REITH, John Charles, Lord Reith (1889-1971)
Plaque erected in 1995 by English Heritage at 6 Barton Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3NG, City of Westminster
Director General of the BBC
Politics and Administration, Radio and Television
LORD REITH 1889-1971 First Director-General of the BBC lived here 1924-1930
This plaque replaces that of 1994 and is situated on the building's Cowley Street elevation.
Lord Reith was the first Director-General of the BBC. He is commemorated with a blue plaque at his former home at 6 Barton Street in Westminster.
THE BBC AND BARTON STREET
John Charles Walsham Reith became General Manager of the fledgling British Broadcasting Company in 1922, and the first Director-General when it became a public corporation in 1926, an appointment that brought him a knighthood. Barton Street – to which Reith moved in June 1924 with his wife, Muriel – was within walking distance of the BBC offices, which were first based in the General Electric Company building in Kingsway, Holborn, and from 1923 in Savoy Hill, just off the Strand. A purpose-built headquarters, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, was opened in 1932.
From his study at number 6 Reith announced the beginning of the General Strike in 1926 – a ‘very impressive performance’, he noted, with a characteristic horror of false modesty. The Reiths’ son Christopher was born at number 6 in 1928, but the couple decided to leave Barton Street for Buckinghamshire two years later, having tired of the ‘dirt and confinement’ of London.
Reith left the BBC in 1938, just as the television age was dawning, in order to become Chairman of Imperial Airways. Raised to the peerage in 1940, he held a series of appointments in Churchill’s War Cabinet. Afterwards, he chaired the Colonial Development Corporation (1950–58) and held numerous directorships.
The plaque which was unveiled in 1994 by Marmaduke Hussey, Chairman of the BBC, is not that which adorns number 6 today – Reith’s second forename had been omitted from the original inscription, and as he was, in the words of his son, ‘such a stickler for absolute correctness in every detail’, it was decided to have a new plaque made with simplified wording.