Gerry Wells Vintage Radio Collection
The late Gerry Wells was an English eccentric. Ever since he was a child he was obsessed with cables, electrical fittings and radios.
Unsurprisingly Gerry carved a career fixing old TVs and radios. He also began to collect them while others were throwing them in skips. In 1974, his collection was so vast he founded the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum in his West Dulwich home.
Museum chairman John Thompson knew Gerry well, and gave us a rare glimpse into his enduring lifelong collection.
So how did you meet Gerry?
I first met Gerry in 1983. Like a lot of the visitors, I turned up here with a radio in my arms, not working. I didn’t know what was wrong with it because it was manufactured before I was born. Now that Gerry has gone, it’s my job as chairman to keep everyone together and keep Gerry as part of this place.
Tell us a bit about Gerry.
He was very cheeky, with a wicked sense of humour and great fun. He’s always remembered for this every single day.
When he was young his mother said to him, ‘If you’re not careful you’ll spend your whole life working in the shed at the end of our garden’. And that’s exactly what Gerry did.
But it wasn’t completely chaotic: Gerry had a plan to preserve radio and TV equipment and he followed it through. He found people with similar interests and founded groups and societies and he built up an empire that grew and grew.
What was one of his favourite radios?
Gerry had a great fondness for a little set called a Belmont. Gerry, being a naughty lad, wanted this radio more than he could afford it - and got himself into trouble being chased along the road by the radio shop proprietor.
That’s a radio so closely associated with Gerry. We always have that on display here because it’s really the radio that started it all off.
Where did he put all his stuff?
Gerry collected radios for years and years. It was inevitable that space was going to begin to become a problem. Most of the collection was housed in sheds. As these things got fuller and fuller with radios from the ground to the ceiling, Gerry’s solution was easy: build another shed. And this went on and on. There are literally dozens of interconnected sheds.
Why do you think stuff is great?
You can look around this museum and see thousands and thousands of radios. If you’re not careful you could look at them as rows and rows of brown boxes, or dials and knobs. But, if you stop and look at them individually, you’ll realise that each one has a personality, each one has had a previous owner.
Walking around the museum we see all these radios, but every one of them has a story attached which is invariably connected to Gerry. Gerry would have taken these radios in. Gerry repaired them. Gerry was the original curator, so his decisions of what to collect shaped this place. And we remember him daily, through these objects.
Gerry Wells’ legacy can still be enjoyed by visitors today at the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum. His life reminds us that, sometimes, it takes an eccentric visionary to fully appreciate how great stuff can be.
Learn more about Gerry Wells and his collection and meet our other collectors over at ‘Stuff is Great