Broadcasting heritage preserved by Ally Pally

By Ally Pally,

A historic piece of television heritage – a section of a prototype transmitter tower – has been transferred to the Palace from the former EMI research laboratories and manufacturing complex at Hayes, Middlesex, via the EMI Archive Trust.

Built in 1935 to help deliver ground-breaking Marconi-EMI television tests, the tower formed the blueprint for the transmitter mast erected at Alexandra Palace as part of the world’s first television station, operated by the BBC here from 1936.

The 5.3m steel structure now sits in our East Court in the shadow of the iconic BBC television transmitter tower – the mast you can see on the Palace today! It is the surviving top section of a 200ft high tall, experimental television transmitter tower, that provided the platform for the aerial equipment that sent tv pictures into people’s homes!

The tower forms part of a heritage display covering 150 years of the ‘People’s Palace’ and is free to see for all visitors. Having it at ground level allows everyone to appreciate this remarkable feat of engineering at close quarters. It will be a cornerstone of our ongoing television heritage projects. Our ambition is to engage with university students to develop creative, innovative interpretation of the transmitter tower, employing augmented reality and VR. With this approach we aim to increase intellectual access on the subject, engaging diverse audiences.

This is the first tangible expression of Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust’s newly established strategic partnership with the EMI Archive Trust.

Emma Dagnes, Alexandra Palace CEO: “This structure is a living piece of television history, and we are delighted that it is on display for everyone visiting the Palace to see. It’s a chance for people to explore the truly ground-breaking story of television, so much of which began inside the Palace. We are extremely pleased to have formed a partnership with the EMI Archive Trust, and look forward to working together to bring our visitors unique insights into the world of entertainment, music and television.”

On behalf of EMIAT, Chair Tom Williams welcomed this positive step: “The burgeoning partnership with the iconic Alexandra Palace is a tremendously exciting development for the Trust. The EMI Transmitter Tower played a crucial role in the evolution of television here in the UK, and it’s only right that it is proudly displayed somewhere like Ally Pally for all to see.”

Find out more about the history of television at Alexandra Palace, including the pioneering work by Marconi-EMI.

Photographs courtesy of Joe Coggins.