Horizon Radio
Tower Block Tales

Transmitter Sites Used By Horizon 1981 – 1985

Horizon Radio Tower Block Tales looks back at transmission sites and some of the events that took place during the broadcasting years of 1981 until 1985. Checking the notes we were surprised to find how few transmitters the station actually lost during those 4 years & how at times, some events where just so hilarious, but also so dangerous.

A special thanks to the team, Don Mc, Nigel W, Barry T, Barry Jameson, Greg, Pyers, ET, Anne Mc, Garry L,  Nick Moss, Johnny O, Barry Jones, Steve May and many more who helped out on block duty and mast errection, without you guys it would never have happened.

Horizon Radio’s Tower Block Tales, Nunhead

Rye Hill Park Peckham Nunhead is the tower block Horizon Radio used the most, so the one that brings back so many good memories. This is the block that delivered thousands of hours of broadcasting for the station.

When Horizon Radio started back in the 80’s, the station was formed because we loved the music and needed to prove to the UK Government that there was a need for more radio station’s catering for different tastes in music.

Before the 80’s unlicensed broadcasters, it was Radio Caroline and Radio London that showed the way to go and we got Radio 1. Radio Invicta was the first soul music station in London, JFM and then Horizon Radio took it to another level. Kiss came along and Gordon Mac who got the dance music radio license in 1989 after one pirate radio station had forged documents that got the 1986 licenses cancelled.

Radio Invicta, JFM and Horizon were Soul Radio pioneers just like the boats. What came after was what the BBC said it was, a bunch of Toxic Pirates.

Rye Hill Park Transmitter site in Nunhead Peckham Horizon Radio Tower Block Tales from 1982

Coniston House Wyndam Road Camberwell

Coniston House Wyndham Road, Camberwell, London was the first tower block used by Horizon Radio. The first problem was to get a key to open the locks on the hatch to the roof. It must have been destiny as those keys along with caretaker uniforms including the ties fell into Chris’s hands at a chance meeting at Swan National Car Rental Horseferry Road Westminster. Not just the key to that block, but every tower block in London. The cost, 2 front tyres and a full service on a caretakers car. The caretakers department was being scaled down at the time, so the communications (transceivers) they used were being phased out. At 460+mz, they made a very nice link transmitter. Thanks to Pyers playing with one of them. 29 transceivers soon followed?

Broadcast Day One

Sunday 11th October 1984 at 6pm, for 7pm broadcast. Nigel and Chris go up the block with what turned out to be a transmitter that moved (when it got hot), two car battery’s and a auto reverse Sony Walkman cassette player plus a dipole aerial. 2 hour broadcast (1 tape). Then they got out quick. The landline, telephone Horizon used had lite up like a Christmas tree, so many messages and requests. Horizon Radio was born.

Horizon Radio Tower Block Tales The First Transmitter Site at Coniston House Wyndham Road Camberwell London SE5 in October 1981Every Sunday the same thing right up to Christmas, when the first live broadcast took place. A link from Comber House just off band two at 108.5 vhf-fm. Nigel did his 1 hour live show first, Chris sat around the corner watching the block. Nigel then went on block duty, Chris is doing a show. 25 Minutes later, Nigel is back at the flat (studio) OFF OFF OFF, after the (big Christmas greeting to Anne at the front door). Nigel had spotted Eric & Co (RID) trying to track the studio. Eric (RID) was well on the way to the flat. Thanks to Nigel and Radio Jackie, where he had helped out in the past and learned the ropes, we got away with it, but lost the transmitter and 2 new car batteries.

Radio Jackie always had a team on the ground when broadcasting, they spot Eric (RID), transmitter is away quick. Horizon Radio always did that right up to March 1984, thanks to Nigel’s time at Radio Jackie.

No transmitter for a couple of weeks as Nigel was trying different designs. Then we got a couple of broadcasts out off Wandsworth Road/Union Road, but nearly got caught on the second one. But again we had thought about it! We put one lift 2 floors below roof, stopped the door from closing on it, walked to top floor, called the other lift and thought we had jammed that, but had not. Grabbed the equipment at the end of transmission, Then we realised the lift was on the way up, we legged it down to second lift at speed. We then heard Eric and Co above us on their radios, to the crew waiting downstairs. We used the 2nd lift down to 4 floors above ground and hid the transmitter in an alcove. We then walked down the stairs arguing the toss whose turn it was to buy the first pint at the pub. (Nigel and Chris did not drink by the way). On arrival at ground floor  RID/Police were waiting for us. They had heard our conversation/argument (put on) over whose turn it was to buy the drinks. They asked where we had been, we told them in a friends flat and now going out to get -issed and asked them (RID/police) if they wanted to come and get -issed and if they had enough money to buy a few rounds, but hurry up as its 10.20pm. They told us to —- off, so we did. We hid and waited till they had gone, then went back and got the equipment. Horizon Radio did not go there again.

First DJ Joins Us Gary Lee!

Gary Lee (RIEP Gary),  join us as a presenter, we try a Parliament Hill (out In The fields Site), naff not one phone call from 3 hours of broadcast. Hello Peckham Rye Hill Park, that worked too well as Eric arrived on Broadcast day 3 from there. The transmitter and tape machine was on a balcony, 2 floors below the roof. Coax to aerial up top. 11pm & end of broadcast, Don and Chris go in to take aerial down. Nigel goes for the transmitter. Just as Don and Chris get to top section of the roof, Chris saw out of the corner of his eye police and Eric climbing through the hatch to lower roof. “Don’t speak a word Don”, leave it to me says Chris. Now Don and Chris have the uniforms of the caretakers on including ties. Chris knows the emergency phone number will not be answered after 9.45pm. It did not matter as if it was answered, up on the staff rota board, there was a notice saying Chris Stewart Sundays is an emergency caretaker. (Nice to have friends in the right places). Chris verbally (VERY) lays into Eric Gotts, calls him a Pirate idiot and to wait there on lower level as he is going to arrest him and his fake cop in uniform mate.

Eric must have been stunned as he waited there until Don and Chris had took the aerial down and Chris smashed it over his knee. They go down to Eric & the police who wanted to ask questions (not before Chris had said his bit). Police ask what office do you work from, whats the telephone number. Police radio in to control to get someone to phone the number Chris had given and bingo, no one answers, but answerphone kicks in “Sorry our caretakers are out at the moment on an emergency call out, please leave a message or call back later”.  Eric was not convinced, you could see that, but Police said OK go on your way. Don and Chris go to exit the roof, as Chris leaves, he shouts back “If you lot are not off this roof in 10 minutes, I will lock you in”. They then join up with the rest of the lads up the hill and fall about laughing. That was fun to say the least.

Other Transmitter Sites

Horizon Radio used other transmitter sites for a while like, 1 Greystead Road Forest Hill, by this time Barry T, Barry Jameson, Greg Adams had joined the station. All shows were still on prerecorded tape. Finally we had sorted out our rubbish transmitter after the Pimlico Meeting told Chris what was wrong, Nigel had built Pyers design and 35 watts. Summertime 82, the studio in the roof had built itself, (if you know what we mean). We visited Rye Hill Park Nunhead again and saw how to hide a transmitter and link aerial along with switching it off and disconnecting the coax to the aerial if the hatch to the roof was moved. If no one went up to the roof, it was ready for next broadcast, just switch on from studio. Eric went up a few times but could not find it, but always smashed the Slim Jim aerial. A couple of hours work and £10 if that, new aerial. Eric did tend to leave us until last after that, but with the network informing each other he was out, we could just turn off and most times he would not even bother going there. Nigel left Horizon Radio in around July of 82. Stress levels were high. If not for that Nunhead install (Nigel’s Idea) Horizon Radio would have closed down, as no transmitter builder.

Horizon Radio Tower Block Tales The Rye Hill Park transmitter site secret access hatchChris took up the task of transmitter building and by Christmas 1982 had mastered the art with help from Pyers (amazing guy so young, so brilliant). A new 80 watt transmitter for the long Xmas broadcast. Horizon Alldayers then arrived (first in London) Easter 83 at Kisses Peckham, no live broadcast planned as we where coming off 1 Greystead Road Forest Hill. Kisses is open, Chris goes up to transmitter site to get transmitter and Eric and co were kicking down the lift-room door as it was jammed. Silly person, he should have just walked around the side and used the other door, that is what we did. We lost transmitter no 2 that day. About 19 months, just two transmitters lost.

We used other sites for a while, but other stations were also using them too. The Rye Hill Park was a safe transmitter site with all bank holidays extend broadcasts coming off it. Christmas 83 17 days and nights on the trot. Just after that Eric or someone << got the Rye Hill transmitter. They got in through the second hatch and did not even bother to put that hatch back, limited space so who went in was small. Horizon Radio hid another transmitter on Rhy Hill Park, but that was only fired up after 11pm (on auto) as we used Stockwell as main site. At Stockwell we had access to the roof lower, from a top floor flat and had measures to keep Eric out so we could get the transmitter out. We also used spotters on the ground to keep an eye out for Eric.

Horizon Radio Tower Block Tales Stockwell.

Click On Photo To Enlarge.

Horizon Radio Transmitter site at Stockwell London 1983
Horizon Radio Tower Block TalesTransmitter site at Stockwell London 1983/4 location of equipment
Horizon Radio Transmitter site at Stockwell London 1983 layout of where access and equipment was

Located just over the road from Stockwell tube station, the block gave us a major problem getting to the high roof section to place an antenna. There was a communal mast up there but no access without carrying a 40ft ladder up 20 odd floors.

Horizon had the use of a flat on the top floor, which gave access to the lower roof; we also had the keys to the wire mesh door that led to the lift room and water tanks. Getting on to the top roof was the problem that nearly made us give up on the block.

Horizon Radio engineering came into play yet again. If we could not get up there, Eric had no chance. There was a narrow open walkway from the staircase to the lift room, (wire mesh on lower section, top section open with a roof on top). Throw a rope over the roof, get two of the Horizon crew to hold the rope and pull yourself up was the answer (Madness but it worked, don’t look down?) Knees still shaking and they do today when thinking about it. Scouted around, then turned around and young Don Mcdowell was up there too. Total stupidity even thinking about it, bloody madness, but that is what the Horizon backroom team did to get the show on the road. So glad no one died on those set-ups. If only we had made every one of Horizon Radio’s DJ’s do the same before they ever played a record on a show, they would now appreciate what others did for them. Thankfully no one fell as on that site or any of the others, it would have been death awaiting you for sure. Please guys do not do that today, because when you go to bed at night and let your mind think back 3+ decades, your knees will start shaking again!

Slim Jim aerial fits into the communal aerial mast and looks from the ground as just part of the mast so it could stay up there 24/7. Feed the coax through the hole the communal aerial leads used straight into where the water tanks were. Tie some old TV coax to the brackets holding the mast and drop it over to lower level where we left an old transmitter that did not work for Eric to find.

Horizon Radio Towe Block Tales We Listened into the DTI and Eric Gotts via this little beautyThe real transmitter and receiver were high in the building above the water tanks and again hard to get too. The first visit by Eric he found the dummy transmitter, which he took. But he did not go up to the high roof. At this time we also had the same equipment Eric used to communicate with his fellow RID staff, so that also tipped us off when he was about.

Eric was a canny old sod and how he found out we had a flat (legal) on the top floor we do not know, except the hatch jammed one night, so he could have seen that open a jar. On the next visit Barry Jameson got a pull on the ground by Eric and he took the 2m radio we used to communicate off him. We knew something was wrong when Barry did not answer, then we heard banging going on the staircase trying to get the door open to the lift room.

It was a little after 11pm, Peckham Rye Hill Park transmitter had been switched on, Stockwell was off and Chris was taking the transmitter out at the time. We got the transmitter in the flat, but could see Police and Eric eyeing up the flat front door on peeping through the door porthole. So had to loose that transmitter quickly. It went on the roof of the flat balcony, but in the rush Chris nearly fell, but manged to back flip on to the balcony..

Just after we are all sat watching TV and the police kicked in the flat front door. They searched the flat and found another 2 meter radio and tried to seize it, but were told, well you can guess.

No search warrants, so broke all the laws on entry. But that is what Eric did at the time. Next day all hell broke loose at Waterloo Bridge House home of the RID when complaints of Eric’s actions were laid at a meeting. This resulted in Eric having to have a chaperone for all future visits to Horizon Radio and the 2 meter radio being given back. One thing even today bothers us why did the police say how high when Eric said Jump? He had no power but used the name DTI each time he went to a local nick to get assistance. The man if you stood up to him was a timid old fart who pushed his luck. These days in Essex where he lives or did in 2020, he is into flower arranging and horticulture. Wish he would come and sort our garden out???

Eric had been breaking the law for a very long time as any equipment on private property, in use or not, could not be taken away without a court order on that equipment. That was the law and he broke it. The transmitter he took from Comber House a few months earlier (The day his mate said he was playing with ladies underwear) also came up at that meeting. But they did not give it back as said it had been destroyed. But you cannot beat a government department as they make the rules.

Visits to Horizon Radio after that were few and far between. By March of 1984, we thought we knew what the loophole in the Broadcasting Act was, so Horizon Radio rented the roof space above 70 Westow Hill Crystal Palace, a Chip Shop in those days, Pizza Place in later years.

Click On Photo To Enlarge.

Horizon Radio Transmitter site at 1 Greystead Road Forest Hill London 1982

Horizon Radio Transmitter site at 1 Greystead Road Forest Hill London 1982/3

Horizon Radio Tower Block Tales transmitter Site Frobisher Court Sydenham Rise Dulwich London 1983

Horizon Radio transmitter site Frobisher Court, Sydenham Rise, Dulwich, London 1983

Horizon Radio Tower Block Tales Transmitter site Dawson Heights East Dulwich-London 1983

Horizon Radio transmitter site Dawson Heights East Dulwich London 1983 (AKA The Battleships).

Transmitter Site at 70 Westow Hill Crystal Palace From March 1984

Horizon Radio with the loophole in the Broadcasting act discovered (we hoped), moved from London’s tower blocks, to a privately owned building, right at the top of Westow Hill Crystal Palace. At that time a Fish & Chip shop, (circular 2019) a Pizza Palace.

As you look at the photo, in the background you can see the BBC transmitter mast. Back in the day we erected a 50ft mast with an antenna on top against that wall, with the transmitter and receiver in a box at the foot of the mast. This transmitter site was the safest one we ever worked on, child’s play compared to the blocks of the past, as it had a big flat roof.

This was the site that Eric called us to in March 1984 and we found Horizon Radio Transmitter Site at 70 Westow Hill Crystal Palace London from March of 1984 until October 1984out for sure there was a loophole in the Broadcasting act when he tried to take away the transmitter and was challenged and had to give it back. But with a smug face said “If you put that back on I will be back as you are causing interference”. Eric being Eric would not say to whom. Thankfully his chaperone did whisper who it was Horizon and others were causing interference to as they left (The Gas Board).

At that time Horizon was broadcasting on 3 transmitters, the original 94.5 vhf FM off Nunhead, we had also jumped up the band to 104 vhf FM, as so clear up there. Horizon also had a medium wave transmitter in Tower Bridge Road. The 104 vhf FM along with JFM’s & Skylines transmitters was causing the interference. We called the Gas Board the next day and got through to the Gas Board communications engineers and received a warm welcome. Read about how the problem was resolved and what caused the interference here

The Gas Board engineers were great to work with and helped us out with Tips/Info many times later?

October 11th 1984 the RDI/DTI after pressure from the Gas Board who later went to the High Court to obtain a writ against JFM for interference raided all transmitter sites on Westow Hill. The RID/DTI had brought in staff from all over the UK and had spent the previous 3 days looking for the JFM studio, but could not find it. At 14.47pm that day, the 11th of October, they visited the Horizon Radio studio in Peckham and took the station off air confiscating the £20.000 studio. Incompetence by a member of the Horizon Radio who was in the studio at the time along with other reasons convinced Chris the sole station owner not to put Horizon Radio back on air as he felt a few could no longer be trusted and were just using the station to enlarge their own ego’s/pay packets.

This should have been the end of Horizon Radio, but alas, another station could not stop telling porkies & bad mouthing Horizon Radio and its founder. Horizon Radio returned to the airwaves in January of 1985 to show them how to do it. This proved to be an even a bigger year than 1984 and saw tens of thousands of listeners turn up for the final close down party on the 15th of September 1985 at Harrow. The other station did not even get a half full venue at their close down events. In those days people were used to tuning their tuner knobs between 88Vhf and 98Vhf and did not venture up the top end of band 2, so Horizon Radio back on 94.5 Vhf really picked up a lot of listeners in 1985.

Horizon Radio Returns January 1985 at 31 Westow Hill

Horizon Radio’s returned in January of 1985, The station was led by Nick Moss with Len & Glen of Limited Edition Entertainments along with Junior King (King J Promotions). Transmitters and engineering by Chris Stewart from a distance.

Nick came up with the transmitter site at 31 Westow Hill. At Horizon Radio's final transmitter site located at 31 Westow Hill Crystal Palace from January until September 1985first it looked OK, until you set foot into the site. It was derelict shell of a building, no roof, floors had gone, only a few floor joists that were rotten to the core. The site lay back off the main road with a shop in front of it, then an alleyway then the building, 3 floors on the front, 5 floors at the rear.

Putting an aerial mast up and trying to secure it to the chimney, saw the chimney start to disintegrate The whole place was in a state of collapse. No options, but to move the mast to the rear of the building and build the mast up from the ground. The mast (scaffold poles) was created in the garden then pulled up. Anchor points were few and far between on the building as so dilapidated, the guy ropes had to be used to anchor it to the buildings on either sides.

No electricity, so that was acquired from next door on a promise of free adds on the station. The transmitter (PA) was on the top floor by the chimney, well part of it was. But getting there was another mater. The staircase was rotten to the core. Nick, stood on the first stair step & his foot went straight through it. No options, go in through the top window and be very careful what you stood on as its 5 floors straight down. It looked like the link receiver and first part of the transmitter was up the aerial mast. Nope it was up the chimney, but getting to it, put your life at risk. Eric and co on their first visit must have fallen on that staircase, as it was no longer a staircase after that visit. From that day on visits by Eric were not so often, they raided the other stations but left Horizon Radio on a lot of the time. During 1985 we only lost 2/3 PA’s (Power Amps), not one receiver or exciter.

The RID (Eric) were also using cherry pickers/cranes to remove antenna masts, but on Horizons transmitter site it was a long way from the road to the mast at the rear of the property and they could not reach it with the equipment they had.

One memory of that site was Nick Moss putting his foot on that staircase for the first time to go upstairs, “that must have hurt Nick”, but Eric must have suffered even more. London’s tower blocks were heaven compare to 31, but it paid us back, as it looked after our transmitters for 9 months. Thanks 31. We were told later the building collapsed in on itself!

Horizon Radio London jingle The Heart & Soul Of London TownHorizon Radio was the first station in July of 1985 to announced it was closing down to apply for one of the new radio licenses due in 1986. The close down was set for the 15th of September 1985. The final live studio show came from studio 8, located at 62 Westow Hill, Crystal Palace, hosted by Horizon Radio founder Chris Stewart (Show Replay Available Here) who then handed over to the Harrow Leisure Center for the grand finale. The live for 8 hours Farewell Party via an outside broadcast link from Harrow back to the main transmitter site at 31 Westow Hill Crystal Palace, then out over London Town and the Home Counties. The event saw tens of thousands of listeners and 25 Soul & Reggae artists of the day join the Horizon Radio DJ’s and party together for the last time.

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