Teddington (Pearson, Barnes Trust, Pinewood)

teddington logo from 1990s 150

From 1993 Teddington was kept on by Thames – now simply a production company – and it was marketed as an independent facilities house simply called ‘Teddington Studios’ – the senior management being Richard Dunn (Chairman), Ewart Needham (Managing Director), Steve Gunn (Marketing Director) and Alan Tingay (Technical Director).  Programmes made around this time included Des O’Connor Tonight (’77-’02) and his version of Take Your Pick (’92-’98).

Thames Television was bought by Pearson plc in 1993 and initially continued to be based at Teddington.  However, in 1996 they decided to move all their operations to a large office block in Stephen Street, just off Tottenham Court Road, which contained two small production studios of 2,600 sq ft and 1,500 sq ft respectively.  (See the Independent TV Studios section for more details.)


In 2001 Thames became part of the Fremantle Media group and following its merger with Talkback Productions operated for a number of years as the highly successful TalkbackTHAMES.  In 2012 the companies within Fremantle were divided up again so some programmes once more had the Thames logo at the end.  These included The X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and Take Me Out.


Pearson’s operation moved to central London in 1997 but the studios had already been sold to Barnes Trust Media in late summer 1996.  This company had previously been a post production business based in Soho.  Teddington Studios were apparently sold to Barnes for around £9m.

In 1999, Barnes Trust sold the whole site for a reported £10m to a property company – Howard Holdings – but leased back the studios and other areas such as the scenery store, admin building, car park and restaurant block.  The lease for running the studios was said to run for 25 years.  Howard Holdings had plans to create a ‘media village’ including luxury flats and riverside restaurants on the land occupied by the production block and outdoor car park.  Despite several attempts to obtain planning permission, the plans came to nothing.


Programme making continued in studios 1 and 2 with the smaller studios being given over to some of the digital channels that were beginning to spring up.  Unfortunately, although these small studios were refurbished and equipped to attract the new operators, the two main studios received almost no investment throughout the period that Barnes Trust ran the business.

teddington aerial view 2006
Teddington in 2006.
with thanks to the Pinewood Group website.


In 2004, after several failed attempts to redevelop the site with a mix of luxury flats and ‘media’ offices, Howard Holdings, the property company owning the Teddington Studios site, sold it to Haymarket Publishing.  They spent about 18 months refurbishing the old production office blocks and took over most of the scenery storage area.  They also constructed a photographic studio on the site, large enough to take pictures of cars.  They began moving in during January 2006.  All of the refurbished offices were for their own use but the television studios operated as usual alongside this activity. Parts of the multi-storey car park remained available for the use of studio workers but it was always very crowded during the week.

Sadly, the restaurant block overlooking the weir was not returned to use.  It had not been occupied since 2004.  Fences went up around it and work on refurbishing the exterior and removing asbestos began in March 2007.  This was completed by the summer of 2007 but the interior appeared to be unchanged.  It remained empty and Haymarket never used it apart from storing lots of boxes – one assumes containing magazines.  What a waste!


In 2004 the old powerhouse in the corner of the site was converted into a cafeteria with a mezzanine floor above for meetings and wrap parties but it was never very popular with studio workers (except for breakfast) who tended to prefer the Anglers or the Tide End.  It closed for good in 2012.  The hospitality boat, the ‘Sir Thomas More’ also slipped its moorings during the late ’90s leaving the landing stage sadly empty.


Although Teddington Studios Ltd were busy during the early 2000’s, in 2004 they lost several key contracts.  The Kilroy series was dropped by the BBC;  The Shopping Channel, which occupied Studio 3, went bust;  The Racing Channel also closed and Today With Des and Mel moved to TLS for its second series.  A great deal of money had also just been spent on re-equipping a studio for the Racing Channel.

The company went into administration owing money to several freelance operators, electricians and supply companies.  About a week later on April 1st 2005 the lease for the studios was taken over by Pinewood-Shepperton for £2.6m.  Although initially it was reported in the press that the 50-odd staff would all be retained, at the end of April several were in fact made redundant.  More staff losses occurred in the spring of 2006.  Over the following years more and more were ‘let go’ until by 2012 the studios were being run by a handful of very tired, overworked but dedicated staffers including Peter Lawes, Richard Waiting and Katherine Weikop.  Other loyal ex-staffers returned when needed on a freelance basis.


Back in April 2005, almost immediately following the takeover, the two main studios began to attract new work and the company were said to be having difficulty fitting in all the bookings. These included several sitcoms and other shows in studio 1 and the new Trisha series for Five in studio 2.  (After a year this moved to Maidstone.)  Almost all the small studios were then in regular use by digital channels – including studio 7, which was built from scratch in six weeks in the summer of 2005 for the Quiz Call channel.  It occupied the old studio 2 prop store area and studio 1’s green room, further reducing the storage space for productions using the main studios.


The Pinewood Studios Group, the new owners, carried out some much needed refurbishment to areas such as reception, corridors, dressing rooms, production offices and toilets.  However, the two main studios remained in desperate need of major investment.  A few HD cameras were purchased for use in any of Teddington’s or Pinewood’s TV studios but the galleries of studios 1 and 2 looked the same as they had for the previous twenty years or more.

In June 2009 a further three HD cameras were purchased (Sony HDC-1000s) bringing the total number available to 8.  Three of the original 1500s were however sent to Pinewood to be used on a long-running children’s series (ZingZillas) – the three new ones being used for My Family, which was forced to move here from its usual home at Pinewood due to clashing bookings in the studios at Pinewood.

At one time it looked as though the floor of studio 1 would receive a long-overdue replacement in the summer of 2009 but in fact TV-two at Pinewood was replaced instead, despite being a relatively new resin floor.  This related to the fact that the floor was part of the fabric of the building , therefore owned by Haymarket, and I gather that the two companies could not resolve who would pay for the work.  This inability to work together seems to have led to the overall lack of investment in the two main studios which was to the benefit of neither company in the end.  Studio 1 instead had a chipboard floor laid on top of the old lino which was a far from satisfactory solution.


Despite all the ups and downs of the studios, they remained popular with many programme makers.  Comedy shows in particular regularly occupied studio 1.  For twenty or more years, many sitcom series were made here, produced by independent production companies like Alomo, Hartswood Films, DLT Entertainment, Shazam, Big Bear or Avalon.  Popular comedies like Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart, Men Behaving Badly and My Hero were made in the ’90s and ’00s.  Critically acclaimed series like Coupling and Black Books were also recorded here.  The last two specials of Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer’s BBC comedy As Time Goes By were made here in 2005, rather than at TV Centre and the Only Fools and Horses spin-off series The Green Green Grass was produced here in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 – the first UK sitcom to use high definition cameras.  Also, in 2006 and 2008 BBC Comedy department chose Teddington to make After You’ve Gone – starring Nicholas Lyndhurst. 

Later comedies included Not Going Out, The IT Crowd, Teenage Kicks and Reggie Perrin.  For much of 2009 the studio was occupied by My Family, which moved here from Pinewood.  This did mean that at least one regular production company was forced to find alternative studio space which strained relations between them and Pinewood for the following few years.  After that the studio was less busy than before but did see the return of Reggie Perrin and was booked for entertainment series A League of Their Own and The Rob Brydon Show.  Will Mellor’s sitcom  White Van Man was shot in studio 1 in Nov/Dec 2010 using 4-walled sets but with a live studio audience, unable to see any of the action except on monitors.


I’m proud to say I lit many sitcoms and other productions at Teddington between 2002 and the closure in 2014.  I absolutely loved the place, even though it was desperately in need of investment but the people who worked here could not have been more helpful.


Entertainment shows included This Is Your Life (ending in 2003), eight series of the award-winning Harry Hill’s TV Burp between 2002 and 2010 (then made at TV Centre), Extinct for Endemol and The Chase for ITV Studios in 2013/14.  Studio 2 was the home of Brian Conley’s daytime entertainment contest Let Me Entertain You  in 2006/7 and several series of Bremner, Bird and Fortune were also made here.  The first series of Today With Des and Mel  had its home in studio 2.

Studio 2 sadly remained empty for much of the time in its last few years but it was used for a few weeks in 2010 for Britain’s Best Dish and Dick and Dom’s Funny Business,  which returned in January 2011The lack of investment by Pinewood inevitably meant that it was not suitable to make multicamera programmes in HD.  It was however used for a number of dry hire single-camera bookings.

Des of course considered Teddington his second home for many years.  He had his own dressing room and Des O’Connor Tonight was made regularly in studio 1.  In fact, as his website modestly stated (yes, I actually had a look at his website) ‘Des has had his own primetime TV show for 44 consecutive years, longer than anyone, anywhere on the planet.’  Well, you can’t argue with that, can you?


Sadly, Teddington was in a period of decline over its final few years.  In January 2011 many of the small studios around the site were not booked – only The Chinese Channel and Turf TV remaining as long-term residents.  Studio 2 continued to be the industry’s most closely guarded secret and studio 1 – in the recent past with a pretty full diary – had relatively few bookings for the year ahead.  Studio 3 was fitted with a hard infinity cyclorama which could be painted blue, green or white making it an incredibly useful facility – but who knew this even existed?  Studio 7 was closed during 2012 due to lack of interest.

Unfortunately, the responsibility to market these facilities was down to Pinewood and one does sense that the relevant department was far more interested in pushing its own TV studios rather than these funny old ones several miles away.  I don’t think they appreciated just how good Teddington’s studios actually were.


During 2010 and into 2011 there were rumours of problems between Haymarket and Pinewood over the lease, partly concerning who owned what in the studios.  From an outsider’s perspective Teddington appeared to be very poorly marketed with few production managers seemingly aware of what the studios offered.  This was even more surprising considering that Pinewood’s two TV studios were booked by feature films for much of 2010 and 2011.  One would have thought that this would have been a golden opportunity to refurb at least studio 1 and then really push it hard.

The lease was due for renewal in September 2011 and it was rumoured throughout the industry that Pinewood would call it a day here.  However, they decided to stay for a further three years – although they said that there would have to be some cost-cutting and a few more redundancies.  My guess is that Pinewood were waiting to see what would happen to the studios at TV Centre when that building was sold.


The lease ran until the end of 2014.  However, in January 2013 the Pinewood board unexpectedly (and bafflingly) decided to close Teddington 18 months before then.  With the acute shortage of studios following the closure of TV Centre this must be one of the most perverse decisions made by any company working in British TV for a very long time – and that is certainly saying something.  They entered into discussions with Haymarket over withdrawing from the lease early.  The tenants in offices and the remaining small studios were told to leave by the end of August 2013.

For a while it looked as though The Chase would be the last booking, ending in June 2013.  However, one or two other productions slipped under the wire and studio 1 continued to take some bookings until the end of 2013.  All the other studios however were decommissioned – although studio 2 continued to be used as a 4-waller.

In August 2013 the discussions over leaving early apparently ended between Pinewood and Haymarket.  Thus, studio 1 did remain open until the end of 2014.  Several programmes including The Chase, Not Going Out and Still Open All Hours were booked to use the studio in its final few months.  Studio 2 closed for good in the summer of 2014 – Paul Whitehouse’s comedy Nurse was the final booking – using it as a dry hire for a single camera shoot.  Studio 3 had officially closed before then but both Nurse and Not Going Out used it as a 4-waller during July.  We used it for a green screen shoot for the interiors of the wedding car in the final episode of Not Going Out.  Strange to think I lit the last show in the studio that housed Rainbow, Sooty and Magpie.

The last day of recording was on Friday 21st November 2014 – it was an episode of Still Open All Hours.  The keys were handed over to Haymarket on December 19th.


The following is a selection of photos I took around the site on the last recording day of Not Going Out in July 2014- sadly, the final occasion I was to work at Teddington.  Click on them to see them in greater detail.


In July 2013 Haymarket announced their intention to move to new offices elsewhere, redevelop the whole site and build housing.  And so we lost another superbly designed and well equipped studio centre.

teddington planning notice jerry alderson 450p
The planning notice pinned to a lamp post outside the studios in March 2014.
with thanks to Jerry Alderson