Friday, 3 February 2017

HAPPY HOMES RENT TV, how we watched in 1961

Advert for Radio Rentals, 1961
Now the advert pretty much speaks for itself.

The year is 1961 and the age of mass television viewing is just over a decade old.  But in that time the number of families owning or renting a set has increased dramatically and the number of channels has doubled with our own Granada TV beginning transmission in 1956.

And in the five years since Granada had begun broadcasting it established itself as one of the most important television companies with a fine range of drama and documentaries.

This of course was helped by its huge audience which covered Lancashire ib the West and the East Ridings of Yorkshire, including the major conurbations around Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Doncaster.

"...the North is a closely knit, indigenous, industrial society; a homogeneous cultural group with a good record for music, theatre, literature and newspapers, not found elsewhere in this island, except perhaps in Scotland. 

Compare this with London and its suburbs--full of displaced persons. 

And, of course, if you look at a map of the concentration of population in the North and a rainfall map, you will see that the North is an ideal place for television".*

Radio Rentals on Barlow Moor Road, 1959
And that was also reflected in the number of shops selling and renting televisions here in Chorlton, for along with Ready Radio at 489 Barlow Moor Road, there was Smith’s Radio & Television on Beech Road, and XLent Electricals on Wilbraham Road and there will have been others that I have forgotten.

At XLENTS its double fronted shop was packed with washing machines radios and televisions and the painted sign on the window urged people to Buy! Buy! Buy! for just £3 deposit, and 11/’ a week.

This may have been at the cutting edge of mass entertainment but the sign advertising the offers was hand written with that white wash which butchers, green grocers and hardware stores used to advertise their instant offers.

So not quite the bright new technological future.

XLENT Electricals, Wilbraham Road, 1959
But it was what people wanted and while some at the time were sniffy of "the box" it was and is a powerful medium of entertainment, which for a while seemed to threaten the cinema.

This had not been lost on the Bernstein Brothers who launched Granada and according to one source did so because they believed it would not affect the company's largely southern-based cinema chain.

It may seem odd that people rented TVs but so so really. They were even in the early 1970s expensive to buy, and the option of renting also covered repairs and the option of newer models when they came along.

Now I think Radio Rentals became Visionhire which may have been a change of name or a take over but I remember renting from them at 489 Barlow Moor Road sometime in the early 1980s.

Pictures; advert form the collection of Adge Lane, and Radio Rentals, 489-491 Barlow Moor Road was taken in 1959 by A.H. Downes, m17513 and the Xlent shop by A E Landers, 1959, M18455, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

* Quoted from an article by Tony Pearson, BERNSTEIN, SIDNEY, British Media Executive from The Museum of Broadcast Communications,

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