Roberts Radio Founder Harry Roberts

History of Roberts – Our journey so far.

8 min read
To celebrate our 85th anniversary, we’re taking a look back at our journey through the decades. We’ve seen a lot in our time, so find out what ups and downs we’ve had along the way.

1932 – Where it all began.

Our journey started 85 years ago, when Harry Roberts first founded Roberts Radio, alongside Leslie Bidmead. In order to pay for their small factory, Leslie had to sell his beloved motorbike – but it was because of this gesture of goodwill, that Roberts could become what it is today.

1936 – The first line.

Over the next few years, Roberts produced a number of receivers which were generally designed in the traditional ‘suitcase’ format – they came with a classic loudspeaker and a ‘frame’ aerial in the lid. Far from the sleek designs you’ll see today, but interestingly still a huge part of the iconic retro designs you will see on many modern devices in the 21st century.

1939 – Through the war.

Business continued to boom during the final months of peace, and Roberts Radio persevered with production after the war broke out in 1939, until it was physically impossible to continue. In fact, radio production carried on until the supply for valves for domestic production ran out.

1941 – The silver lining.

"Her Majesty the Queen had visited the radio department and purchased a M4DC for her own personal use."

Despite the dark times, in 1941, Harry was delighted to receive a phone call from his contact at Harrods informing him that Her Majesty the Queen had visited the radio department and purchased a M4DC for her own personal use. This wasn’t the first time the royals had bought a Roberts Radio receiver – in 1939, she bought one as a present for Princess Elizabeth at the Army and Navy Stores!

1942 – Our longest standing employee joins.

A fantastic employee, Stan Vandenberghe, started working as part of the sales force team at Roberts Radio in 1942 at the age of 14. He retired earlier this year, after over 70 years of service to Roberts.

1944 – The royals.

In 1944, H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth was featured in the film, ‘Heir to the Throne’, where she can be seen switching on her Roberts portable radio. The radio plays a news item, telling Princess Elizabeth on how she is spending her 18th birthday. Then, four years on in 1948, the Queen Mother and King George VI were photographed listening to their Roberts Radio wireless set as part of a silver-wedding feature in ‘Illustrated London News’.

1956 – The Revival was born.

"In 1956, the R66 was produced and launched after Harry was inspired by the design of a handbag his wife owned."

Harry Roberts and the team had been hard at work for the last decade creating and perfecting the original ‘Revival’ radio. In 1956, the R66 was produced and launched after Harry was inspired by the design of a handbag his wife owned. The radio represented a breakthrough in British styling and design engineering – and even today, it wouldn’t look out of place in a retailer’s display.

1961 – The gold one.

In 1961, Roberts produced a one-off R200 radio with a solid gold case. Costing upwards of £26,000 in today’s money, it appeared in newspapers all over the world. Lord Boothby appeared at the 1961 Radio Show with the radio, and after receiving worldwide publicity, it was finally stolen from a department store.

1990 – The classic, reborn.

The re-introduction of the Revival was extraordinary. Back in 1990, a new Martini advert was broadcast on television featuring the R200 in red. Soon after, the phones began ringing at Roberts Radio with people asking where they could buy the radio on the Martini advert. After meeting with a case-producing factory based in Suffolk, the radio went into production. Roberts saw 3,500 sales in the first few months and the radio is still available today.

1999 – Setting the bar.

"Roberts set an industry ‘first’ with the launch of a portable DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) digital radio."

Roberts set an industry ‘first’ with the launch of a portable DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) digital radio. The world’s first portable DAB radio which was built in 1999 and was launched in May 2000 for field trials with the BBC and other home and overseas broadcasters. ‘The Classic 2000’ paved the way in the industry, and from here on, Roberts Radio would continue to innovate and succeed in its pledge of offering “Sounds for Generations”.

2007 – The rise of Smart Radio.

Roberts first Smart Radio, the WM201, is launched. This innovative radio allowed access to thousands of stations from around the world, it also streamed music files from your PC.

2012 – Limited Edition radios.

In recent years, Roberts has collaborated with other brands to create a number of ‘Limited Editions’. These include a series of Cath Kidston florals, a Union Jack Flag design for the London 2012 Olympics, and a Royal Gloss Burgundy Revival to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

2014 – iStream launches.

The iStream2 launched in 2014, and introduced Spotify Connect to our range of Smart Radios. Also launched in this year was the Stream 93i – a radio packed full of features, with great sound quality, the Stream 93i set a new bar for Smart Radio everywhere.

2016 – Wireless streaming takes off.

This was the year that Roberts Radio saw a new chapter in our journey. In today’s connected world, streaming is how many of us enjoy our music, and R-Line is a premium audio speaker system with wireless multi-room capability that allows our customers to do exactly that.

2017 – Spin the record to celebrate 85 years.

2017 sees Roberts celebrate our 85th birthday and we’ve taken our decades of expertise in sound and technology to introduce a new turntable, an exciting addition to a growing audio range. This year also sees the introduction of our brand new Revival RD70 and Revival Uno, growing the iconic Revival family that we’re so well known for.