Radio Fever Grips Laindon

An early attempt to get Laindon listening.

By John Bathurst

A small piece of news printed in the local rag of its day ( “The Laindon, Pitsea and Stanford-l-Hope Advertiser and Railway Time Table”), tells us that on Tuesday 8th September 1923, there was a musical concert held at the Mission Hall, Manor Road, Laindon. This concert had been arranged as a fund raising event by the Laindon Philanthropic Society (Chairman; H.E.Bebington, Estate Agent) whose objective was explained as being “the raising of funds to give the old folk of the district an outing; to secure surgical aid letters; to provide assistance in needy cases, and for any deserving case which might come to the notice of the Committee,”

It would appear that the otherwise “successful” evening of “high-class” and “beautiful” music, which included the singing by Mr. F. Sargent of some of his up-to-date comic songs, was marred by the fact that, despite Mr Gipson doing his level best to bring about a good result, the “wireless” demonstration did not prove to be a success.

At this time, a radio station called 2MT (or Two Emma Toc) had been broadcasting for 30 minutes every Tuesday between 2000 and 2030 since February 1922 from an ex-Army hut next to the Marconi works at Writtle near Chelmsford but had closed down in the January of 1923. This pioneering work had been taken up by a sister radio station called 2LO in May 1922 which began broadcasting for an hour a day from Marconi House in The Strand, London.  Two months after the unsuccessful attempt to “listen in” at Laindon, 2LO changed its name, and call-sign, to the “British Broadcasting Company” eventually becoming the British Broadcasting Corporation (or BBC) in 1927, four years later.

Most probably the reason for the unsuccessful demonstration at Laindon was the, as yet, undeveloped radio receivers of the time which required very careful adjustment of what was often called the “cats whisker” or “tuning in” device with which radio sets were supplied. Laindon. In 1923 lacked a mains electric supply and the sets were often powered by either massive banked dry batteries or by a wet-cell “accumulator” that had to be regularly recharged from the mains supply where nit was available or from a mobile generator. In addition, the “loud speaker” devices available to enable an audience to hear broadcast signals without the aid of ear-phones were often only primitive trumpets, the development of more sophistic apparatus being dependent on a growing market for what was a comparatively costly item for the time.

The publication carrying the report of the unsuccessful demonstration also displays one small advertisement for the growing interest in “radio”. It reads; “THE  LAINDON WIRELESS STORES, for your sets and parts, it will pay you to watch our windows! NOTE ADDRESS- “Primrose Café,” High Road, Laindon.”

Eight years later from the unsuccessful demonstration of 1923, “radio fever” has taken a hold on Laindon. In March 1931, with mains electricity already being installed around parts of the district, the advertising has become far more strident. The edition of the “Laindon Advertiser and Railway Time Table” (Pitsea and Stanford-le-Hope having gone their own way!) carries the following:-

“Our Biggest Seller!” The LISSEN Two Valve Transportable REGIONAL RECEIVER. Battery Operated. Complete with Accumulator, 120 volt HT Battery, 4½ volt Grid Bias Battery and Valves. CASH 8 GNS or 15/- down and 11 Monthly Payments of 15/6.  All Electric A C Complete with Power supply Unit, 16 Volt Grid Bias Battery and Valves CASH  11 GNS or 20/- down and 11 Monthly Payments of 22/-. State Mains voltage when ordering.

In this district it works amazingly well on a small indoor aerial, with volume and clarity equal to a good three-valver. It is self-contained and is a splendid gramaphone amplifier.

May we demonstrate this in your own home?

The most reliable firm in this district for Accumulator Charging.

WE HAVE THE PLANT. WE HAVE THE INTEREST. WE HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE.

We satisfy two hundred customers per week.

THE LAINDON RADIO ELECTRIC SERVICE AND MUSIC HOUSE, J.S. JOHNSON, WINDSOR ROAD, LAINDON. PHONE LAINDON 128”

The age of mass communication had taken off and has never looked back since. 

This page was added by John Bathurst on 25/07/2011.
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If you check out the Basildon Memories group on Facebook I have posted a photo of a record sleeve from the Laindon Radio Electric Sevice & Music House

By Phil Wingfield
On 20/04/2012
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