The Granville Theatre

Associated-Rediffusion had also bought an old music hall – the Granville Theatre, in Walham Green, Fulham – which had been undergoing conversion for three months.  The first 70 trainees were due to move there from the Viking Studio but the Granville wasn’t ready.  The builders and engineers would apparently need a fortnight more.  Nevertheless – ready or not, one week later the first batch of trainees went to the Granville and began work. It thus became the first operational ITV studio.

granville ext 400p
The forbidding exterior of the Granville. Frank Matcham at his most gothic.
with thanks to Louis Barfe

The Granville Theatre in Fulham Broadway opened in September 1898, designed by the great theatre architect, Frank Matcham.  It was built on a very small plot of land – the original stage was only 6 feet deep!  More land was acquired in the 1920s and the stage and other areas were increased in size.  Its capacity was 1,122 and it was a typical music hall of the period.  Stars who appeared here included Dan Leno (who was one of the owners), Vesta Victoria, George Roby, Wilkie Bard and Gracie Fields.

Norman Fenner (who died in 2012, aged 91) knew the theatre very well and wrote down some of his memories:

‘On entering the theatre, the box office was on the left and the entrance to the right led to the stalls.  Ahead was the staircase leading to the dress circle.  If you were seated in the dress circle (weekdays 9d, 1s 3d on Saturdays), after being greeted by the manager, always in full evening dress, you ascended the staircase which led to the rear of the circle.  There were no boxes and the sides of the circle extended almost to the proscenium arch.  If you sat in the side seats, the man operating the follow spot would most likely be sitting next to you.

The seating in the circle was fixed, not tip-up with very little leg room and only 6 rows.  The stalls had 14 rows of tip-up seating whilst the gallery had stone steps with padding on the edges – 2d in old money.

The ladies toilet in the stalls was a bit of an embarrassment (the one thing Matcham never got right in all his theatres!).  It led straight off the stalls with only one cubicle.

When I used to visit the Granville it was presenting variety and revue, no big names but as a rule it was very entertaining.  During the war it became a repertory theatre.  Later a new management presented semi-nude revues.

Like most theatres the Granville presented the bioscope during the interval.  It had been built with a tiny projection box at the rear of the stalls.  Not ideal as the operator had to keep knocking on the small window to get the audience to move as they were being ‘shadowed’ on the screen.’

Thanks to Richard Broadhurst for sending me a copy of Norman’s memories.

The conversion of the Granville to TV use was pretty basic and apparently the stalls floor retained its rake, making control of the cameras somewhat challenging.  The Granville was officially known within A-R as studio 6.  One of the early series made here was called  The Granville Melodramas.  This was a series of Victorian plays that proved surprisingly popular with the viewers.

In 1956 – less than a year after its opening – the studio was closed along with studio 3 at Wembley.  The ITV companies were in serious financial trouble and so began to share more programmes between each other to save money.  Thus the Granville was no longer needed.

The theatre probably remained the property of Associated-Rediffusion for a year or so but it was not used.

granville theatre
The Granville Theatre – ITV’s first operational studio. Not the largest or most sophisticated but – the first! It began making programmes on 7th August 1955.


In 1957 the studio was purchased by Pye TVT and Mole Richardson.  Bob Davis tells me that he worked there as a sound trainee for eight months around 1957/58 when it was operating as an independent studio.

According to a 1960 edition of ‘Television Today’, the studio was then extensively rebuilt – reopening on September 12th 1960.  It was marketed as the Granville Studio.  The refurb was considerable – a new flat TV floor was laid creating 2,000 sq ft of useable space and all the latest technical kit including telecine machines were installed.  This included a brand new memory lighting desk from Strand Electric.  The production, sound and vision galleries were effectively a shop window for all the equipment Pye had to offer the main broadcasters to go in their studios.

So Pye and Mole used the Granville as a demonstration studio.  However, they also advertised it as an independent studio to be hired by anyone – ‘competitive rates available from Rear Admiral RS Welby.’  Perfect.  It was apparently provided with a GPO coaxial cable to Museum telephone exchange enabling recording to take place elsewhere.  It seems they had no intention of purchasing Ampex VTRs as ‘better systems would probably come along at a later date.’  The studio manager is quoted as saying ‘our customers are not just people: they are our friends.’  Now where have I heard that before?

Thanks to Richard Broadhurst for bringing these gems to my notice.

granville stage 400p
The Granville following its refurb. Note that the grid has been completely rebuilt and is fitted with Mole-Richardson harp telescopes. These are the same as were installed at ATV’s Elstree studios and at Teddington.
granville auditorium 400p
This shows just how tiny the auditorium was. Note the control rooms at the rear of the stalls and dress circle.
granville 1960 with mole-pye
The Granville Studio in 1960 during the Mole/Pye days.
I can just hear the LD screaming ‘Get her away from that cyc!’ Well, I would.
Bob Davis has written to me – for it is he tracking the Mole boom with Sam Cartmer operating. He recalls that the chap on the lazy arm was Slim McDonnell. I am reliably informed that he went on to make his name developing underwater camera equipment.
photo thanks to David Petrie
granville ad
An advertisement printed in the 1961-62 British Film and Television Year Book


Andrew McKean recalls…

‘…I worked for Pye TVT 1962 -1963, based in London and recall the Granville Theatre.  Pye TVT had a small Bedford van equipped with two Pye Mk3 3″ Image Orthicon cameras.  I remember setting up the equipment at the Granville Theatre on a number of occasions for Granville Television.

On one occasion Richard Burton was making a documentary about the life of Dylan Thomas and Elizabeth Taylor was sitting just back from the cameras.  She had her leg in plaster from an accident during the filming of the movie Cleopatra.

My main memory though is of the strict union control at the site.  Coming from Australia where we were used to doing many tasks, at the Granville there had to be individual staff for lighting, camera, video, audio etc.  As a result there were far too many people there for efficient productions.  Many of the staff were moonlighting, and I got to meet some colourful and interesting characters from the various stations in London.’

Interestingly, Andrew adds…

We brought along our own Pye Mk3 Image Orthicon cameras and set them up in a makeshift control room overlooking the stage.’

He believes that these cameras were possibly some of the original ones owned by High Definition Films when they transferred to Tottenham from Highbury.  See the Highbury section on this page of the website for more info.


As you will come to see, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones seem to crop up in the history of many of London’s TV studios and this one is no exception.  On 2nd and 3rd October 1964 the Beatles rehearsed and recorded a performance for the British edition of the ABC (American) TV show Shindig.  The producer was Jack Good, the executive producer Leon Mirell.  The Beatles played `Kansas City’, `I’m A Loser’ and `Boys’.  It was broadcast on in the US on the 7th October 1964.  Some or all of the Stones were said to be at the recording too as the two groups had known each other for more than a year by then and often met up at each other’s concerts and performances.

It seems likely that the Granville was sold by Pye after running it for four or five years.  Certainly, the cameras mentioned from about 1964 are Marconis, which is obviously a clue.  It was purchased by William (Bill) Stewart and Peter Lloyd who both originally came from ATV.  They formed a company called Granville Television.  Peter Lloyd used to present ATV’s Seeing Sport  and he had an unlikely catch phrase – ‘Don’t forget Mum’.  He was also associated with British Lion Films.  He formed Lion Television Services at Shepperton – most likely in 1969.  Bill Stewart had been a director at ATV, working on such programmes as Emergency-Ward 10 and Mrs Thursday.


I’m told by Rick Glanville that in May 1966, Granville Television Productions were the tech partner when Stamford Bridge was the first English ground to host a live TV relay from a match taking place abroad – in fact from Barcelona.  The match was displayed to a crowd of 10,000 on 6 large screens in the middle of the pitch but unfortunately one blew over in the wind.  Chelsea lost 0-5.

Around this time, the studio was used by the Robert Stigwood Organisation to make a few music-based programmes and a company called Airtime Productions is said to have been involved in making some commercials.  I am told that a company called Fenestra Productions also used the studio – possibly for training purposes.  Someone has also informed me that he recalls a cameraman colleague of his directing there.  It seems that the Granville was a favourite place for quite a few people to do a bit of moonlighting.  In fact, that cameraman who had probably better remain nameless, went on to become a very highly regarded drama director and in later years a producer on EastEnders.  An ex-BBC sound man has told me that he was paid the princely sum of £9 for a day as a boom op in 1970.  Mind you, you could buy a small car for that amount back then.  Well, almost.


Linda Kaye has been researching the history of the Central Office of Information.  She contacted me with the following information:

The Granville Studios were used by the Central Office of Information to produce a weekly series called  London Line  from 1964.  It was initially made in two versions ‘Old Commonwealth’ for distribution in countries such as Canada and Australia and ‘New Commonwealth’ primarily for Africa.  In 1966 a colour version was produced, effectively replacing the ‘Old Commonwealth’ version and this continued until 1969.  Each programme consisted of around four topical stories often featuring live performances.

The cameras used to make these COI films were dual Marconi Mk IV TV cameras optically linked to Mitchell 16mm film cameras.  This system was sometimes known as Gemini and was also experimented with by ATV at Elstree, A-R at Wembley and the BBC at Riverside around this time.  It enabled a programme to be made on film but using TV multicamera techniques.  Interestingly, all the main TV companies abandoned it after a while – the Granville was to my knowledge the only studio that persevered with the system – later Ewarts adopted it too when they took over the Granville’s cameras.

Gemini was actually a trade name but the idea of recording onto film whilst using what was in effect a huge video assist camera was similar with all the various systems.

granville gemini david petrie
One of the ‘Gemini’ cameras in use
with thanks to David Petrie

However, it seems that some programmes continued to be made on video and recorded on tape rather than the Gemini film cameras.

granville ad 1968 400p
An advertisement from Kemp’s International Film & Television Directory, 1968.
I love the expression ‘colour lighting.’ I assume that means they had bought a couple of rolls of red and blue gell.
(Yes I do know it actually means that they had sufficient power and lights that were bright enough for the Gemini cameras.)
thanks to Geoff Hale for sending the ad to me
granville betjeman 300p
The gentleman walking away from the camera is the poet John Betjeman. The year was 1968 and he had just delivered an epilogue on the final programme made by TV company TWW. Oddly, this epilogue was recorded in the Granville but it does give us a chance to see a glimpse of the beautiful ornate balcony with a typical ‘TV studio conversion’ door plonked below it. I wonder what the great ‘friendly bombs’ poet made of that!
Note the clock and ‘On Air’ sign.
with thanks to Louis Barfe


Bill Stewart’s daughter Jane has kindly written to me with her memories…

‘…It was an exciting place for a child too.  I remember meeting Lulu, Cliff Richard and a Dalek!  I also remember it had plaques in the dome ceiling which I believe were made from marble and were the names of ballets performed at the theatre.  I used to love running up the curved staircase which took you from the studio floor up to the control room.  Also I remember a dear lady called Mack who used to sit in the old box office doing the accounts.  We stayed in touch with her for many years until I believe she retired and emigrated to South Africa.

My memory is that the lease ran out, and my father was unable to renew it.  I can recall conversations at home about what the future would hold, and the heartache of having to let members of staff go.  It was one of the reasons we left London in 1971, and it took my father a few years to recover and build up his new business, WSTV, William Stewart Television.’


Thus television making ended at the Granville.  The Gemini cameras were bought by Ewart Studios who also took over the COI work.

The Granville Theatre was demolished in 1971.