on May 6th, 1960 - the day of the wedding of HRH Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong Jones.

Front bench