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Vintage entertainment in Preston, pianos to Rediffusion radio

Posted on - 13th November, 2022 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Friargate, History, Nostalgia, Preston City Centre, Preston News
Seed's Music Warehouse, 1890s Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Seed’s Music Warehouse, 1890s Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Commercialisation was in full swing by the 1890s and Preston enjoyed a wide range of entertainment venues and suppliers. Everything from pianos to the Rediffusion radio service was available into the 1950s. Trade adverts were featured in local newspapers and magazines, and can be used to trace the history of local entertainment in the early 20th century.

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Pianos are king

In the Edwardian era most middle class homes boasted a piano. Seed’s Music Warehouse was situated in Church Street, and sold organs and harmoniums as well as pianos. Later this shop front became two separate shops. In the 1940s it was the shop of  William Henry (W.H.) Bulmer, Carver, Gilder, Art Dealer and Picture Frame Maker.

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Gramophones take over

George Devey's Gramophone shop in Friargate Pic: Preston Digital Archive
George Devey’s gramophone shop in Friargate Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Time moved on and gramophones began to replace piano playing as entertainment in the home. The ‘instruments’ were wound up by hand, as most houses still did not have electricity. The horn was mechanically coupled to the heavy pickup and the volume was controlled by stuffing ‘material’ down the horn – hence the phrase ‘put a sock in it’.

George Devey in Friargate sold cameras as well as gramophones. Perhaps an early mixed media shop? The Decca Dulcephone was a portable wind-up Gramophone that was first introduced in 1914. More on Decca later. 

Radiograms arrive in Preston

Stanley Carwin Ltd in Miller Arcade, 1962 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Stanley Carwin Ltd in Miller Arcade, 1962 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

By the late 1950s, radiograms were all the rage, most still used valves and were mono. Stereo records first appeared in 1958. At the time two versions of the same record were released; one in mono and one in stereo. Decca were the pioneers of stereo in the UK and various introductory records were released.

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A Decca Stereo demonstration record from 1958 Pic: Decca
A Decca Stereo demonstration record from 1958 Pic: Decca

Another up and coming thing was the newfangled push button car radio. In those days you were lucky to get a heater, so car audio was quite the feature.

Cable comes to Preston

Rediffusion ad from 1952 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Rediffusion ad from 1952 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Entertainment by cable came to Preston earlier than you may think. In 1952 you could get four channels by Rediffusion cable. It cost 2/3 a week and you could get the BBC stations as well as Radio Luxemburg without the famous fading signal.

Associated Rediffusion later became known for TV rental and held the ITV broadcast licence for London from 1955. Preston was served by Granada TV based in Manchester. ITV started in 1955 as the first channel to carry commercials in the UK.

The channel ident for Rediffusion London, 1955 Pic: ITV
The channel ident for Rediffusion London, 1955 Pic: ITV



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