John Logie Baird spent the last 18 months of his short and eventful life in Bexhill, where he died on June 14 1946 at the age of 57. However, this was not his first connection with the East Sussex coast. In the spring of 1923 he had arrived at the nearby town of Hastings after suffering a health breakdown, and as he recovered he began his experiments on television. The rest, as they say, is history.*
In the years just before World War II, Baird was married with two children, Diana and Malcolm, living in affluent style in a large house in Sydenham on the south eastern edge of London. He had a private laboratory next to the house, funded at first by Baird Television Ltd. However the company went into receivership when broadcast television was stopped by the outbreak of war in 1939. Baird carried on doing research on television at his own expense, while the family was moved to the remoteness and safety of North Cornwall.
By 1944 the end of the war was in sight but the house at Sydenham had become uninhabitable due to bomb damage. Instead, the family moved to Bexhill-on-Sea in January 1945. Baird had a high opinion of the fresh air and the dry climate of East Sussex which had helped him to regain his health 20 years earlier. He rented a semi-detached house at 1 Station Road, just across the road from the station and handy for the London trains. A new company called John Logie Baird Ltd. had been formed to promote his recent inventions which included the "Telechrome", the world's first cathode ray tube for colour television. Baird divided his time between Bexhill and London, where he was continuing his research and making plans for the resumption of television broadcasting after the wartime shut-down. Diana and Malcolm remember a family visit to London to see experimental colour television; the picture was large and bright, a great improvement over the small flickery images of the old mechanical system of television. On another occasion the family went to see "Fine Feathers", a cheerful West End revue starring Jack Buchanan, Baird's old school friend and financial backer.
Tragedies struck in 1946. Early in the year Baird had a stroke which effectively confined him to bed, and he died in his sleep on June 14, just a week after the B.B.C. resumed its television service. Baird's family was left in a difficult situation, but rescue came in the person of John's older sister Annie, a retired hospital matron, who arranged for them to join her in Baird's birthplace in Helensburgh, Scotland.
In the years that followed, the house in Bexhill was split into flats and named "Baird Court", with a commemorative bronze plaque placed on the wall. In 2005 the old house was acquired by a property company and, despite some public objections, it was demolished in August 2007. A modern block of flats is being built on the site by Laing Homes Ltd. in the same architectural style as the old house. The company has recently announced that a historic plaque will be placed on the new building, which will keep the name "Baird Court".
*For further details please see the book John Logie Baird: a life by Antony Kamm and Malcolm Baird, advertised on this website.
Click here to read the article by Malcolm Baird and Douglas Brown "John Logie Baird's Last Projects"