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Wessex Studios

106 Highbury New Park - London

Wessex Studios was originally situated in Old Compton Street in London’s Soho. It was founded by the Thompson family, sons Robin and Mike being the original engineering team. Wessex moved to it’s “Classic” location (behind St Augustine Church on Highbury New Park in North London) in 1966. The building, a church hall, was previously used for Boy Scout and Guide meetings and sometimes served as an extension for the school opposite.

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It’s original incarnation was of one large recording room with a fairly live acoustic, but had some problems with isolation from the outside world and couldn’t really work full time. It was run at this time by the Thompson’s in association with Les Reed (British songwriter who wrote “Delilah” amongst others) and had a reputation for big orchestral sessions and recorded the cream of British variety; Des O’Connor, Tom Jones, Morecambe and Wise, Clodagh Rogers, Tommy Steele and Frankie Vaughan were all regular visitors.


The principal equipment was a Neve desk with Studer tape machines.


The Wessex Neve Consoles.

The first Neve mixing console installed in Wessex was one of the very early transistorised mixers produced by Rupert Neve in the mid 1960s. By 1965 Rupert Neve and his first employee, Colin Morton, had moved from Harlow in Essex to Cambridge. Rupert’s home 'Priesthaus', an old vicarage in Little Shelford, was where they manufactured the first transistorised mixing console for Philips.

The Wessex order for an 18 sub fitted 12 channel mixer followed in 1965/6 it required several new modules to be designed:-
1053 – Channel Amplifier
2251 – Limiter

1453 – Oscillator
1253 – Line amplifier.
The circuits for all of these were hand drawn by Rupert Neve. The mixer had 4 group outputs to feed a 4 track recorder as well as stereo and mono machines. The linear motion faders were all made by EMT.

Below/ Wessex circa 1966 one of the first few Consoles manufactured by Rupert Neve and Co.

O/10,003 1453 Oscillator before 20/06/1969 H/10,003 1053 Channel Amplifier prior to 11/05/1966 N/10,003 1253 Line Amplifier prior to 3/12/68 T/10,003 1653 Talkback Amplifier no dates L/10,001 2251 Limiter prior to 16/02/1969


Neve A88

In late 1969 a second order came from Wessex for another custom 28 channel, 24 group mixing console, this was A88. This again required new modules to be designed the most famous of these, the 1073, became perhaps the worlds most renowned Neve microphone pre-amplifier and equaliser unit. Over 40 years later this unit is still being manufactured.
Wessex engineers insisted on using bar-graph meters, these alone required the use of a separate 20amp power supply. Two more 20amp power supplier were needed to power the all class A electronics, the three large Coutant fully regulated power supplies being housed under the control room floor. Extensive Dolby remote switching formed an integral part of the multitrack monitoring system
A further feature found only on this mixer, were two ashtrays embedded in the front buffer featuring the flying “N” Neve symbol in their front grills. These were hand filed in stainless steel by Tom Taylforth!


Neve A88

Many thanks to John Turner for these Neve pictures and information.

Copyright John Turner/Neve


A video of Chelsea Football Club recording their 1972 hit “Blue Is the Colour” with producer Larry Page.

Amusing to see which players are singing into the U67 pointing away from them!


Wessex Studios

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November 1970 - WESSEX EXTEND - From Studio Sound

'Three multitrack Ampex recorders have been delivered to Wessex Sound for their newly extended studios in Highbury, North London. Two MM-1000 16 track and an AGB-440B eight track are being employed alongside the company's existing eight track AG-440, in conjunction with a 28 channel Neve desk. The latter has 24 output groups to meet any future demand for 24 track recording, for which the MM-1000 may be adapted. Quadraphonic monitoring facilities, 20 Dolbys and four reverberation plates are accommodated, studio 'A' having air conditioning and room for 70 performers'.


King Crimson and Queen

Wessex quickly became popular with rock groups of the time, the biggest being King Crimson who recorded their first three albums there, the Moody Blues were regular visitors too. Queen started a long association with Wessex by recording part of their 1974 album “Sheer Heart Attack” at the studio.

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1975 - Cadac

In 1975 Chrysalis records purchased Wessex and made it a sister studio to AIR studios in Oxford Circus, Air Staffers Bill Price, Gary Edwards and John Walls all transferring to Wessex. A major rebuild occurred at this time, the roof was soundproofed, the control room was enlarged and fitted with a new desk and a remix room was built.

The Queen Video for 'Somebody to Love' was filmed at Wessex in October 1976 in between sessions for the 'A Day at the Races' album.

Both studios were identically equipped with Cadac mixing desks and 3M multitracks. Monitoring was by Tannoy speakers with HH, Studer and Turner amplifiers. Major albums recorded in this period were “London Calling” by the Clash and “Never Mind The Bollocks” by the Sex Pistols. Queen were also much in evidence, recording “A Day at The Races” and “News of the World”, the latter featuring the sound of a hastily gathered crowd stamping on the Wessex drum risers to provide the drum track for “We Will Rock You”.

Exceptional Quality



In October 1976 the Sex Pistols entered Wessex to record demos and then with producer Chris Thomas to record the single and album version of 'Anarchy in the UK'.


King Crimson and Queen

Wessex - SSL


By 1984 studio 1’s Cadac desk had been replaced by an SSL, the multitracks were Studer A800s and a Mitsubishi X-850 32 track digital recorder. Studio 2 retained it’s Cadac and now had Otari MTR-90 multitracks. Monitors in both rooms were UREI 815s. Studio 1’s acoustics were augmented by the addition of tuned resonators attached to the walls (these can be seen clearly on the cover of the album “in the Studio” by the Specials).

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In 1987 Studio 2’s Cadac was also replaced by an SSL. Although generally considered sonically excellent the Cadac desks had a steep learning curve and as the eighties saw the transition from studios having staff engineers to predominately a freelance culture the SSL was seen as more “user friendly”. To give another option for recording in studio 1 a Focusrite “sidecar” was added with 8 channels of mic pre/eqs.

Exceptional Quality


The Studio 1 recording area features in this 1988 video by Rick Astley, the control room window is screened off and has backlit dancers silhouetted against it. The striking pillar box red staircase and control room window frames can be clearly seen. The staircase led up to the lounge above studio 1’s control room.


Talk Talk
In 1987 Wessex saw the recording of another seminal album in the shape of Talk Talk’s “Spirit of Eden” produced by Wessex old boy Tim Friese-Greene. A detailed recounting of these sessions can be found in Phill Brown’s marvelous book “Are We Still Rolling?” (ISBN 978-0-9779903-1-3), which also details the recording of Talk Talk’s next album “Laughing Stock” also at Wessex.

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In 1993 the studio was put up for sale by Chrysalis as they decided to invest more heavily in the newly built AIR Lyndhurst complex. The studio was eventually bought by Nigel Frieda and was rebranded as Matrix-Wessex to fit in with his chain of existing studios (Matrix Little Russell Street, Matrix Struddridge Street and Maison Rouge). The studio was given a few modifications, the reception area was moved from the South end of the building to between the control rooms of studios 1 and 2, a spiral staircase was added to link this area to the “hang out” lounge upstairs. The studio remained popular, one of the last major albums being part recorded there was “Parachutes” by Coldplay.

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In 2001 Sony sampled the impulse response of the live room for use in their DRE S777 sampling reverb, the attached picture of this process shows one of the “We Will Rock You” drum risers standing on it’s side on the right. In the last year of the studio’s existence it was sub-hired to producer Mike Hedges who installed his ex-Abbey Road EMI desk into studio 1 to augment the SSL.

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The End.

Finally in 2003 the studio was closed for good.

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It was sold to a developer who gutted it (photo taken by ex. Wessex engineer “KK”) and rebuilt it as a block of 8 flats called (depressingly!) ...

'The Recording Studios'.


Cadac - Radiohead

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Wessex - Highbury New Park

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Wessex - Highbury New Park

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Wessex - Highbury New Park

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Wessex - Highbury New Park


Betty Edwards

No history of Wessex studios would be complete without a mention of Betty Edwards. She worked at the studio from 1968 until 1993 after answering an advert for a cleaner/tea lady. Her own children had attended Scouts and Guides functions in the building before it became Wessex. Betty was a fund of stories about the many bands that came through the doors at Wessex, she was particularly impressed by meeting Frankie Vaughan and spoke highly of Freddie Mercury. When the Sex Pistols were in recording Betty entered into the spirit of the thing by dressing up in black bin liners and safety pins.

She always lived just a stones throw away from the studio and remained interested in news from the place even after her leaving, keeping in touch with many ex staff members.  Betty sadly died in 2007.  

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