When wireless was all the rage

In this blog we’ll take a short look at the new technology of the 1920s – the wireless radio – and a demonstration of this wonder technology in Brimington.

This new wonder of wireless broadcasting was all the rage in 1923. The introduction of the valve and loudspeakers were making this new technology accessible and a ‘must have’ item on many family’s shopping lists – at least for those who could afford it. But this new technology, of receiving broadcast radio programmes, also needed a little bit of hard sell and demonstration – including at Brimington.

Hospital funds were boosted in early 1923 when ‘a lecture on the great modern science of wireless and demonstrations’ of ‘listening in’ with loudspeakers was given in Brimington Church Hall. According to the Derbyshire Times of 17 February 1923, Mr CH Mather was the organiser. He managed to obtain the services of Mr WHJ Coombes – a radiographer – who gave practical details on receiver construction and ‘Rontgen Rays’. There were ‘drawings on a blackboard…’ of how to put a set together. It was estimated that the keen DIYer could assemble a set for £12 which would be better than a bought one at £25. ‘Messages were sent through a small transmitter without any attachment to wires from an ante-room, and the tickings of the Morse code were heard quite distinct from the “loud speaker” on the hall platform’, according to the DT. The audience then attempted to listen into a concert being given in Manchester, but the loudspeaker was found to be wanting – it was not very loud!  Headphones gave a much better result. Local resident and Staveley Coal & Iron Company electrical engineer, Mr CE Tissington, presided over the meeting.

If you hadn’t followed the ‘drawings on a blackboard…’ of how to put a wireless set together, at the Brimington meeting, you could always buy a one – if you could afford it. It is interesting that two motor dealers are taking a lead in selling the wireless sets. An advertisement from the Derbyshire Times of 18 October 1924.

We hope that the reference to “Rontgen rays” will be about the cathode rays in the valves of wireless sets, as opposed to any other stray waves!  Wilhelm Röntgen studied those, additionally to the X-Rays that he tends to be remembered for.

To find out more about the dawn of radio in the UK visit http://www.r-type.org/articles/art-029.htm.

Derbyshire Times, 17 February 1923. One of the great attractions at the Chesterfield Congregational Church ‘Ye Olde Chesterfield Fayre’ was a wireless demonstration.

The need for a radio licence was established by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1923, in November of that year, at a cost of ten shillings (£0.50) per annum. But, rather like today, you really needed to be careful of people impersonating officials enforcing the Act. As the Derbyshire Times put it in its edition of 3 February 1923, ‘People visited by men representing themselves to be Post Office inspectors, who wish to make inquiries about wireless sets, should ask for their credentials.’

There were other opportunities to find out more about the wireless.  For example, hop on a bus in the late winter of 1923 and you could go to the Chesterfield Congregational Church Centenary event ‘Ye Olde Chesterfield Fayre’. This included wireless demonstrations ‘in an ante-room’ at the Market Hall. We’ve included the advertisement for this event in this blog, along with others.

The British Broadcasting Company was formed in 1923, with the Radio Times first appearing later that year. Here’s a link to the very first issue of that magazine: Issue 1 – 28 September 1923 – BBC Genome

‘Accumulators’ were used to power the radio sets. The need for these lead-acid battery sets to be kept regularly charged was taken up by some local businesses and shops. It was a regular duty for many local children – to take out and collect back the batteries. These were generally a two-volt glass cell with carry handle.

The Derbyshire Times of 17 March 1923 carried this advertisement for wireless sets.

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