Golden Oldies 

15 August 2001

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is more than 20 years old. The formatting may be strange, links broken and/or images missing. The text may have been superseded by subsequent events or later research.

The first in GWR’s chain of Classic Gold stations was their own Brunel Classic Gold, which began on 15th November 1988 on 936/1161/1260kHz AM.

It was then rolled out to other stations which GWR owned at that time in Bournemouth (2CR Classic Gold on 828kHz AM) and Reading (210 Classic Gold on 1431kHz AM). This was as far as it got until GWR bought Midlands Radio plc in 1993. It was then introduced to Coventry (Mercia Classic Gold on 1359kHz AM), but at this point GEM AM, which they got as part of Midlands Radio, and WABC, which they got when they bought Beacon Radio in 1993, were left to be run live and local 24 hours a day, unlike 2CR and 210 which took some programming from Brunel in Swindon.

Following the takeover of Chiltern Radio in 1995, Classic Gold then arrived in Luton and Bedford (Classic Gold 792/828), Northampton (Classic Gold 1557) and Gloucester (Classic Gold 774). At this point the local names were dropped and the naming became Classic Gold whatever frequency. GWR had also bought Hereward Radio previously, so WGMS (The World’s Greatest Music Station) became Classic Gold 1332. The takeover of Chiltern Radio also enabled GWR to base Classic Gold at Chiltern’s HQ in Dunstable, where Chiltern’s own SuperGold service had previously been based.

More acquisitions in 1996, when GWR bought East Anglian Radio, so Classic Gold eventually arrived in Norwich, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds (Classic Gold Amber) although it did take quite some time for the changeover in this case. GWR also bought Radio Wyvern in Hereford/Worcester during 1996, and Classic Gold was introduced to the area, on 954kHz and 1530khz AM, but they later sold the AM station to Muff Murfin, who still operates it as Classic Gold, but it carries no networked programming.

During 1998 GWR began to pressure the Radio Authority to allow them to network Classic Gold for up to 20 hours a day. Their argument was that the use of higher profile presenters (such as Mike Read, Dave Lee Travis, Simon Bates) would allow listeners a better quality service than they would otherwise receive. The Radio Authority agreed, and so at this point all the Classic Gold stations (including GEM and WABC) began to be networked from Dunstable for 20 hours a day, with the exception of the Breakfast Show, which was presented locally. The local programme was later changed to be Drivetime, to allow Mike Read and later Dave Lee Travis to present a networked breakfast show.

In 1999, GWR bought Essex Radio, bringing Classic Gold (after much petitioning by locals) to Southend and Chelmsford (Classic Gold Breeze on 1359/1431kHz AM), as well as Reigate and Crawley (Classic Gold Breeze 1521). This deal meant that GWR had to sell a number of its licences to avoid going over the ownership points limit, so it sold 12 of the Classic Gold stations to a new company, Classic Gold Digital Ltd (of which GWR is a major shareholder). GWR also ensured that they have the right to buy back the stations, when ownership rules allow. The network is still run from Dunstable, so not a lot has changed, although all the stations are now branded Classic Gold Digital, which brings with it some ridiculously long names!

In 1999 GWR also purchased Orchard Media, meaning that Classic Gold arrived in Plymouth (Classic Gold Digital 1152) and Exeter (Classic Gold Digital 666/954)

Classic Gold can now be heard in the following areas:

Area Available On
Bristol / Bath 1260 kHz AM and DAB
Bournemouth, Dorset 828 AM
Coventry & Warwickshire 1359 AM and DAB
Exeter & Torbay 666 / 954 AM
Gloucester & Cheltenham 774 AM
Herts, Beds & Bucks 792 / 828 AM
Norfolk / North Suffolk 1152 AM
Northamptonshire 1557 AM
Nottingham / Derby 945 / 999 AM
Peterborough 1332 AM
Plymouth 1152 AM
Reading 1431 / 1485 AM
Suffolk (Ipswich / Bury St Edmunds) 1170 / 1251 AM
Swindon/Wiltshire 936 / 1161 AM
Wolverhampton / Shropshire 990 / 1017 AM and DAB
Crawley / Reigate 1521AM
Southend, Essex 1359 / 1431 AM
South Yorkshire DAB
Liverpool DAB
Wrexham 1260kHz AM
UK wide SkyDigital Channel 0189


Since this article was written, Classic Gold was merged with Capital Gold to form a new station – Gold.

You Say

7 responses to this article

bill forrestbilly 30 April 2011 at 1:50 pm

what a lot of crap same artists same music repeat repeat repeat awful presenters wont listen again

pete 10 March 2012 at 2:26 pm

radio seemed more fun in the 70s,when ilr first started.there was more choice,more variety and the presenters sounded as though they enjoyed what they were the local stations are no longer local,most are local for just a few hours,the rest of the day output comes from london and local news and traffic,are added over existing prog,depending where you are,rather like itv network.this format is dreadful and i gave up listening a long time ago.the music has suffered too,i used to be able to hear artists like chris rainbow or brian protheroe,due to the input of the presenter of whatever show,but these days its all formular,ie elton john,you only hear your song.when was the last time you heard crazy water?

Barrie Howells 22 June 2012 at 1:08 pm

I hate all the oldies stations and totally agree with the above posts. Bland unadventerous formats,I rarely listen. I must however give credit where its due to Smooth FM; they present a Motown specialist show every Saturday, they play a lot of the lesser known tracks instead of usual suspects.

Oldies stations in the U.S.A. and Canada are also pretty naff, I soon found out that when I first started listening to the radio online. Plenty of specialist channels though if you have a good trawl around.

Martin Clayton 27 November 2012 at 11:26 pm

I agree with the above, although Q Radio’s 80’s show plays some tracks you otherwise wouldn’t hear. Some community stations try to be different and well I may be slightly bias here but Jazzfm sounds quite unique a lot of the time.

Joseph Town 21 June 2013 at 5:30 pm

All roads inevitably lead back to BBC Radio 2. Commercial radio in the UK just isn’t worth a listen.

connie 22 March 2021 at 1:01 pm

My name is Connie and I am contacting you from an award-winning production company called Lightbox, about a landmark theatrical feature documentary on Diana, the Princess of Wales. This is the first ever cinema release documentary ever to be made on this subject and it will take a unique formal approach in that it will be made exclusively from archive footage and photographs. There will be no original interviews and no commentary. The ambition of the film is simply to tell Diana’s story and the impact she made on Britain and the world through contemporaneous material, as if it were unfolding in the present.

I am currently trying to source radio archive of discussions or broadcasts related to Princess Diana (from 1981 – 1997).

Do you have an audio archive from the 80s?

Russ J Graham 22 March 2021 at 3:19 pm

I’m afraid not: we didn’t archive programming, preferring to concentrate on the jingles and other presentation that the broadcasters themselves did not keep.

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