40 Years Thanet celebrates its 40 years anniversary.
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Relay House Westwood,
Broadstairs, Kent, CT10 2PX Tel: Thanet 61561
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Relay House, Westwood C1975
Rediffusion Thanet started from very humble beginnings 5 years after radio broadcasting by the BBC had commenced in the UK. On 29th October 1929,
Frank Austen acquired consent from Broadstairs Council to cross the highway with a pair of wires from his house in Church St. to Magdala Rd. St. Peters. But it was pointed out in the letter that this did not mean he had been given permission to relay wireless programmes. An application was immediately sent to the Postmaster General. Permission to establish a receiving station for the distribution of programmes was granted on 20th November, 1929 and the Broadstairs and St. Peters Radio Relay Service was formed.
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Frank Austen Founder of Isle of Thanet Rediffusion Ltd.
Relay House 1934
Relay House Christmas 1930's
Relay House 1950's
Two years later, Broadcast Relay, at that time also a fledgling relay company with headquarters in Clacton-on-Sea, turned its attention to Thanet and secured a 10-year concession from Ramsgate Corporation in April, 1931, to provide a service on the Whitehall Housing Estate. That same year Broadcast Relay promoted a petition from residents in Margate to persuade the Corporation to grant a consession for wired radio which was granted in 1933. The company in the middle of this invasion of Thanet by Broadcast Relay was the Broadstairs and St. Peters Radio Relay Service owned by none other than Frank Austen.
In April, 1932. Lord Wakefield of Kendal (then Mr. W. W. Wakefield), a director of Broadcast Relay, wrote from Bush House to the secretary of the company saving; "while in Broadstairs, could you see if you can obtain a Broadstairs concession. The present position is that it is in the name of Austen and it has another six to nine months to run." A merger was in the making.
But missing were the millions: Mr. Austen sold out for £100, with the promise of a further £300 if the Broadstairs concession was renewed for another 10 years. He joined Broadcast Relay as engineer-in-charge of Ramsgate on a one-year service agreement at £250 p.a.
With concessions for Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate Broadcast Relay named it's South East offshoot: Isle of Thanet Broadcast Relay Service Ltd. Then came the war and the Thanet service was put under great strain.
During the war, the civilian in South East England was almost as much in the front line as the soldier. The danger of invasion of the area became so great that Thanet was declared a protected area and evacuated. Nine out of every 10 people were moved out. Disconnections occured at some 50 a day during evacuation, But the staff's morale ran high as the Thanet service was declared an essential service that should remain after evacuation.
As enemy air activity intensified so did the nervousness of local inhabitants, for aircraft flying Iovv over the sea could be overhead within tvvo minutes of being observed. Consequently, the people became reluctant to listen to radio programmes for fear of missing the local "imminent danger" signal, Such a state of affairs produced a further slump in the networks activities.
Things soon changed with the enterprising decision to relay the warning signals over the network. New subscribers were taken on in 'leaps and bounds'. The service was even extended to ARP centres, ambulance stations and gun emplacements. In 1943 the company was re-named: Isle of Thanet Rediffusion Service Ltd.
In 1948 the company name changed again to Rediffusion (South East) Ltd. That same year Frank Austen became district manager and one year later, general manager.
After the war, television returned to the scene revolutionised by war-time "radar" research, and presented a great challenge to broadcasting. Within a very short time wired television sets were in use in Margate which acted as a "guinea pig" for the group, As a result of their success, the company expanded so rapidly it was like an explosion from within, Ashford, Deal, Canterbury, Dover, Hastings, Bexhill, Folkestone, Lewes, Rye, Tunbridge Wells, Hythe, Brighton and Eastbourne succumbed one after the other to the expertise and knowledge of the South East.
1970 saw the region's forty first year of service and satisfying the overwhelming demand for colour. Every Thanet branch was wired for colour and already over 3,000 colour subscribers had been taken on to boost the region's total to well over 110,000. Quite a difference from Church Road days when they were counted in a few hundreds. No one could ask for a better growth from that £100 investment than a company worth more than £4 million with an annual turnover in millions.
Mr Austen, who retired in 1970, was appointed an M.B.E. in 1960 for his meritorious service during the War.
Ray Cook Retirement Ray Cook retires after 50 years with Thanet.
Broadstairs District Council Original Document from 1929 granting Frank Austen to install a Relay Service.
GPO Consent Original Document from 1929 granting Frank Austen to operate a Relay Service.
GPO Remittance Original Document from 1930 requesting remittance for Relay Service.
Outside Relay House, staff prepare for annual outing. 1949
Click on the picture for a larger image
Norman Lawrence The day Thanet staff were armed
Lez Miller Memories of Thanet
Harry King Memories of Thanet.
Rediffusion South East A look back at the South Region in the 1970s.
Rediffusion Canterbury Regional Headquarters.
Rediffusion Hastings Fibre Optic Cable Trials from 1976
Pages with links to Rediffusion Thanet
Air Raid Warning System Thanet's Role in Civil Defence.
Rediffusion Margate The Original Press Release From 1951
Reunion 2011 Reunion of Thanet Staff July 2011
Allan Yates SE Region Pictures Allan John Yates - 28 Years Service
Bob Norris's Memoirs The Last Network Engineer - Maintaining the Network until 2007