Britain’s oldest working television set that was produced in 1936 by Marconi has emerged for sale, and could fetch more than £5,000. It was bought for just under £100 only three weeks after transmissions in Britain began. Unfortunately for Mr Davis, his viewing was cut short when the local transmitter burned down just three days after he bought the set on November 26, and his area could not receive pictures again for ten years.
There are more 18th century Stradivarius violins in existence that pre-war TVs and this set has only had two owners.
The 75-year-old set comes with a 12-inch screen and is contained in a walnut and mahogany case with the picture being reflected onto a mirror that opens from the top. Only 30 per cent of the components in this set have been replaced, all with identical parts, and it works perfectly. It has a pre-sale estimate of £5,000, but experts at Bonhams, which is selling it, expect it to sell for much more.
The set cost Mr Davis £99 and 15 shillings, over half the annual average wage of the day and equivalent to almost £4,000 today. For that money, today you could buy a top-of-the-range set with high definition, 3D, surround sound and more channels than you could ever watch.
Bonhams specialist Laurence Fisher said: This is being sold by the late owner’s family and is the oldest working TV set in Britain. These sets were really a side effect of our secret radar research and they are very similar inside to the radar.
I’ve handled 38 pre-war tells and this is the finest and even comes with the original invoice. It cost a huge amount and the owner must have had wealth and means, Fisher continue. Unfortunately for the original owner he would have been able to only watch three hours of programmes on it. This was because three days after he bought it the Crystal Palace burned down and that was where the transmitter was. And his area did not receive pictures again until after the war. But at least people who visited him would know he had one, even if he couldn’t use it.
Bonhams Mechanical Music and Scientific Instruments sale is being held at Knightsbridge, London, on April 19. [Bonhams]