Above: View from the pavement of 3 Crescent Wood Road, where John Logie Baird lived.
It was in this house, on the Camberwell-Lewisham border, that John Logie Baird, the man who invented television, lived for several decades of his life. The property is just inside the Camberwell border, which is now part of the London Borough of Southwark.
Baird was born in Scotland in 1888 and, as a teenager, he went to technical college, also in Scotland, to study basic electronics. He then came south and tried his hand at several inventions, none of them were related to electronics, which were all complete failures. He was not a well man and his doctor advised him to live on the South Coast of England to improve his health so he took lodgings at Hastings. While there he began to realise that he now lived in an age where people could ‘hear by wireless’ – using what we would today call a radio. He then started to work on ideas for what he called ’seeing by wireless’ and worked in one of the rooms above the small shopping arcade in the town.
His experiments went well and he realised that if he was to demonstrate his device to the world he would be best if he moved to London. His first public demonstration of what we now call television was in an attic room in Frith Street on 26 January 1926. There is a plaque on that building recording the fact.
It is not entirely clear why Baird decided to live in the large house in Crescent Wood Road but that was where he worked for several decades, with his family also lived in the house. The back garden is extensive and on much of that land he had laboratories built in which he could experiment. In other buildings he had an assistant (yes, only one assistant) who made some of the glass valves and cathode ray tubes to Baird’s specifications.
Baird was a man of vision even though his knowledge of electronics was rudimentary. While not wanting to develop this article into a lecture about the principles of television, it is worth pointing out that by the time of the Second Wold War he was demonstrating high definition (1800 line) television in colour. Even in the 21st century, most of us are only using televisions with about 600 lines. He also demonstrated 3D-television, also in colour, in the 1940s, which did not require 3D glasses to be worn as we do today.
By the 1940s his health was failing. This was in part due to continually overworking. It led to a stroke and he died in 1946. He was less that 60 years old.
Above: Blue Plaque on the house.
The exterior of the house remains unaltered from the time when Baird was living there. The building is now divided up into flats which is why there are so many cars to be seen in the picture at the top. On the house, towards the right hand side, is a Blue Plaque recording the fact that it was Baird’s home. It is a grand tribute to this man of genius.