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  • Writer's pictureCarol Harris

BBC beginnings and Crofton Park

Recent celebrations marking the centenary of the BBC remind us of a local connection.

The BBC began life as the British Broadcasting Company, a private company which broadcast radio programmes on the station 2LO.

From 1923, Alfred Graham and Co., based in Crofton Park since 1894, owned 100 shares in the new company. This made it a substantial investor – most others owned less then 10 shares – but not enough to give Graham a seat on the board, alongside major investors such as Marconi.

The Alfred Graham Company was one of the leading developers of the electronic sound equipment. In 1920, it registered a new company, ‘Graham Amplion Ltd.’, which was also based in its St Andrew’s works, in Crofton Park Road. Amplion made loudspeakers for wireless sets, gramophones, radiogrammes and public address systems.

Today, the factory site is the turning known as Ladywell Heights. The company also owned two houses, numbers 96 and 98 Crofton Park Road either side of the turning.

Graham and Co. was the main employer in Crofton Park until 1928, when it moved to a larger site in Slough. You can read more about the company in another of our Crofton Park history blogs, ‘Telephones on the Titanic’.

The picture above is from the 1924 Empire Exhibition, which was held at Wembley. The exhibition was an attempt to bolster Britain’s trade, and strengthen links within the British Empire, and to honour the men and women from across the British Empire who had served in the First World War.

The exhibition was opened by King George V and his speech was broadcast by the British Broadcasting Company to an estimated 10 million people. It was the first of many broadcasts by King George and, possibly, was the first electronic recording made in England. Here’s a link to extracts The clip also includes the voice of the Prince of Wales, later (and briefly) Edward VIII, who was president of the exhibition organising committee.

The speech was broadcast around the world, but visitors to Wembley would have heard it through the Amplion speakers, like the people seated around the BBC kiosk in this contemporary photo.

The Alfred Graham Company sold its shares in the BBC in 1926, as did all the other shareholders. That year, the BBC was granted its royal charter so the British Broadcasting Company was wound up and replaced by the British Broadcasting Corporation, which was established on 1stJanuary 1927.

Even while it was a private company, the BBC did not broadcast advertisements on its radio station, but it did take sponsorship for programmes. This followed a model of radio broadcasting popular in the US. We haven’t been able to find out whether Alfred Graham Co. was among the sponsors but will let you know if we do.

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