Trade test travelogue 

9 February 2015

[This page was corrected on 18 January 2018 as noted at the foot of the article]

BBC Testcard C

Testcard C, from a BBC Engineering monograph


A seldom remembered part of trade test transmissions in the great days of the testcard were the lovely pictorial scenes that were radiated at 15 minute intervals alternating with testcard ‘C’.

The BBC’s 35mm demonstration films in monochrome were shown during weekday mornings until 1955. The films were replaced by pictorial scenes during the morning. There were a variety of views, such as Loch Lomond, Paignton Harbour, Newquay beach, St Martin-in-the-Fields and other images featuring distant rooftops and hills.

BBC Testcard 51

There were also BBC in-house test shots featuring actors such as Richard Thorpe and Chloe Brown sitting on a river bank staring at frequency gratings and contrast wedges as superimposed over the picture.


The Independent Television Authority (ITA) slides varied from region to region, whilst the BBC’s were shown throughout the country. The Marconi Company of Chelmsford supplied the ITA with testcards and picture slides in special presentation wallets for the station manager’s desk.



Viewing from Birmingham I can recall regional pictures of the Ladybower reservoir, the River Trent as it passes through Staffordshire, Ludlow bridge and castle, and views of an unknown Midlands valley. Other regional cards included the River Ouse at Ely (Mendelsham, channel 11), Windsor Castle, Tower Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, the River Thames at Cookham (Croydon, ch 9), Land’s End (Caradon Hill, ch 12), the Menai Bridge, the Roman baths of Bath (Arfon and Moel-y-Parc, chs 10 and 11), Loch Lomond (Black Hill, ch 10), Furness Abbey, Esthwaite Water (Winter Hill, ch 9), Shibden Hall, Fountains Abbey (Emley Moor, ch 10) and Corfe Castle (Chillerton Down, ch 11). These scenes were photographed during the 1950s by G Douglas Bolton and were published in 1957 in a book entitled “Presenting Britain”.

It is interesting to know that while the ITA were radiating the local testcard, the BBC would be showing a pictorial scene and vice versa. Both the BBC and the ITA withdrew pictorial scenes from test transmissions in 1964.

Testcard D's introduction marked the end of regular pictorial scene interludes

Testcard D’s introduction marked the end of regular pictorial scene interludes


This article originally stated that the woman in the river bank slide was actress Anne Reid. ATV Today pointed out that it is model Chloe Brown, aged 22, as noted in the Daily Mail’s coverage of the launch of Telstar. The error has been corrected.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 10 February 2015 at 9:14 pm

Nice touch adding the testcard music for us to listen to. Icing on the cake, that.

Anthony Marlow 8 December 2016 at 3:37 pm

I grew up in the ITA Winter Hill area and remember three scenes being used in 1963/4. One was of Marton church in Cheshire, another was of a house by some water, and the other was of a village scene. Does anyone know where these last two scenes were?

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