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Lime Grove Studios

Lime Grove Studios was originally a film studio complex built by the Gaumont Film Company in 1915, but it was later purchased by the BBC who used it for television broadcasts from 1949 to 1991.[1] It was situated in Lime Grove, a residential street in Shepherd's Bush, west London, and was described by Gaumont, when it first opened, as "the finest studio in Great Britain and the first building ever put up in this country solely for the production of films". Many Gainsborough Pictures films were made here from the early 1930s. Its sister studio was Islington Studios, also used by Gainsborough. Films were often part shot at both Islington and Lime Grove. The complex was demolished in 1993.[1]

Lime Grove Studios in the 1960s

Gaumont-British Picture Corporation

In 1922, Isidore Ostrer along with brothers Mark and Maurice, acquired control of Gaumont-British from its French parent. In 1932 a major redevelopment of Lime Grove Studios was completed, creating one of the best equipped studio complexes of that era. The first film produced at the remodeled studio was the Walter Forde thriller Rome Express (1932), which became one of the first British sound films to gain critical and financial success in the United States (where it was distributed by Universal Pictures).

The studios prospered under Gaumont-British, and in 1941 were bought by the Rank Organisation. By then, Rank had a substantial interest in Gainsborough Pictures and The Wicked Lady (1945), among other Gainsborough melodramas, was shot at Lime Grove.

BBC studios

In 1949, the BBC bought Lime Grove Studios as a "temporary measure" – as they were to build Television Centre at nearby White City – and began converting them from film to television use, reopening them on 21 May 1950.[2]

Lime Grove would be used for many BBC TV programmes over the next forty-two years, including: Nineteen Eighty-Four; Steptoe and Son; Doctor Who; Nationwide (1969–83), a popular early evening current affairs programme; Top of the Pops and the early soap opera The Grove Family (1954–57) took its title family from the studios, where it was made. Lime Grove's use for programmes outside current affairs declined over time, and later episodes of the continuing series were made at BBC Television Centre and BBC Elstree. Indeed, in Lime Grove Studios' final years, its official name was Lime Grove Current Affairs Production Centre. The last live programme was The Late Show on 13 June 1991 from Studio D, although the final portion of the programme, with a symbolic "unplugging" of a camera power cord in Studio D by Cliff Michelmore, was pre-recorded. A children's magazine-style programme, Studio E, was broadcast live from the studio of the same name from 1955-ca.1958 hosted by Vera McKechnie.

In 1991, the BBC decided to consolidate its London television production at the nearby BBC Television Centre and close its other studios including Lime Grove. On 26 August 1991, a month after the studios were closed, the BBC transmitted a special day of programming called The Lime Grove Story featuring examples of the many programmes and films that had been made at Lime Grove, in its 76 years as a place of film and television production.[3] BBC Television Theatre close by, near Shepherd's Bush Green, reverted to being the Shepherd's Bush Empire.

By the end, the building was in such a poor state of repair that the remaining BBC staff nicknamed it "Slime Grove". The building was put on the market and eventually bought by a development company who demolished the studios in 1993, and redeveloped the site into a housing estate. The streets in the estate were named Gaumont Terrace and Gainsborough Court, in memory of the past owners of Lime Grove Studios.

In popular culture

Lime Grove Studios was the setting for the fictional current affairs programme The Hour in the BBC drama of the same name.

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