42. New-fangled Tech

The Onset of Television

Regular television broadcasting started in the UK in 1936. However, coverage was initially limited to the London area. So, at the outbreak of war, in 1939, there were only an estimated 20,000 TV sets in Britain. Opportunities grew after the war, particularly after December 1949, when the BBC’s Midlands transmitter opened in Sutton Coldfield. Grandad’s first note of watching television was New Year’s Eve 1949. He noted going to Eva’s to watch a film. He did not note what the film was. But, from the Radio Times of the period, it appears to have been “Storm in a Teacup”.

Sutton Coldfield TV transmitter © Graham Taylor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The Wireless Remained the Main Entertainment Medium

Nevertheless, mum’s main entertainment medium during this period remained the “wireless”. She listened to programmes on “Children’s Hour” (see box note 1). These included “Bunkle” (see box note 2) and “PC 49” (see box note 3). Mum also listened to some sporting events on the radio. These included the boat race and the Grand National in 1949 (see Chapter 45). In April 1949, mum noted that she heard the Ashfield Glee Men on the “wireless”. She included a very brief newspaper cutting in her diary. They also appeared on the Home Service’s regional radio programme for the Midlands in 1950. On New Year’s Eve 1949, grandad noted that he listened to the BBC to bring in the New Year.

[1] Children’s hour was a daily BBC radio broadcast from 5-6pm aimed at children. It started in 1922 and ran until 1964.

[2] Bunkle refers to a character created by Margot Pardoe who was featured on some of the Children’s Hour broadcasts. His real name was Billy de Salis and he was the youngest of three children of a British Secret Service Agent. His siblings nicknamed him Bunkle because he talked a lot of “bunk”.

[3] Presumably, when mum referred to PC49, she was referring to the radio series which inspired the film.
Mum’s diary for 1949 with the cutting about the Ashfield Gleemen


Telegrams were not a particularly new technology. They had been used from the 1840s. Nevertheless, mum noted, in January 1948, that she sent Dorothy Lofthouse a telegram for her birthday.


During most of this period, the Parkins did not have a telephone at home. However, in March 1949, grandad noted that he wrote to the GPO (see box) requesting a telephone. He received a reply about a week later advising him that they could not fix the phone yet. But, they said they would write to him when they could. In July 1949, they had the telephone installed. That month, mum noted they had a long-distance call from Hastings and she was also able to ring Dorothy up.

The General Post Office was established in 1660 and abolished in 1969.
In 1949, the Parkins had a phone installed. Their number was East Kirkby 2377.