Features: Carlton Studios – Lenton Lane - Nottingham

 

Carlton Studios (previously Central Studios / The East Midlands Television Centre / Television House) were designed by architects: R. Seifert & Partners and constructed by Taylor Woodrow. The foundation stone was laid by The Rt. Hon. The Lord Thompson of Monifieth KT (Chairman of the IBA 1981 – 1988) on 23rd February 1982. The studios began operation in the autumn of 1983 and were formally opened on 2nd March 1984 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

 

For many years some of the most popular shows on the ITV network were filmed in Nottingham, including: Boon, Bullseye, The Upper Hand, Blockbusters, The Price is Right, Family Fortunes, Barbara, Shine on Harvey Moon, Peak Practice and Supermarket Sweep! It was a golden time for television production in the East Midlands… but it was not to last!

 

By the late 1990’s production methods had changed  - with much less drama being filmed in expensive studio complexes. Additionally ITV was not the dominant force it once had been in terms of TV advertising and many digital channels had starting broadcasting…crucial advertising revenues were down. Unfortunately at around this time, many of the shows once produced in the studios were cancelled.

 

The future of the complex was seriously in doubt.

 

In 2000 Carlton decided to bring back Crossroads. It cost over ten million pounds but it was seen as a “final chance” for the Lenton Lane studios. Alterations were made to accommodate what was to be a major network production. Existing studios 6 (3000 sq. ft) and 8 (7500 sq. ft) housed the two biggest sets, while the music studio was converted to an extra “Studio 11”. Sections of the pull back area were converted to studios 8x and 11x.

 

In addition to the interior, the exterior of the building was employed as the hotel – meaning that much less outside work needed to be done on location – vital on a soap where a quick turnaround is essential.

 

At one stage there was even talk of Lenton Lane opening up as a tourist attraction similar to the successful “Granada Studios” in Manchester.

 

Things were looking up… but it wasn’t to last.

 

Sadly, Crossroads 2001 was only in production for 320 episodes before it was taken off air for a “rethink”. The 2003 version managed another 98 before it too was axed.

 

It was the “nail in the coffin” for the studios.

 

Inexpensive programmes for ITV’s digital channels meant that some staff and studios were kept busy in the short term, but the low budgets weren’t enough to support a massive site like Lenton Lane. Fewer productions, seriously reduced cash flow following the collapse of ITV digital and the merger of Carlton with Granada meant the studios in Nottingham were an expensive resource that ITV just couldn’t afford… and didn’t particularly need. Major network production space was available in Yorkshire, Manchester and London.

 

By the end of 2003 most production work at the studios had ended – a few exceptions included “Doctors and Nurses” for the BBC (2004) and the daily “Central News” for the East Midlands.

 

ITV decided to sell the complex.

 

The remaining workers at the studios,  the NUJ, and even MPs signed a petition to keep the studios open – but to no avail.

 

The final installment of Central News East to come from Lenton Lane was broadcast on February 4th 2005.

 

ITV finally sold the complex to the University of  Nottingham University, where it became King’s Meadow Campus (the sixth campus for the university). It now houses Manuscripts and Special Collections and some of the University administration departments.

 

One studio (Studio 7) remains operational, and on occasion it is hired out to film makers, the BBC, and ironically ITV. As you walk around the complex there are still reminders of its days as a major player in the world of TV production. Many of the corridors look the same, there are remnants of the Crossroads set here and there, a few props and the odd relic remain (for the time being) and even one or two staff members have stayed on.

 

 

 

The studios were built on land that was to become part of a large industrial estate.

The shape of the studios becomes familiar…

Nearing completion. (Note Central Globe)

 

 

Officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh

March 1984

.. complete with “Central” shaped plaque.

A huge site – employing many hundreds of people.

 

 

Construction work on the Crossroads set in 2000 – Carlton Logo visible behind.

Even in 2012 evidence of the building’s previous life are evident.

Crawford Boon Security – a prop sign from the popular series. Still there in 2010!

 

 

Main entrance in the early days…

 

…and again in 2001…

… and today – featuring the new “Learning Curve” canopy.

 

 

Carlton Studios: “Home of Central”

 

Red signage… Which has been recycled by the University of Nottingham but…

The green is chipping off in places – revealing the red underneath!

 

 

With news of the closure the staff at the studios staged a protest…

… but the studios closed and assets were sold off (note Adam and Jill picture!)

Studio 7 remains operational to this day.

 

 

Old signage – long since removed.

 

Visiting dignitaries: The Lord Mayor of London

… and again

 

 

Cake signage…

 

…and again…

…and again on the main doors.

 

 

Architects etc.

University landscaping near the old newsroom

Scale model – still on display.