Who knew about Fairlight Glen’s crucial role in the invention of television

In the late 1990s Richard Street chaired Hastings Borough Council’s John Logie Baird working party. It was tasked with looking at the creation of a John Logie Baird/TV museum in the town.

Sadly those plans came to nothing but there was a small festival to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Baird’s first patent and the ‘Birthplace of Television’ signs are the result of a motion Mr Street put to the Tourism Committee in 1997.

Here we reproduce a piece written by Mr Street around that time.

The role of Fairlight Glen in the invention of television is not often recognised but 90 years on, I think it’s time to remind people about it.

4bb1fb6e-612e-4d6e-9489-cabeabfc303aIn late spring 1923 aged 35, John Logie Baird was a very sick man and came to Hastings as a last chance to restore his health.

In his own words he was: “Coughing, choking and spluttering, and so thin as to be almost transparent. I arrived at Hastings station….Fortunately, the weather was perfect…I began to recover and it can be said that Hastings saved my life.”

He had already done a lot of work on what he referred to as ‘seeing by wireless’ but had put that on hold due to his poor health. He had already come up with other inventions including a safety razor made entirely of glass, heated socks and pneumatic soles for shoes as well as business ventures which had included soap which burned the skin and marmalade with added insects!

As his health improved he started taking more exercise and went for a long walk over the cliffs to Fairlight Glen where his mind went back to his earlier work on television and the ‘missing link’ in making it a reality.

For the technically-minded – which excludes the this author – this was ‘to find a means of amplifying the infinitesimally small current from the selenium cell’.

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The new mural inside Queens Arcade to celebrate John Logie Baird’s achievements in Hastings.

During his walks a possible solution to the problem came to him, he rushed home to Linton Crescent and, over raisin pudding, said to his host: “Well, sir, you will be pleased to hear that I have invented a means of seeing by wireless”.

His host was not impressed and suggested he go back to his other ideas.

Over the following months he continued his work and experiments and by the end of the year had successfully transmitted the first pictures and registered the first patent for television. A year later he gave the first demonstration to the press.

Baird didn’t stop there, of course. He went on working on fibre optics, ‘noctovision’ using infra-red rays, radar, video recording, colour and then 3D television. He made the first transatlantic broadcast in 1928, the first BBC transmission in 1936 and, by 1944, facsimile TV – a precursor of Ceefax.

Whether we like it or not, television is the most influential and ubiquitous invention of modern times and it finally came into being in Fairlight Glen.

In 1929 Baird himself said: “When I arrived at Hastings station in 1923, I came in search of health after a serious illness and thought I should never be fit and well again…but in a very short time the exhilarating atmosphere of Hastings made me a changed man.”

Anybody who has walked the Glen in fine weather at any time of year knows exactly what he means.

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