Pole of the Month – June 2019

This pole first hit the national consciousness in 2011 when the supreme voting committee of The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society selected it as Pole of the Month for April of that year. Fast forward eight years - beyond the street parties and media attention that went with this fabulous accolade - to this most moist of mediocre summers. Despite it's large red D plaque and a BT recovery notice, this 1932, 28ft GPO giant stands defiant, resplendent with five crossarms and a mishmash of insulators all the time carrying absolutely no wires whatsoever. Serenely and elegantly it keeps watch over the village of Pwllglas and the A494 which whizzes along beneath its sentinel gaze.

Meine Damen und Herren, I give you Pole of the Month, June 2019...

Closeup of the arms and insulators on a 1932 5 armed telegraph pole near Ruthin, North Wales.

TPAS Annual Telegraph Pole Expedition

Outer Hebrides, Barra to Butt of Lewis (April/May 2019)

Yes, you all missed the chance to burgle my house while I was away.  And the key was under the mat the whole time.  Not just me but the entirety of Telegraph Pole Towers took the high road to the top left hand corner of Great Britain.  In order to avoid the M6, we drove first overnight to Holyhead for an early ferry to Dublin.  Drove to Donegal just for a laugh and because I was promised a pint of something special.  Then caught a ferry Larne to Cairnryan.  Drove north to Oban.  Camped the night in Taynuilt station car park.  5 hour ferry to Castlebay, Barra for week #1 in a cottage next the airport beach.  Then ferry from Northbay, Barra to Eriskay and week #2 cottage on South Uist.  Thence ferry from Berneray to Leverburgh (Harris) and drive north for week #3 at Tolstachaolais, Lewis.  All finished off with a stinking campervan meander homewards via the B roads of Scotland over 3 days with a dash along the nasty and unavoidable M6 bit.

Herewith telegraph pole encounters of our trip.  Click images to enlarge and see captions.


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Absolute gold struck here…  You can tell it’s gold because I’ve used capital letters in the title – and that’s a first for these sage pages.   Pete Gerrard, a mine of information on telegraph poles and friend of our incumbent Honorary Technical Adviser Keith S*****1 has sent us a copy of the 1933 publication “The Telegraph Pole” by W,H. Brent, B.Sc. (Hons.) A.M.I.E.E.

Now, I’ve seen odd pages from it in the past and posted them onto this here site.  But here, and for your delectation, is all 32 pages of everything, literally everything, you ever wanted to know about telegraph poles.  Pete says “I don’t think there is any confidentiality about it since BS1990 was written around the GPO Pole Specification, in fact it was the specification.  It is a most definitive article and gives an incredible history of this ubiquitous but largely unknown about item of street furniture.  There is much folklore surrounding its evolution and manufacturing process most of which is exactly that – folklore!”*2

It’s 42Mb fat which is a hefty download, but ultimately that’s only about the same as 3 loaves of wholemeal bread, or a box of Bran Flakes and a packet of cake mix.  Click the cover below to start the teleportation process. ENJOY.

The Telegraph Pole by W H Brent ca 1933


*1 Keith S**** signed the official secrets act so he’s a secret, or something.
*2 I reserve the right to continue to spout folklore via this website.

Street hardware revisited.

We’re side-stepping our remit a little here: tall, wooden, sticky-uppy, got wires coming out the top.  But here is a subject we’ve touched on before and seems to fascinate our listeners.  You will in no way remember these articles from 2012 on GPO Street furniture and More street furniture.

Well, Chris Payne, was digging around the internet, as you do, after he found this street marker set into a wall in Tring.  He found our pages, but also this one from the Secret Scotland blog. Now, he says this G.R. marker is on the B4635 roughly where the Western Road changes to Western Road.  But then Western road is already called Western road and I wonder did he mean to say it changes to something else.  But I’m too polite to write back and ask him and I certainly hate to correct someone.  It’s this anxiousness to please, to not offend, to be all things to all people that means I drink a bottle and a half of Gaviscon a day.  Anyway, so it’s on the B4635 in Tring.  And it’s got G.R. on it and I’d like one in my garden.  Thank you Chris.


An iron street marker post


Dangerous territory

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We’re really playing with fire by posting these pictures on here and we could find ourselves embroiled in a turf war with the Pylon Appreciation Society over this.   But Dave Bennett (#666) wrote in to say he’s been having sleepless nights since spotting these near Steyning, Sussex.  “Are they acceptable as poles or are they pylons masquerading as poles?” he asks.  He’s not the only one who has been troubled by these pole/pylon hybrids.  And now that I’ve seen these pictures, I’m afraid I can’t “un-see” them.  Click on each image to enlarge, if you dare.

telegraph pole / pylon hybrids in a field in Sussex A pari of pole/pylon hybrids in a field of barley A steel pylon/pole in sussex Close up of the top of a small pylon in Sussex

Depthing Tubes

We have, of late, been in extended communication with Mr Martin Cummins –  an engineer in permanent magnets and a man of considerably piqued curiosity – amply demonstrated to us now that Mr Cummins has turned his inquisitive mind to the mysteries of the telegraph pole.


I bear only a query regarding the grey plastic extruded ducts often seen, placed 180 degrees apart, on telegraph pole bases. After years pondering on same, I finally came to the conclusion that they were either for adding preservative at intervals (Hence cap sometimes seen) or possibly, but unlikely, as an anti-rotation device for where a replacement pole was a close fit in an existing hole – even providing access for a below-ground wood rot check.

Upon request, Mr Cummins furnished us with example photos.  He went on to tell us that his approaches to “Outreach” proved less than fruitless and nobody there had the faintest idea what these “depthing tubes” were for. Though why he thought a mental health charity would be able to help, when coincidentally, right next to them in the phone book he would have found “Openreach” and perhaps a far more illuminating phone call.

 Another depthing tube

He continued…

I have been told that it is a neat device for ensuring correct burial depth, even if the “Birth-line” is incorrectly stamped.  Is this the whole story? and was it an invention of the G.P.O? What is the correct name for the duct, and is the depth rod a purpose made, graduated scale, with perhaps a cursor to rest on the top of the tube, or just a piece of convenient bar, which is chalk marked? Presumably the reason for the height from ground-level is to discourage small children from gravel-filling (Caps as well) or is there another reason? Two tubes, I suppose, in case one gets crushed flat during installation? I have yet to see an article on this system?

Mr Cummins is very thorough in his research and determination to attain complete and total understanding of his subject.

While endeavouring to locate information on these ducts, I came across a reference to a spigot or flat circular mark called a “belly-button” being found on posts, which was put on the straightest side of the post. Perhaps another, humorous term for a birth-mark, but why it is orientated this way is beyond me. Another site refers to the birth-mark as a Doby mark. A strange term-any idea of its meaning?”

Mr Cummins also turned up a whole load of interesing telegraph pole patents; two shed loads about fibre-glass telegraph poles in Dunstable; a fine example of a telegraph pole preservative administering system near Leighton Buzzard; and another unponderable suggestion that BT may well fly kites to raise telephones line over a tree branch.

A telegraph pole armoured ductAll of this though makes me think that Martin is looking just too hard – reminding me of the story of the millions of pounds that NASA spent developing a biro that could write in the micro-gravity of earth orbit – whereas the Russians just took a pencil… You see, I think the answer is much more mundane in that these tubes are just “kick stops”, cable protectors – and nothing more. Intended to save the hardship caused by fluourescently clad council grass-strimming staff from slicing through the cables that run vertically down the pole and into underground ducts. On the left is one I photographed near home showing a protruding wire.  Those as witnessed by Martin Cummins simply being devoid of cable.

I am, of course,  just guessing, and respectfully ask some of the many Openreach and assorted telegraph pole types who frequent these esteemed pages to espouse some of their profound wisdom and tell us, and particularly, Martin Cummins, what the hell these things are for?

More street furniture

Another iron marker post found in a street in PlymouthPrompted by the picture that Brian Russell sent in 5 posts ago, reader Ernie Stanton sent in the photo you see at left – one of three such cast iron marker posts he found in Plymouth.

He says :

A contact at Plymouth museum gave me your details following an enquiry I made to him. I have found three cast iron maker posts in Plymouth, similar to the one on your website.

These are however slightly different, in that they carry the letters GR and have a line under the ft in. From the condition of the one shown on your website, it seems that this may have fallen off the one photographed by Brian.

The three in Plymouth are however identical to each other and have a recess under the ft in into which numerals can be fitted.The combination of an arrow underneath the horizontal line reminded me of OS bench marks, which are traditionally carved into the faces of walls etc., but these are not shown on the OS maps I have, dated 1892/4. If you ever discover what they are I would be interested.

Well Ernie, I consider myself a bit of a dab hand at internet researching, but I’m struggling to find much about these posts. The GR in this case standing for George Rex (ages it to between 1910 and 1936) whilst Brian’s being from V.R.Victoria Regina (1837 – 1901).  I will continue to search, but I’m going to  guess aged water mains rather than anything telegraphic.

Meanwhile however, my detective brain did spot the darkening stain at lower left, and which continues on to the pavement and surrounding wall – indicative, perhaps, that a disrespectful dog may well have passed this way shortly before Ernie took his photo. 


GPO Street Furniture

Iron GPO Marker post Post Office Telegraphs grid.

We recently received an interesting email and photographs from Brian Russell from WA7


Though nothing to do with telegraph poles, I wonder if, via your society, I might pose a question on a local item of GPO history.

The item is a small cast iron marker post against a building wall and the head of the post bears the letters ‘ V R ‘ with a crown in between below which are the letters ‘ Ft – Ins ‘ and a government property broad arrow.

I assume it does / did mark the route of a buried cable.

Could it be that one of your group have some knowledge of these posts in their search for matters telegraphic ?

Thanking you,

Brian Russell,

WA7 shire

Brian also kindly sent us a photo of the inspection cover that was nearby.  If you look carefully you see it must be from a different age – a time of morse code, telegrams and when you could get a Penny Arrow for under a pound.

The embossing also suggests that if we were to lift the lid we may find some Telegraphs belonging, of course, to the Post Office.  Or might it just be that underneath you will find a stash of conservative-leaning broadsheet newspapers.

The marker post is a particularly attractive item.  And if you can shed any light on it’s provenance then do please get in touch:  martin@telegraphpoleappreciationsociety.org or via the Contact page.

Purists should look away now

The mother of all telegraph poles, Moville, Donegal A close-up of the mother of all telegraph poles, Moville, Donegal



T his has to be the mother of all poles. Now, I am loathe to prefix it with the word “telegraph” for fear of upsetting the more conservative of our members. But it’s a wooden pole and it’s got wires coming off it so I’m interested (please see Disclaimer).

This was spotted on a quiet back lane a mile or so from the somnolescent Donegal town of Moville.

I spent a good ten minutes underneath it, gazing up at its science-fiction countenance with wonder.

Do the Irish cleverly place their transformer substations so high to be out of reach of rural copper thieves perhaps?

It’s even got a pair of central-heating radiators on it. And a clock, as well as all that space-age gubbins on top. So could it be a misplaced W.I. tea urn, or a bizarre inverse airing cupboard, or an outside heating system – a global warming device perhaps?

But when I spotted the drain tap at the bottom I realised that this was the work of an Irish power engineer moonlighting as a real-ale micro-brewer.

To think that a pint of Donegal’s equivalent of ‘Big Nevs‘ was probably just a stepladder away.

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