Following the much reported news that during lockdown the sales of Premium Bonds have incredibly rocketed to unprecedented levels there have been lots of weekend articles in the press recalling the beginnings of this very first Treasury backed lottery in Lytham St Anne’s.
This remarkable boom in sales of Premium Bonds during the lockdown has been the catalyst for a renewed interest in the very early technology based in Lytham St. Anne’s.
There were an amazing 4.5 billion more £1 Bonds eligible for the July 2020 draw than there were in April 2020. In the ten months between May 2019 and February 2020, there were an average of just over 500,000 Bonds bought each month. This figure has been totally smashed in each of the last three months. This is thought to be a combination of very low interest rates on savings and people having more disposable income as they were not going out. In the one month of May 2020, £1.7 billion Premium Bonds were bought – and one of these new bonds scooped July’s £1million jackpot for a lucky winner in Tyne and Wear.
The original home of the Premium Bond Office was at Moorland Road, St Anne’s is pictured below.
The first massive ERNIE was developed in the Post Office Research Department in Dollis Hill, North London (pictured below), where the code-breaking World War Two computer Colossus was constructed, before being moved to Lytham St. Anne’s. And when finally installed it took ten days to complete the first draw!
Pictured below is where the very first Ernie – or Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment – was located in the Premium Bond Office.
On November 1, 1956 the first bonds went on sale – and the Government lottery was really popular – on the first day alone, £5m of bonds were sold. Sir Cuthbert Ackroyd, Lord Mayor of London, bought the first Bond for £1.The second was bought by Councillor Crook, the Mayor of Lytham St Anne’s. However, the then Shadow Chancellor, Harold Wilson, called the lottery ‘a squalid raffle’ and a ‘national demoralisation’, and some church leaders warned their flocks not to take part, fearing that Britain would become a nation of gamblers.
The first winner of the £1,000 prize electronically produced in Lytham St. Anne’s by ERNIE was awaited with great national anticipation – and the lucky number was handwritten on a white piece of board to be announced to both the tv and press. The first £5,000 winner was written on a chalkboard by, Harold MacMillan (pictures below).
Photographs from these early days in the 50s, 60s and 70s at the St. Anne’s Premium Bonds Office show that it employed a great number of workers – contributing greatly to the local economy.
The Premium Bond Office left it home in St Anne’s in 1978 – moving to Blackpool. The original ERNIE computer was moved from Lytham St. Anne’s and is now stored in the Science Museum in London (pictured below).