Television Wales and the West opened transmission at 4:45 pm on 14 January 1958 with a live, 15-minute opening ceremony by station chairman Lord Derby, Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards and Alfred Francis. The master of ceremonies was chief continuity announcer, Bruce Lewis.
At 5:00 pm, Youth Wants to Know, a children's interview programme produced by Granada Television, became the first programme to be broadcast by TWW. In the programme, Lady Megan Lloyd George and Raymond Gower fielded questions from Welsh school children. Following Youth Wants to Know, ITN's early evening news at 5:40 pm was read by Huw Thomas from TWW's studios at Pontcanna.
The main opening programme came at 7:00 pm with The Stars Rise in the West, a filmed special introduced by It's That Man Again regular Jack Train. The programme, produced in association with ITN, featured appearances from Sir Ralph Richardson, Stanley Baker (later a founder of TWW's successors, Harlech Television), Naunton Wayne, Donald Sinden, Tessie O'Shea, Donald Houston, Petula Clark, Tommy Cooper and Ralph Reader. Harry Secombe also appeared in a short film clip, performing Nessun Dorma.
Partly because its regional programming was so well regarded it came as a great shock when TWW lost its franchise in the 1967 franchise review, in favour of the Harlech Consortium, whose bid promised a glittering future of star-filled entertainment and quality documentaries.
No reason was given for the dismissal (as is common practice for franchise changes) but it was believed that TWW's decision to keep its corporate headquarters in London and not move them to within the region was a significant factor. A darker explanation proffered at the time was that it was government revenge against the broadcaster's major shareholder the News of the World newspaper, which had printed a series of critical articles about the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson. This does appear unlikely as although the ITA was answerable to Parliament it was a wholly independent body.
TWW's response was, in effect, to throw a temper tantrum — despite the ITA offering to order Harlech to buy TWW's studios and take on all the TWW staff. A later offer from the ITA was to let TWW buy 40% of Harlech's stock to guarantee a profit and a connection with the television industry: It is commonly believed that TWW spurned this offer in a fit of pique but were actually advised to reject it by their merchant bank.
Instead TWW quit its franchise early, selling the last five months to Harlech for £500,000 even though the new company was not yet ready to start broadcasting at the time. Following the intervention of the ITA, a temporary service was set up — Independent Television Service for Wales and the West, broadcasting from the old TWW Pontcanna studios in Cardiff, and staffed by former TWW workers, until Harlech (soon renamed "HTV") was ready to take over its franchise early, on 20 May 1968.
TWW was the first, but not the last, company to break the ultimate protocol of those tightly regulated days; to close down for the last time without going through the formal procedure of announcement and national anthem.
Much of the station's closing night was made up of in-house produced output including Live Like A Lord (a music and comedy show with mainstay TWW personality Ivor Emmanuel and Clive Dunn) and Sing Me A Fantasy (a musical film). The feature programme of the night was TWW's penultimate production, All Good Things, a late night variety special presented by Bernard Braden and featuring amongst others, Tessie O'Shea, Stan Stennett, Ivor Emmanuel, Manfred Mann, Clifford Evans, Anita Harris and Morecambe & Wise. The programme was preceded by an introduction from company chairman Lord Derby.
Having felt desperately hard-done-by the ITA, and in the fits of a corporate tantrum, the company showed their final display of anger by closing down with Come To An End, a reflective epilogue with John Betjeman, who had made several films for the station, paying tribute to the personnel, programmes and achievements of TWW (which Betjeman affectionately referred to as Tellywelly).
Ironically recorded at the Granville Theatre in London, Betjeman closed the epilogue and the station with these words:
The new firm, Harlech, which will be centred in Cardiff, must build up its own personality. Tellywelly, you had a warm, friendly and inspiring one. Like many others, I'm very grateful to you. I'm sorry to see you go. It's like the death of an old friend.
As Betjeman walked out of the theatre and the credits rolled, the camera panned up to the "EXIT" sign on the wall, and TWW ended its transmission for the last time. Apart from their two months' involvement with the interim service before the opening transmission of Harlech, Television Wales and West were never heard of again.
TWW operated from two sites – a converted farm at Pontcanna, near Cardiff (now demolished and replaced by a housing estate) and similar facilities at Bath Road in Bristol. In January 1964, TWW was required to take over the franchise of its neighbour, Teledu Cymru — Wales (West and North) (WWN) when that company became the only ITV company to ever fail financially. The former WWN area was still run as a separate area under the banner TWW – Teledu Cymru.
Although TWW inherited WWN's studios in Western Avenue, Cardiff it was decided to sell these and base both operations at Pontcanna. To accommodate this dual presentation and general increase in production the takeover created, £2m was spent on updating and extending the studios at Pontcanna, including a new studio and separate transmission control suites.
TWW was also a player in the development of 625-line colour transmission for the ITV network. Although the bulk of test transmissions and research were conducted for the Independent Television Authority (ITA) at the ABC studios at Teddington, TWW leased two prototype EMI colour cameras and associated equipment in 1966 and began running trials, with shows being transmitted on internal networks for viewing by employees.
Until 1965, viewers in both south east Wales and the English West parts of the franchise received ITV on Ch 10 from the ITA transmitter at St Hilary located on Stalling Down, near Cowbridge in south Wales. This did not accommodate separate programme services and so a combined service was provided to viewers in both the Welsh and English parts of the single licence area. Although TWW had studios in both Cardiff and Bristol, the outputs of these were combined at Cardiff into a single programme stream to feed the single transmitter at St Hilary. Hence, for example, local news bulletins involved an on-air switch or handover between the two studios and viewers would alternately see items from both sources.
Whilst the original service provided by TWW from St Hilary had to carry a mix of content for viewers on each side of the Bristol Channel, the west and north of Wales were served by other VHF transmitters which carried a more specific Welsh programme service branded Teledu Cymru. TWW had acquired the licence to broadcast to the west and north of Wales following the commercial failure of WWN (Wales West and North) which originally held a separate franchise licence for a much larger but, critically, less densely populated part of Wales. Following the acquisition of WWN, a second VHF transmitter (using Ch7) was added at St Hilary in 1965 to effectively extend the ex WWN transmitter network into SE Wales thus permitting programmes of specific interest in Wales to be broadcast exclusively to Wales whilst running a separate schedule for English viewers on Ch 10. This was the first significant step in providing two distinct and separate programme services for Wales and for West and effectively established TWW's area as a 'dual region' during the last few years of their tenure.
The introduction of the UHF transmitter network for ITV, including particularly the Mendip transmitter in 1967, and the start of HTV's UHF transmissions from Wenvoe in 1970, replicated the separation of ITV programme services to Wales and the West. St Hilary was never used as part of the UHF network and TV transmission from it ceased when the VHF services were closed down many years later in 1985. The mast continues to be used for communications and radio broadcasting.
TWW's on screen identity consisted, originally, of a circle containing the letters TWW, with a large 'T' in the centre and a small 'W' to either side. This apparently static caption was used for the first few years of the stations existence before the familiar box logo appeared. This logo was animated and formed when the boxes rotated revealing one letter at a time, accompanied by a twelve note fanfare.
Following the acquisition of WWN, their Teledu Cymru branding was utilised by TWW for the North and West Wales service. The TWW logo was added beneath the Teledu Cymru dragon, along with the caption 'Network for Wales'.
TWW did not produce many programmes for the ITV network, but its news and local programming were well regarded (it won many plaudits for its sensitive coverage of the Aberfan Disaster).
Its Welsh magazine programme was called Amser Te (Tea Time). Amongst other items, it featured a regular cookery item hosted by Myfanwy Howell and the popular Welsh music show Gwlad y Gan.
TWW also launched the careers of many famous faces, who appeared on their early broadcasts. These include John Humphrys and Claire Rayner. TWW was the first to showcase Adge Cutler – his appearances on the TWW programme 'The Cider Apple' led to Adge's fame spreading and the formation of The Wurzels. Bruce Lewis was one of TWW's main news presenters; he went on to write various books about his experience during the Second World War, "Aircrew, a Few of the First", plus other titles such as How to be A TV Presenter – his son, Peter Lewis, hosted Movie Magazine and went on to announce for TWW, HTV West, and most famously, LWT.