In 1924 the original masts were erected for the first transmission of the longwave BBC radio service from Borough Hill which took place in 1925. A small steel ball was placed between the base of the mast and a concrete block on the ground, the ball gave the mast the necessary flexibility to move with the wind. Incredibly, these little balls could support a mast of roughly 80 tonnes and 150 metres tall! The BBC Borough Hill station continued to broadcast until 1992.
There are not many places where the radio signal was so strong that you could pick up the World Service on your toaster or vacuum cleaner in the town, but for generations whilst the BBC station broadcast from Borough Hill that’s just what happened in Daventry. Daventry Museum’s collection contains many examples of radios and many items from the BBC at Borough Hill.
Daventry is also known as being the birthplace of Radar. On the 26th of February 1935, in a field near Weedon an experiment was carried out to test the feasibility of “The Detection and Location of Aircraft by Radio Methods” or what we now call Radar. The plan of Robert Watson-Watt and Arnold Wilkins was to set up a sensitive receiver in a van at the field near Weedon, and to fly a Heyford Bomber aircraft along the radio beam from a transmitter at the nearby BBC short wave station at Daventry and detect the reflected beam from the aircraft. A memorial to the radar experiment was placed in the field entrance, it states that Radar “saved the RAF from defeat in the Battle of Britain” and a painting by Ray Huxley commemorating the experiment is in the museum’s collection. Learn more about the Radar Experiment from our volunteer curator Rod Viveash.