TV Cream

Bric-a-Brac: T is for...

Telly cabinets on wheels

They were mainly encountered at school: those seemingly gigantic tubular steel edifices which housed a clunky-buttoned Ferguson Videostar VCR and a huge TX telly (cue André‭ ‬Previn:‭ ‘‬I’d say it’s the best picture of all time‭!’) ‬discreetly hidden behind two faux-teak laminated doors.‭ ‬In retrospect there’s something amazingly quaint about those doors intended to obscure the offending screen when it wasn’t in use, but at the time the sheer size of this pioneering technology was awe-inspiring to many a child. The unit was ceremonially wheeled into class, the doors opened and light poured forth. Almost a religious experience.



  1. glam_racket

    August 16, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Ahhh, the memories!

    The heavy doors opened and the lights were dimmed.
    Teacher had trouble finding right channel for video, lights were turned on again.
    Finally, we have a picture, lights dim once more.
    The stifled giggles as a well worn and stretched tape speeds up and slows down the theme tune of How We Used to Live, Words and Pictures, Watch, Seeing and Doing, that weird chemistry experiment one.

  2. Glenn Aylett

    August 16, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Usually our school television broke down at least once a week, often during How We Used to Live but alway seemed to work when a boring maths programme was shown. Also when I went to secondary school, it had one of the first video recorders: a Philips model which looked like a suitcase, had an analogue timer and piano key controls. The first programme I saw- a James Last concert in London.

  3. Paul

    August 17, 2009 at 12:20 am

    We had a huge black and white set at our school circa 1976, but no video recorder. It may even have been a 405 line set.

    The entire year would clamber into one classroom once a week to watch a couple of programmes – some maths thing with Fred Harris followed by Picture Box.

  4. Glenn Aylett

    August 17, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    We were slightly luckier, but the colour television was typical of the valve sets of the time- hopeless picture quality( often the picture would turn purple), very unreliable and looked like a tank. I do recall that the radios they used were a lot better, top of the range Roberts four band sets with excellent sound quality for listening to Singing Together, a singalong schools programme on Radio 4 VHF familiar with pupils from the sixties and seventies.

  5. goodpudding

    August 18, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Four and a half years with a televsion in my tutor room and the only time we used it was to watch and episode of Minder which had clearly been produced for schools in a PSHE lession….

    Great, the one time I get watch telly at school its a watered-down version of Minder…

    “What shall we get for ‘er indoors?”

    A proper episode please!

  6. Jon

    September 18, 2009 at 4:27 am

    I’m a bit younger than you folks *tsk* but I remember them well. Huge great things that would run over your foot if you weren’t careful. Booming sound that no matter how you tried to control the volume, would still vibrate into the next classroom! My history teacher had one in her classroom but no broom cupboard to store it away, so we’d all sit in class twitchy just waiting for her to put on an old 80s VHS (I was a 90s child) of Landmarks or ZigZag with Paul Coia (if we were lucky she wouldn’t find pause button and anoraks like me would get to see the old TWO ident and continuity!)

    Of course, I guess nowadays with computers, internet, digital projectors they’re all bonfire material but happy memories!

  7. Roy Harrison

    November 23, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I remember our primary school having one of these Brunnel inspired contraptions that resembled a TV set ontop of two scaffold tubes. What struck me as odd even as a small child in single figures was whoever had designed this thing had gone to painstaking lengths to ensure the security of the self contained TV set inside by going as far as to provide a lock on one of the two doors of the type found on a 1970’s wardrobe. But the shelf underneath that was to house the more expensive and desireable top loader VCR was left exposed.
    The result was these VCR’s were often stolen from cash starved schools in the 1980’s as the effects of Thatcharism started to bite, usually when some foolhardy teacher had left the VCR/schools whole years spending budget on it’s shelf fully on display next to a window instead of locking it away in the staffroom because it was Friday and they couldn’t be arsed.

  8. Glenn A

    November 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    My first secondary school was my first introduction to a video recorder, a top loading Philips with an analogue clock that cost the school £ 500 and was the most expensive thing in the building. No doubt some tea leaf could have been tempted after a tip off from a pupil as videos were highly prized products 30 years ago and still very rare.
    Nowadays schools have so many PCs, DVD players and expensive musical instruments they now resemble prisons as my former primary school has built razor wire fences and electronic alarms to keep the thieves out.

  9. Richard Davies

    August 10, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Most of the time at primary school we had to file into the staff room to watch the TV in there.

    I moved schools & the later one had a dedicated TV room to use.

    My secondary school had a few TVs mouned on steel trollies with a lockable steel box cabinet for a video. I was slightly impressed on a recent open day that they were still in use, with a flatscreen TV now on top, & I guess a DVD player in the cabinet.

  10. Spoon

    March 13, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Yep, at least one of our school’s VCRs got nicked; presumably they couldn’t lug the telly out the window. We wouldn’t have cared but our class was using it to watch a mouldy olde recording of ‘Through the Dragon’s Eye’, and the tape was left in overnight, so when the hardware got half-inched we were left bereft of stories and never found out how Morris, Boris and Doris et al mended the Veetacore! (Well, unless we’d sneaked ahead in the workbook.)

  11. Glenn Aylett

    November 12, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    The video recorder was locked away in a cupboard away from the music room in a secure location after school, or so I was told. Mind you, since video recorders were rare and quite heavy in 1979, some tea leaf would look quite obvious hefting the machine down the street and trying to sell it in a pub with the name of a school on the side would soon result in arrest. Also had he made it home and assuming his television was compatible, he’d have the joys of a recording of the James Last 1979 Christmas concert to enjoy.

  12. Tom Ronson

    November 13, 2022 at 4:04 am

    Cross-legged on the floor in the assembly hall, all the curtains drawn, watching ropey off-air recordings of Jesus of Nazareth.

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