Theatre Royal, Bristol

Date 1946
Location Theatre Royal, Bristol
Number of Dimmers 60
Configuration 1-manual, straight stop-keys. The first remote control system in the UK that could be unplugged from the stage perch & set up in the auditorium. There were 2 plug-in points, each requiring mains (15amp plug) & a large bespoke control multi-pin plug/socket (120 pins, plus four asymmetric guide pins to ensure it mated the right way round), wiring being loomed to the console by a single flexible lightly armoured sheath (approximately 3/4″ diameter); see picture below.
Notes Restored at Rose Bruford College, Sidcup, UK.
References Personal email from Joe Aveline (28/3/07): “I may be one of the few people left who actually used it in situ in Bristol. I used to run up channels and groups during focussing sessions. The operator was alway Ken Vowles for shows. The dimmer boffin was Ernie Peppin. Both of them were already at the TR when the OV Co moved in in 1946.”Personal email from Jim Laws (01/4/07): “I rescued the Console (and its relay bank) around 1973 when The TR needed the space. Jerry Godden was the production manager. Chris Denys related (1970) that when Ken Vowles was due for an operation the theatre scheduled a French farce that was “on or off” lighting, Ken set it up & they literally operated via the main dimmer room switch until he came back.  Paul Weston related (2002 & earlier) that the main relay pins were originally the wrong way round for the way the current stressed them, so they burnt out  every 2 weeks at first. Paul was up & down on the train to Bristol quite a lot. Something to do with Comptons being bombed out, which is also why the notes are tab keys. Comptons lost their note key moulds & jigs in an air raid. Talking of trains, Fred Bentham related (C.1978) that he received the go-ahead for the Console order from  Sir Lewis Casson whilst they were both travelling to London on the train. The Console’s dimmer bank (slightly modified) later was used for the TR Strand PR control (Polarised Relay, another Strand electro-mechanical system with presetting), which replaced the Console c.1962. A putative attempt to form a museum of theatre lighting, based on a Bournmouth school, (C.1990), resulted in the original woodwork being taken apart & mistreated.”

Paul Weston, Bristol Light Console, Fred Bentham (L-R) at Jim Laws’. ABTT Archeology Committee visit, c.1989. From the collection of Jim Laws.

Francis Reid with Bristol 1946 control connection, at Jim Laws’. ABTT Archeology Committee visit, c.1989. From the collection of Jim Laws.

There is also a photo from the Fred Brown collection at the Strand Archive here.