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Solid Gold Radio Sovereign - Part 1

Original idea of the late Howard Rose aka Crispian St John who'd been a DJ on Radio Northsea International, & in the mid 1980's was News reader Jay Jackson on Caroline 558 ...

Radio Sovereign Car Sticker

The first Land based Pirate Radio Station in South West London was Radio Jackie established in 1969, the clandestine operation came from Worcester Park

Governed by a committee of 9 Radio Jackie were always more guarded about their station, unlike Radio Sovereign ran a link to their transmitter sited off site

Operating costs were very low, most staff & DJ's were unpaid

Last year Radio Jackie re launched & became fully legal & licensed, having bought out Thames FM for the princely sum of £1, but assumed all their debts which at the time were considerable

Amongst the shareholders is Trevor Brooke Short Wave Radio stalwart & one owner of Irish operation Radio Fax

John Kenning

Radio Sovereign was Bank-Rolled by Music & Disco Entrepreneur John Kenning, premises were found in South West London

John Kenning can also be seen in Big L 1997

Other competition in South West London came from licensed ILR stations County Sound & Radio Mercury, Skyline another Pirate & the only other full time Pirate Station Radio Jackie 227

Part time Pirate Stations also audible included; JFM the Jazz funk station on FM, Horizon, & Invicta plus several bedroom operators

Most Land based Pirates broadcast on Medium Wave this enabled them to skirt the 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act

3 Sherland Road Twickenham

Radio Sovereign at home in 3 Sherland Road Twickenham

Hillman Avenger with Roof Rack & Austin Princess outside

Howard's concept was to found a proper Local Land based Radio Station playing a mix of the hits of the 50's, 60's, 70's, & tracks thought would make Future Gold


Audio Break

Crispian St John, Rob Randall & Steve Colman. Programme clips from the South West London Studios, Sherland Road Twickenham

Mike Barrington & Jim Coad

The station had its own live in engineer Mike Barrington who'd worked on Radio Caroline on the Mi-Amigo. After Radio Sovereign closed Mike again went to Caroline, setting a record for the longest stay aboard the Ross Revenge for an uninterrupted stint of 13 months. Mike pictured above with Jim Coad

Mike Barrington can also be seen in Caroline 1983_4

Radio Sovereign's all oldies format made it Britain's first all Gold Radio Station

Transmitter Hut

Transmitter hut with VHS tape logging

Radio Sovereign's original 50 Watt TX was built by Radio Jackie's Dave Small, this was modified to 80 Watts by Mike Barrington, it was an unstable unit & without modulation was liable to explode

The instant the station shut down or the TX starved of signal the on air jock was told to belt downstairs to the TX hut, pull out the feed with insulated pliers & hope he'd made it in time

In the final two months of Radio Sovereign Mike built a linear amplifier that boosted power to around 400 watts, earthing was improved by permanently dangling a water filled garden hose over the earth rods

Twickenham Antenna 1983

The antenna was an inverted L the back of the house slung between two buildings

Picture dates from summer 1983, you can just about see the feed to the right of the centre chimney stack & the 3 wire washing line antenna with its 7 horizontal spacers

With MF Radio Sovereign it would be reasonable from a ''back-yard'' installation to expect a maximum efficiency of 5 - 10%. I say this because the ubiquitous ''Inverted L antenna'' would have been used along with a rudimentary earth mat system. So with a transmitter output power of 150 Watts, then the emrp would be in the region of 7.5 to 15 Watts - David Porter - G4OYX & ex BBC Transmitter Engineer

Sovereign Studio

Studio with Plessey CT80's & masses of PAMS re sung Jingles on cart'

Bob Cooper

Bob Cooper, Sales Manager making appointments

Jilly Nicholson

Jilly Nicholson, Personal Assistant to Station owner John Kenning

Crispian St John on air

Crispian St John Programme Controller, gigs on his brain child - Radio Sovereign

In the final court case an order was made against Radio Sovereign saying that if they were to re offend, the authorities could confiscate the studio, transmitters & ancillary broadcast equipment

So with regret Radio Sovereign closed on 2nd January 1984 at 3 o'clock, mimicking the most successful Offshore Pirate of the 1960's - Radio London

The other Land based Pirate Radio Stations in London continued

Some eventually gave up, some fragmented & with ever sophisticated compact transmitters many may still be heard across London & many big UK Cities


Audio Break

Radio Sovereign at 15.00 hours on 2nd January 1983. The closedown of the UK station by Kevin Turner. But plans are afoot to launch in Continental Europe

The story will continue in Radio Sovereign - Part 2

A great write-up on Radio Sovereign. I mention that the cartridge machines shown in the studio shots are not Spotmasters, but Plessey CT80's. These same machines were also originally used by the BBC for Radio 1, Radio 2 & the local stations Kind regards - Paul Mustill - Dallas, Texas

Great first part of the Radio Sovereign feature, I remember hearing Sovereign in the mid 1980's in London, when we were busy setting up another London station. CSJ's breakfast shows (morning shag!) & all those legendary Pams re-sings

Sovereign was certainly a tight well put together radio station, I recall the late nights at the pub round the corner from the Sovereign studio too!

Certainly a pioneering station, which led to many of today's Gold stations! - Steve Marshall

I have been reading your Radio Sovereign feature with great interest. I used to listen to Sovereign when I lived in Slough Berkshire in the early eighties. The signal strength was good there and could easily be heard on the average portable radio. I have a recording from Christmas day 1983 with Rob Randall & Chris Elliot which I have attached. Forgive the "knob twiddling" at the beginning of the recording, but it does give an idea of signal strength compared to other Medium Wave stations. I hope it is of interest to you. All the best Ian & Kay Francis - Bourne End, Bucks

Ya hoo Solid Gold Memories, what a great item, looking forward to more - Salvatori


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