Whatever happened to Decca Studios?

When The Beatles couldn’t agree to visit Everest for a photo shoot for their final album which they intended to name after the mountain and instead named it after the studio in which they had recorded much of their wonderful music, they bequeathed upon Abbey Road the greatest marketing gift of all time. Abbey Road Studios is still going strong and approaching its 80th bithday in rude health.

But there was another recording monster on the block in London in the 1960’s. Decca Studios at Broadhurst Gardens was the home of many great recordings and had the equipment and a team of engineers to rival The Beatles Studio. Take a look at this picture of Decca Studio 3 which was forwarded by a former Decca engineer “to prove Abbey Road No.1 (its rival for recording orchestra’s) was nothing special”

But whilst there is much information about Abbey Road, there is little on the web about Decca Studios, other than that it was the venue for The Beatles audition with Decca in 1962 – which they failed. Its Wikipedia entry doesn’t even list opening and closing dates for the studio (the building is now rehearsal space for ENO). I believe Decca owned the studios from 1920 until 1980 which means it predates Abbey Road by 11 years. Can that be right? Does anybody out there have more information, pictures, videos of the great Decca Studios?

I did find this picture of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli recording in Decca Studio 2 in 1938:

Roger Chaput, Naguine, Django, Eugène Vées, Stéphane Grappelli, Louis Vola

Please get in touch with your memories of Decca Studios. And see here for an obituary for former Decca staffer, Kevin Daly.


37 thoughts on “Whatever happened to Decca Studios?

  1. Decca didn’t exist as a record company until 1929, and its early studios were on the Kings Road at the Chenil Galleries, then on Lower Thames Street in the City. The Broadhurst Gardens studios came into Decca’s ownership when it took over Crystalate in 1937. I’m not sure when Crystalate started using the building, which was known originally as the Falcon Works, but I doubt it was as early as 1920. I have a picture on a record sleeve of Ted Heath recording in number 1, which I’ll send shortly.

    1. Which record sleeve? My Dad was in the Heath band and I’d love to see the picture in case he’s in it. Thanks.

  2. I worked at Decca Studios from 1967 to the early 80s as an editing engineer .After the move to the Decca Recording Centre after the studios closed I got involved in the early digital recordings and digital audio for video editing until they closed in 1997. I knew all of the backroom characters as well as the balance engineers both classical and pop and .As I worked on the classical side,I worked mainly with those artists and producers,but one would bump into all sorts of other people at the famous decca tea breaks. I also would visit the cutting engineers who were always happy to see anybody – this was the days of LPs and 45s. As far as the fate of the studios, they were bought by the English National Opera and
    used as an Amin, rehearsal space ,and set contruction site (I believe the nice wooden floor
    in No 3 studio has suffered!)and probably costume making.

      1. Yes I was secretary to Arthur Haddy. He went off to receive his OBE one day and returned back to work afterwards. A lovely man. I worked there when James Mallison,Mathew Hutchinson and other lovely people

    1. Hi Mathew,
      I remember the days in Decca very well. Hope that you are keeping well.
      Mary Lynch

      1. Hi Mary
        I’d forgotten about my comment here – so six years later ; yes I,m very well and hope you are too. I do have quite a lot Decca memorabilia ; from both Broadhurst Gdns and the Belsize Rd Recording Centre ie photos from both places and also on location abroad ,copies of the ‘Decca Record’ news letter from the ’90s etc, if anyone’s interested. Even a recording of ambience and ‘life’ in a duplicating room in c1967 – somewhere!

    2. Hi Matthew,
      Can I ask, were you at Decca when it became JAM Studios, in the 1980s? I am writing a book and trying to trace the whereabouts of a session that was recorded there in the summer of 1986 – The Mission’s single “Stay With Me”.
      If you have any details, please get in touch! Jonathan

    1. Yes the label still exists…UMG is the market leader in today’s highly competitive classical music market. The Decca Label Group is comprised of two divisions, Universal Musical Classical and Decca Label Group, and is home to such diverse artists as Clay Aiken, Andrea Bocelli, Boyz II Men, Paula Cole, Renee Fleming, and many others.

  3. It seems Crystalate Records moved into Broadhurst Gardens in 1928, from their base in City Road. Imperial and Victory records were recorded there from that time, and when they took over the Vocalion company of Hayes in 1932, they also recorded that firm’s Broadcast labels. Prior to that, Broadcast records were recorded at their new studio in Holland Park.

    1. It was in December 1931 that Vocalion/Broadcast moved to a studio in “a large corner house in Holland Park Avenue” (The Gramophone Dec 1931 p294). Their studio had been in a building in Duncan Avenue off Gray’s Inn Road (quite near St Alban Holborn) since the days of Aeolian-Vocalion. The Hayes record production facility was the Universal Music Company Ltd, established by Aeolian-Vocalion pre-WW1 and then acquired by the Vocalion Gramophone Company Ltd from 1 Jan 1925.

  4. I have published a book called, ‘Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek’ (the jazz and blues club next door which ran from 1961 to 1970.
    Dick Weindling

  5. A distant relative of mine used to be a sound engineer for Decca, when I was young in the early seventies.
    All I remember is he and his family used to live above the studios and new everyone from Hendrix to the Stones.Think he’s surname was Moorecroft?
    I don’t know for sure but relatives said it was Hampstead, but Tollington Park also comes to mind.
    We used to use the studios for family parties and wedding receptions. And on two occasions visiting them had Thin Lizzys music gear there and also band called Camel.
    Be great to throw a bit more light on this as it was just seemed like a large house with a reception and then a fire door which led to the sound studio. We used to come home with ‘first pressings’ of some of the bands albums.

    1. I was an engineer at Decca, joining in Aug 1968 and leaving in 1975. There was a Dick Moorecroft, who was not a sound engineer but I seem to remember was the air conditioning engineer. Dick worked originally at Broadhurst Gardens and then when Decca opened studio 4 in Tollington Park he moved there and he and his wife looked after the place. Your memory of Thin Lizzy is correct as they recorded at Tollington Park and also your memory of Camel, I recorded “The Snow Goose” with them there

      John Burns

      1. Hi John.

        I’m trying to contact John Dunkley, Malcolm (Brains) Hogg and John Fellows who were Decca sound engineers in the 70s. They recorded our Middlesex Hospital Christmas Concerts for a number of years and we have the vinyl. Any contacts would be appreciated. Dr Paul Thompson (Director 1975, Tummy).

  6. My father, who had a milk and grocery shop in Mill Lane, West Hampstead, in the late 50’s and 60’s, used to deliver the milk to the studio. One of the sound engineers, who I think worked at Decca, lived opposite us, and encouraged my father to invest in a hand built stereo ( old valve system- circa 1960 ); it had a Garrard turntable deck and Wharfedale speakers. The sound was wonderful, and really set me on a lifetime interest in music.

  7. I worked under Arthur Haddy he was my boss , i converted the valves to transistor my name is Hilary Reeve but like to be called Alan.

    1. I remember the ArDec filter you made for Geoff Milne room 517 at Albert Embankment. Where he used to do the 78 transcriptions. It was a great bit of kit. A sweeping filter which took out surface noise. I was his assistant there from 1976 – 1980 .

  8. The building at Broadhurst Gardens was originally the town hall for the borough of West Hampstead. At some time in the 1930’s it was taken over by the Crystalate Company who made records under the names of Rex, Imperial and Broadcast.

    The Decca company had studios in Chelsea, of not very good acoustic quality,
    When Decca bought Crystalate in 1937 they moved into Broadhurst Gardens and stayed there until the takeover by Polygram in 1980. I used to do some work at Decca in the 1960’s and knew quite a few of the people there.

    The engineers who took Decca into the Hi-fi world ( and the major competitor to EMI ) were all Crystalate people ( Haddy, Gill Went, Kenneth Wilkinson (“Wilkie”). This is similar to the situation at EMI where the people who pushed the technical development were ex-Columbia staff rather than Gramophone Co. employees.

    Studio 1 (at Decca ) was used for general “pop” recordings, using mostly one mic, a STC 4021 “Ball and Biscuit” omni mic on a boom which was hinged on the wall. Studio 3 was used for smaller orchestral jobs ( e.g. Mantovani) but classical orchestra work was mostly at Kingsway Hall.
    At the peak there were six disc cutting rooms in use while the Decca van made a daily trip to the factory at New Malden.

    Up until 1968 all Decca Stereo records were cut at half speed because the Neumann/Teldec cutting heads could not handle the hf at full level; the SX68 was used at full speed, narrowly averting a threatened strike by the cutting engineers!

    1. Mr. Allan Reeve was not simply an employee of Arthur Haddy, he was, in fact, one of the great balance engineers of classical music’s golden age of recording. Thank you, sir, for so many wonderful recordings.

    2. Hi
      I am writing a book about the Liverpool Céilí Band, who recorded two LPs in 1965.
      They were on the Decca Rex label and Peter Sullivan was the producer. I am trying to find out what studio they would have been in. Also a very long shot but I am after the master tapes as we want to re produce the Lps.
      Any thoughts of who I could contact to try any track down….


  9. By logging in you’ll post the following comment to Whatever happened to Decca Studios?:

    Sat Aug 26 2017. Just got this book from Amazon UK(I live in Australia) and well into the Klook section. I lived in Kilburn in Oct 1970 for a couple weeks and after a few weeks in Wiesbaden at Breitkopf & Haertel Music Publishers(ex-Leipzig until 1945) returned to Kilburn in Jan 1971 until after Easter that year. I got a job at Selecta Ltd in Southwark Bridge Road/Southwark which was an old building used by Decca for distribution of their products, independents and some EMI(EMI did some Decca distributing too and had Decca for Australia then) for London, South England and Wales. They also had a Birmingham warehouse(where the then Selecta boss came down from) and one in Belfast. Another boss was Ernie J Mills who lived near the pressing plant at New Malden in Surrey where he was also involved in council politics but sadly he died of cancer in mid-1970s. He was at Decca from the 1930s and talked of Hugh Mendl(producer and grandson of a director) and he had run the Vogue label from Fulham Road for a short period. His secretary was a cute young lady called Doreen who did not mix with the ladies who worked on the conveyor belts collating orders on the first floor near the managers offices. The Telefunken-Decca dept was there also run by one man and, I think, his young nephew or so. I walked one sunny winter’s Sunday afternoon that time to Broadhurst Gardens and peered in the windows on ground level. I remember a railway line and steps to a walkover the railway tracks. Noit too keen on walking up high like that these days. I am nearly 69 now. IO also knew Kevin Daly when he was in Australia and visited my record shop in Melbourne suburbs. I met Geoff Milne in the Albert Embankment offices in Oct 1970 and I was also give Edward Lewis’s autobiog at that time. I worked at Selecta at the time with the late Colin Brown who lived in Wembley and later had a record shop in Windsor and a record label he produced with 78 reissues. he was a font of knowledge on the 1940s-50s record collecting. Kevin Daly had lived in flat in London(Kentish Town?) and a late friend told me he visited Kevin at the flat and the walls were lined with cassette tapes of Music Hall, a love of both men and me. The visitor lived in Kentish Town at the time in a council flat and had a stroke dying in March 19809 after ten years at home after a career making pianos in Camden Town(his previous flat was there with wife and son) and then at British Film Institute’s theatre as a film repairer and dogsbody picking up films in a taxi(he never drove) from vaults and producers etc for screenings.

    WordPress.com / Gravatar.com credentials can be used.

  10. My brother was lead guitar in a Wolverhampton Pop group “The Californians” in the 1960s and I once went with him down to Decca no 2 studio where they were to record “Sunday will never be the same” – a minor hit in 1967 — Their recording manager Irvin Martin had decided on a big backing sound for the recording and a 32 piece orchestra of professional musicians were assembled for the backing tracks including 8 violinists from the LSO -and John Mcallum (David Mcallum the actors father ) was lead violinist.there. I sat quietly in the actual rec studio as the orchestra layed down the backing tracks and it was one of the best experiences of my life to date to hear some of the worlds best musicians play in those perfect of surroundings – I will never forget that day— Mel Brookes (Shropshire) .

  11. A most interesting thread. Does anyone know what reverb was used and and how it was set up for recordings such as ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Nights in White Satin’ which I believe were recorded at these studios? Echo chamber, plates, or other under the watchful eyes of Gus Dudgeon? Many thanks.

    1. If my memory serves me well, the majority of the reverb used at Decca was via EMT plates.
      In addition to this, on the roof of the building, a three or four metre square stone shed (probably once concealing an old water tank or the likes) housed a ten, possibly twelve inch speaker, set into a piece of stone pipe.
      From the ceiling, a mike (possibly an Neumann 87, can’t remember now) hung on a hook. This was “The Decca Echo Chamber.” A bit Heath Robinson you might think, but it worked! (In conjunction with a noise gate, anything was possible!)
      Access to this facility was via the patch bays in Studios 1&3, but I have no recollection of any access in studio 2.
      If you can find a contact address for Derek Varnalls,(Possibly facebook) You will find out everything you need to know regarding the said recordings. Derek engineered most of the Moody Blues albums from this period. (and many more artists besides) He is an authority on everything DECCA from the early sixties until it closed its doors in 1980.
      Hope this is of some help.

  12. Interesting thread – many thanks. Does anyone know what type of reverb and set up were used in these studios to record tracks such as ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Nights in White Satin’ under the watchful eyes of Gus Dudgeon? Many thanks.

  13. Hi all,
    Fascinating read! I am working on a book on the recording of The Mission’s debut album, God’s Own Medicine. Their producer at the time, Tim Palmer, has a memory of recording the band’s single “Stay With Me” at JAM Studios – which I believe is what Decca became when it was taken over in the 80s – but I have yet been able to confirm this. Can anyone in this thread help trace the session? It was likely between June and early August 1986, and three songs were recorded. The band were signed to Phonogram/Mercury at the time, if that helps!

    Kind regards all,

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