How Eddie brought the delights of the small screen to Shropshire folk

From a hut on the top of an old pit mound, one of the highest points for miles around, Eddie Lloyd made a little piece of television history.

Eddie Lloyd in 1935.
Eddie Lloyd in 1935.

In the mid-1930s he brought television to Shropshire – almost certainly the first person to have done so – all the way from Alexandra Palace in London, 140 miles away.

In 1936 the BBC had begun the world's first public television transmissions from there, and from that hut on the top of Meadow Pit Mound, Madeley, with its 60ft aerial, Eddie spent hours trying to pick up the signals, which in those days of the dawn of the new medium could normally only be picked up within a 50-mile radius of London.

Then one night he picked up a picture, and the following night he got even better reception.

As news spread of his breakthrough local folk would go up to the hut in a clearing on top of the mound near Madeley's cricket ground to watch the wondrous flickering pictures.

A group watching an early television at the 1937 Ideal Home Exhibition at Olympia.

In 1937 a party of school children from the Senior School, later called Abraham Darby School, went with Mr Roberts, the woodwork teacher, to see The Trooping of the Colour. The Coronation procession of George VI was recorded by the BBC and sent out the same night.

Eddie was able to pick up this recording on Coronation night, and Madeley and Ironbridge people who went up to the mound were able to see the King and Queen going to and coming away from the abbey.

Eddie, who had a radio shop in Ironbridge High Street, was the maternal grandfather of Pete Edwards, of Culmington, Stirchley, who said: "He held the record for picking up a signal at the greatest distance from Alexandra Palace, until it was taken from him by a man in Nottingham.

"The war stopped all transmission, and the hut was requisitioned by the ARP (Air Raid Precautions). This hut was returned to him in a very poor state post-war. TV restarted in 1946 but he never returned to the hut. He did though deal in and fix televisions until his untimely death in 1962."

Bottom left is the pit mound overlooking Madeley cricket ground where Eddie Lloyd conducted his television experiments in the 1930s.

Pete says that Eddie – Francis Edmund Lloyd – had started his business from a shed in a then new council house in Paradise, Coalbrookdale, on a part time basis while still working for Glynwed.

"The Paradise houses were only fitted with gas including lighting but Eddie paid for his to be wired with electricity, partly so as to allow power to the shed to charge radio accumulators, a sort of glass single cell two volt wet battery. This allowed homes with only gas to run a decent radio set.

"He also had a motorbike and sidecar. This sidecar had a drop-in divided box to better transport the accumulators as he did a weekly collection and delivery round locally to collect and charge the accumulator cells.

"In the late 1930s he left Paradise, taking up the tenancy of a shop in Ironbridge, now opposite Cleo's. This shop sold bicycles and spares, radios and parts and other small electrical stuff. The radios needed the rechargeable cell and also a non rechargeable 'high tension' battery of many small cells to run.

Eddie and wife Kath in Paris – where they met Elvis Presley.

"During the war it was difficult to get single torch cells but the high tension batteries were available. Eddie realised that these high tension batteries could be dismantled, providing torch cells at some profit.

"He also obtained a contract to add an additional green filter to civilian gas masks. This left him with many spare filters, ideal, as he found, to pass blue RAF petrol through so it became clear and unrecognisable as stolen. How he got this petrol I do not know.

"The living quarters above the shop were greatly inferior to that offered at Paradise, much to my grandmother's disgust. He did though at his death end up owning quite a bit of property and also was the rent collector for a Lady Milner White who also owned similar property."

The business card of F. E. Lloyd, Lloyd's Radio & Television, at 28 and 29 High Street, Ironbridge.

Clearly a man of many talents, at some point Eddie had a patent for a knife sharpener, albeit one which went nowhere.

"Eddie was an ARP warden and great rival of a man named Gough who managed the Labour Exchange. The rule said that the first man to arrive at the ARP post was in charge for the night, thus Eddie slept in his uniform, so as to arrive first when an alert happened. The fact that Eddie was Gough's landlord did not help either."

With his television experiments Eddie was years ahead of his time locally, as it was not until December 17, 1949, that television came to Shropshire with the opening of the Sutton Coldfield transmitter.

Eddie Lloyd brought television to Shropshire in the 1930s

He died on November 2, 1962.

"The maiden name of Eddie's widow, my grandmother, was Yorke. Her father Jim Yorke was company secretary to Craven Dunnill, in turn his father, also called Jim, was a chartermaster, a sort of underground gangmaster or sub contractor, in the Madeley coalfield."

Pete added: "Eddie and Kath Lloyd made several trips to Paris post-World War Two. Once they were in an auditorium where a relatively little known Elvis Presley was present and the spotlight was turned on the man.

"He signed my nan's programme in gold ink. I remember this item being sold for £2.50 to a local collector about 1970. At the time there was declining interest in a fading pop star.

"I do wonder what this item may be worth today. I heard mention of Elvis being in a Paris audience on a programme about him more recently, so imagine the story was true. My grandparents were more fans of Gracie Fields than Elvis – it was just a chance encounter."

Eddie's car is parked outside his shop in this postcard showing Ironbridge High Street in the 1930s – his grandson Pete Edwards knows that because his late mother Mary told him, although he does not know which of the two cars visible is Eddie's.

The couple had gone on holiday to the French capital three times between 1956 and 1960.

For his part, Elvis is known to have visited Paris three times, in June and July 1959, and in January 1960, while he was serving with the US Army in Germany.

Pete added: "Dad (Alan Edwards) thinks Elvis was in the audience at the Folies Bergere along with Eddie and Kath on one of these holidays but cannot rule out it being the Moulin Rouge

"To tell the truth Kath Lloyd barely knew who Elvis was and was not really a fan, but held out her programme for his autograph because others were doing so, at least in dad's opinion.

Eddie had a long-disappeared hut in a clearing on the summit of the spoil heap.

"Eddie liked opera. He ran away from home as a teenager in about 1913 and stayed away for two years, getting a job at Cammell Laird in Liverpool where he first saw opera. Kath was from Madeley so they met after the Liverpool period."

Pete has documents, photographs, and memorabilia relating to his inventive grandfather, although sadly none show his television experiments or equipment from all those years ago.

However, according to research by local historian Phyllis Blakemore years ago who spoke with Pete's late mother Mary, his television was very large, a box of 4ft by 3ft, with massive valves.

On the resumption of television after the war Eddie resumed his work with TV. One BBC outside broadcast featured Ironbridge coracle man Harry Rogers. Mary made a little papier-mache model of Harry and his coracle, together with the tail of his pet fox peeping from under his coat, and it was placed in Lloyd's shop window with a notice saying "Come and see me on TV."

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