Search

Radio legend Charles Chilton dies, aged 95

PUBLISHED: 16:03 03 January 2013 | UPDATED: 10:28 07 January 2013

Charles Chilton BBC writer/ producer of many radio shows including 50's Sci fi thriller 'Journey into space' later in life gave guided tours of Hampstead

Charles Chilton BBC writer/ producer of many radio shows including 50's Sci fi thriller 'Journey into space' later in life gave guided tours of Hampstead

© Nigel Sutton

Radio legend Charles Chilton, who created some of the most popular programmes of his era, has died aged 95.

Dubbed the “only genius to come out of the BBC”, during his 46-year career Mr Chilton wrote and produced hit shows Riders of the Range and Journey Into Space which was the last radio show in the UK to pull in a bigger evening audience than television. He also helped produce episodes of The Goon Show.

Mr Chilton, who was awarded an MBE for his services to radio in 1976, will be remembered for his conscientious approach to a broad range of subjects ranging from jazz to science fiction.

Wife Penny Chilton, who moved into Phyllida Law’s old home in Crediton Hill in West Hampstead 27 years ago with her husband, said: “He never really lost his cockney humour and he was a very good storyteller. Whatever he took up he took it on very enthusiastically.

“When he was working on Journey into Space he bought a telescope and joined the Royal Astronomical Society. That was the kind of man he was.”

Born into poverty in King’s Cross, Mr Chilton’s father was killed in the First World War and he lost his mother aged six.

Brought up by his grandmother, he left school aged 14 and took up an apprenticeship making electric signs, but was persuaded by an older colleague to get out of the business.

Attracted by the “spaceship-like” BBC building the 14-year-old was helped by a kindly security guard to get a job as a messenger boy, delivering the Radio Times to different BBC departments among other duties.

He joined at a time when the radio industry was booming and his fascination with the medium led him to newly-formed gramophone library department looking after the records.

A music lover from a young age and a self-taught musician, Mr Chilton set up the BBC Boys’ Jazz Band, playing the clarinet, flute and guitar before going on to write and produce the first ever jazz programme Radio Rhythm Club.

His first break as a presenter came on late-night show Swing Time. But after the programme first aired he was told by his boss that he “would never broadcast again, we will not have that cockney accent on the BBC”.

His burgeoning radio career was interrupted by the onset of the Second World War in which he served as a radio operator for the RAF before developing a case of the bends which prevented him from flying.

He returned to the BBC after the war, but this time to the BBC Light Programme station where he wrote and produced Riders of the Range set on the American frontier. The show attracted audiences of around 10million.

But he eventually decided “he’d had enough of cowboys” and was asked to write and produce Journey Into Space.

With his usual meticulous preparation, Mr Chilton bought a telescope and installed in the garden to stargaze and also joined the Royal Astronomical Society

Mrs Chilton, 91, said: “Even though it was fiction he wanted to know how rockets actually worked and tried to make it as accurate as he could be.”

Although he retired aged 60, he carried on contributing to the BBC and went on to help adapt his radio programme The Long, Long Trail into stage play Oh What a Lovely War!

Mr Chilton’s final project was to finish his autobiography Auntie’s Charlie, which was published last year.

Mr Chilton died from pneumonia at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead on Wednesday (January 2).

He is survived by wife Penny, children Anthony, Mary and David and 10 grandchildren.

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

16:36

The Met has sought to reassure cabbies in St John’s Wood and Lisson Grove by saying it is taking “covert and non-covert” action against a gang in Lisson Grove targeting taxi drivers.

10:57

What happens when lightning strikes two of Highgate Wood’s grand old oak trees?

09:07

The Phoenix Cinema is looking for £50,000 in donations by the end of the financial year to avoid a loss, or its trustees could look to pursue a deal with the Curzon Cinema after all.

Councillors have backed neighbours’ fight against a Domino’s Pizza takeaway being built on a residential street in Camden.

Yesterday, 15:46

With Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe expecting to spend her third Christmas in Evin prison, the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt used a visit to Iran to slam the middle-eastern nation’s imprisonment of UK dual nationals including the West Hampstead mum.

Yesterday, 15:28

Police want the public’s help to identify a man wanted over two Golders Green burglaries.

Yesterday, 12:08

Dawn Barnes will be looking to upset the odds as she has been reselected as Lib Dem candidate for the Hornsey and Wood Green seat.

Yesterday, 10:23

Eastenders actor and Celebrity Masterchef winner John Partridge will be switching on the Archway Christmas lights.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now