Following on from my look at how connected this area is to the film industry and what local landmarks have appeared on the silver screen, I thought I would take a short look at the history of television and what local places have made their appearances on our small screens.

It doesn’t appear that any one person can be credited for the invention of television but early inventors such as Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph in 1837, and Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, invented in 1875, all played a part in its creation, although technician and part-time inventor Paul Julius Gottlieb Nipkow could be given most of the credit. He took the first important step towards developing the technology that made modern television possible when he developed a way of sending images through wires via spinning discs, which he called an “electric telescope” and patented in Germany on January 6, 1884. Hundreds of transmission stations then experimented with television broadcasting using his disk in the 1920s and 1930s.

Read more: How Leavesden became a Mecca for the film industry

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) was formed on October 18, 1922 by a group of leading wireless manufacturers which included Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer of the wireless telegraph, and began daily radio broadcasts from Marconi’s London Strand studio on November 14 that year.

Watford Observer:

John Logie Baird with his first TV in 1926. Picture: Wikipedia

The first public demonstration of television was given to members of the Royal Institution (an organisation founded in 1799 for the purpose of facilitating the general introduction of useful mechanical devises into the common purpose of life) by John Logie Baird in 1927. Using the BBC’s newest transmitters, developed in 1930 and which allowed for sound and pictures to be transmitted simultaneous, the 1922 play The Man with a Flower in his Mouth, written by Luigi Pirandello, becomes the first television programme ever produced in Britain when it was screened for the BBC. By 1955, 95 per cent of the UK could receive BBC programming with 31 per cent of all homes having a telly.

The 1970s brought a plethora of original TV programming to the small screen with such British standards as: Adventures of Don Quick, Andy Pandy, BBC Nine O’clock News, The Goodies and in 1974 the premier of Porridge, staring Ronnie Barker as Norman Stanley Fletcher, a guest of Her Majesty’s Prisons.

Most of interior shots of the fictitious Slade prison were filmed in a large metal tank at Ealing Studios, but one episode, Ways and Means, called for the characters to be seen outside their cells in the prison yard. HMP denied the BBC permission to film in a working prison, so they chose the next best thing, Leavesden Hospital.

Watford Observer:

Scene from Porridge filmed on the Leavesden Hospital football pitch. Picture: Amazon Prime

The scenes called for a confrontation between inmate Jock McLaren, played by Tony Osoba, and some other players on the prison’s football pitch, which in reality was the hospital’s football pitch, located next to the main wards. This scene was filmed in front of what was in 1974 the hospital’s art therapy building and now the park’s Woodlands Café. McLaren then climbs to the top of one of the prison blocks, which was most likely block 12; the Plover, Pelican and Peacock wards of the real hospital, with Fletcher climbing the fire brigade’s ladder in a pre-planned attempt to talk him down and win the favour of the prison’s warden.

Watford Observer:

Scene from Porridge outside of Leavesden Hospital Ward in 1974. Picture: Amazon Prime

Leavesden Hospital may have appeared in other episodes, but by the end of the second season, the hospital withdrew permission for more filming following complaints from patients’ families.

Keeping with the cops and robbers’ theme, the 1987 police drama Inspector Morse (John Thaw), who along with his sidekick Detective Sergeant Lewis (Kevin Whately) were apparently very fond of visiting local pubs to digest the evidence of a case along with a pint, saw the pair in at least two local establishments. According to Chris Sullivan, a major Inspector Morse fan, The Rose and Crown in Rickmansworth was the setting for such a meeting of minds in the episode Ghost in the Machine and the Royal Oak in Abbots Langley was the backdrop for the episode Masonic Mystery.

Watford Observer:

Inspector Morse at the Royal Oak in Abbots Langley. Picture: BBC

It hasn’t been all drama in and around our neighbourhoods. The teen-based comedy series The Inbetweeners used a house on Whitley Close in Abbots Langley as their home for some every day teenage funny business.

Like almost everything these days, to much television can be as harmful as it can be entertaining. If you want to see some of the best parts of your neighbourhood, go out for a walk and see them live and in person.