The history of Hospital Radio Swindon can be traced back to 1938 when the Toc H in Stratton St Margaret visited the vagrants wards at the Stratton Work house. In those days there wasn’t the technical equipment we have today, just a simple gramophone taken around the wards. The musical offering was expanded to include the sick wards soon after, with requests taken and then played each Sunday.
In 1955, a football commentary box was installed at the County Ground in Swindon and commentaries were broadcast to Swindon Hospitals. It was one of the commentators, Les Harris, who suggested the format be widened to include broadcasting requests, music and chat to lighten the patients stay in hospital. The Swindon Hospital Broadcasting Society came into existence in 1965 and began broadcasting from the cellar of the Toch H hostel on December 30th 1967. In those days as the studio was next to the coal store, coal dust has to be cleaned from the equipment before anything could be broadcast.
At the height of Hospital Radio Swindon, we broadcast to Princess Margaret And Victoria Hospitals in Swindon, the Stratton St Margaret Hospital and the Princess Alexandra Raf Hospital in Wroughton and the Savernake Hospital in Marlborough. We also broadcast to the isolation hospital in Gorse Hill and the Hermitage convalescent home in Old Town. Sadly as costs increased, we had to reduce the number of hospitals we broadcast to. We broadcast now just to the Great Western Hospital.
Disaster struck in 1976, when a fire in the cellar destroyed most of the equipment and 3,000 records. Keith and Audrey Suter, two members of the society, opened up a bedroom in their homes as a studio and broadcasting continued from there.
In 1976, Toc H offered to build a studio on their land and by 1977 the studio was in full use. The Mayor of Thamesdown officially opened it in 1979, at the time Swindon Hospital Broadcasting Society purchased the studio from Toc H for £750,000.
In 1997 disaster struck again. The roof leaked, damaging the ceiling rafters and carpets. Luckily the equipment was undamaged. HRS went off air for three weeks whilst an appeal was placed for local business to help. As a result of the appeal, we were able to repair the roof and continue to broadcast for Charlotte Mews.
In 2007, after lengthy negotiations, we moved into our new studio in the Great Western Hospital where we currently broadcast from on the 2nd floor and as recent as May 2013 the studio was renamed. The studio was renamed the David Penfound Studio after one of our members who was very influential in getting HRS in to the Great Western Hospital.