Jeremy Boot has a keen eye and an interest in vintage townscapes. He wrote to us of the largely forgotten practice of putting telegraph poles at rooftop levels in large cities. At some point this ceased, he told us, presumably as more and more cables were laid underground. Here's a couple of examples he pointed us to. Credits to Nottingham Archaelogy twitter feed for the first and to flashbak.com for the Picadilly Circus photo. You have to squint to see the pole in either pic.
We haven't done one of these for a while.
This really is a celebration of the mundane. This charming, simple and unassuming 1958 GPO 24ft Light pole has never carried so much as a single volt of electricity. For its nigh on 60 years its role has been as stay to the larger, more important pole, across the lane. Pole senior carries phone and fibre-optic all the way down said lane and right past my house where only the telephone wire stops off but not the fibre. I am only slightly bitter, twisted and sick to the stomach about this though.
The pole was last checked in August 2012 and is free from D plate but it does have quite a lean and can't be much support to the big one. Anyway. It's not big, it's not dramatic, but I appreciate it in all its nondescript glory and so do the sheep judging by its own shaggy stay wire. So herewith, Pole of the Month October 2017 at Rheidol reservoir near Aberystwyth, Wales.
Great news from Berkshire this week – the RG5 postcode to be moderately specific. RG5 6LN to be more specific and the naugahyde chair by the writing desk in the corner of the front bedroom at No. 67 Kensall Rise, RG5 6LN would be about as specific as anyone could ever ask for and likely more than our readers need. But I made up the bit of the postcode after RG5 anyway – so Reading-ish. My dad always said to me “Son, when you’re in a hole – keep digging.”John Smith* from RG5 couldn’t tell us about this great news though until after his good wife Jane had woken from her nap. To cut a short story really long it seems they found a run of 1904 poles and sent us the pictures you see below. They can be found at Turville, near the Cobstone windmill. The poles, not John & Jane – see sentence #1.
Now, 1904 seems to be something of a lower limit for dated telegraph poles. It is NOT absolute though – see footnote. The telegraph as a system of communication would have been at its height in 1904 and whilst amplitude modulation for voice and music were demonstrated in 1900, radio was a long way from obviating the need for the telegraph – and its poles. 1904 was the heady Edwardian era and a time when the world was having to come to terms with the idea of Doncaster Rovers failure to be re-elected to the football league. This was also the year that the United States of America paid Mexican president Porfirio Diaz, $14 million for the entire territory that is New Mexico. It was only when they got home and checked that they discovered that they already owned it.
Footnote #1: I have it on good authority that these are NOT the oldest poles out there. More on this in due course. Meanwhile, enjoy John & Jane’s fine Berkshire telegraph poles – they’re in Buckinghamshire it turns out after all. (click to enlarge)
Footnote #2: I had a really funny joke for this post but my wife made me take it out. So just imagine something really funny and laugh along anyway if you want.
Footnote #3: Names changed to protect the innocent (until proven guilty)
Either the start of the walk or one of the poles. And one of the poles – serving suggestion, finger not included.
Look carefully – double D plates. Fear the worst for this one. And again, helpful pointer to the 1904 date.
Campbell Brodie knows a bit about poles. Former GPO to Overhead Survey Officer for BT up there in Dunfermline Athletic Nil. According to my pre-school arithmetic levels I make that 41 years looking at telegraph poles. We owe much of our telegraphular wisdom at this here website to Campbell for sure. Anyway, he has written in for the first time in a while – prompting me to make the first post in a while… He was recently sent to do a survey to recover 3 telephone poles and says “These beauties have been up since 1910. Showing signs of decay now so they have to come down”. [click to enlarge]Any advance on 1910?
Our astute readers will have noticed that we have been rather quiet recently. The reason for this can now be made clear – The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society has upped-sticks and moved headquarters. All departments, stock, staff, stuff and our entire appreciating apparatus. Prior to this we were housed in a tranquil backwater in Mid Wales but this proved a little too boisterous for our tender hearts so we went Wester and even Midder into Wales. This valley is so deep that the sun appears only briefly around 17th June, before sinking us back into darkness again come the 25th. But the internet here is a revelation – where previously we had to type stuff in ourselves – I now phone a friend in Aberystwyth and dictate what we want to say and he does the internet thing for us. Marvellous!
May 1st means there’s only about 7 weeks until our “sunrise” celebrations. But to help you celebrate May Day – where the rest of you have trees and flowers and that – here is a lovely May Pole submitted by our tub-thumping, rust gathering morris-dancing Wiltshire correspondent Dave Bennett. Coincidentally, Dave has the membership number #666 – which is that of the Prince of Darkness himself, so it is apt we post this now. The pole was spotted in North St. Wilton, Wiltshire and brought Dave back – a really long way back – to his school’s pagan festivals and fertility dances. (We just had Geography and a school disco). Dave then went on to describe suffocating bondage, slow garrotting and incadescent screaming by Mrs Salter – and this, apparently, was all at the village school. Does the Daily Mail know what goes on in Wiltshire?
Happy May Day to All.
When Current Archaeology magazine published an article about our sagiest of societies back in 2015 poet Margaret Seymour found true inspiration. Her poem, reproduced here by kind permission, won first prize at the Sheringham poetry competition. So thanks to our ramblings, a myriad insulators, and the intrinsic beauty that is telegraph poles, these 152 words were selected out of all the thousands that are available and were assembled into the beautiful and unique, prize-lifting order that you see below. Congratulations and special thanks to Margaret. I’ve illustrated the whole occasion with a photo of a line of poles in Donegal. And some gorse. And Slieve Snaght in the background.
knows poetry when it sees it – the epic
march of metre, neat crossbar rhyme-schemes
embellished with ceramic references
to fungi, daleks, Chinese lanterns;
long lilting lines punctuated by swallows.
It’s fond of folklore such as crossbars
are always on the side facing London.
It loves the drama of the telegram,
whistle and crackle of the human voice.
urgent pitter-pat of Morse,
the arcane doings of Openreach.
Its totems are the trunks of trees –
wayside gods inscribed with tribal marks
BT or GPO, plus date of last libation
of creosote. She of the high and shaky
brackets orders DO NOT CLIMB.
He of the yellow skull warns DANGER OF DEATH.
Happy the members of TPAS! For them
a road or railway is a procession
of curiosities, a document, a refuge
where ivy flourishes and kestrels perch,
a photographic pilgrimage where finally
lines of posts are enshrined as posts online.
Where’s this pole been all my life?; Tom Grimes – whose address at any one time can best be written as “A Canal, Somewhere, UK” – submitted this latest Pole of the Month. Tom chugs his way around the waterways of Britain pausing only to read The Telegraph Pole” by W.H. Brent, B.Sc. (Hons.) A.M.I.E.E.
This iconic bridge/pole hybrid can be found where the A519 crosses the Shropshire Union Canal near Norbury, Staffs. High Bridge No. 39, aka Telegraph Bridge carries probably one of the most photographed poles in the country – at least by canal boatsfolk.
With this bridge and incorporated pole having been declared a listed building by Historic England it ought to be preserved as a museum piece for all time. Here’s what the Listing document has to say about it:
“High Bridge (Bridge No. 39) was erected between 1832 and 1833 to carry the road from Newcastle-under-Lyme to Newport. Shortly after its construction, however, the pressure being exerted onto the bridge from the cutting walls required the insertion of a strainer arch. In 1861 the United Kingdom Electric Telegraph Company installed telegraph cables along the entire length of the canal and the strainer arch was subsequently used for the siting of a telegraph pole. The telegraph wires were replaced with telephone wires in 1870…”
First 2 pics courtesy of ye olde Sea Dog Tom Grimes (presume that’s him and that’s his vessel) Close up (c) Peter Evans, off Geograph.org.uk
Aaron, from Hull, two post ago, tells us he feels privileged to be on our website. And that strangely, other than the pole recognition previously discussed he received no interest from his eBay listing. This in its way is a good thing because now he has made this wonderful hanging basket hanger thingy for the remaining and significant 51% of his household. In the finest traditions of Blue Peter – here’s what he did:
(1) Removed the bottom 2 cross-arms.
(2) Jet washed all the moss off.
(3) Attached a GR “no throwing stones” sign.
(4) Carefully banked the brownie points gained for future use.
We have recently received two submissions to our various and eternal “most-somethingy telegraph pole” competitions. First up is Paul Kirkup’s (#0654) stab at our popular shortest telegraph pole section. Now, I have a fair album of poles used as sheep fencing posts, and I’ve seen a good number of gardenly ornaments comprising short telegraph poles. But this one actually seems to be a genuine short pole photographed out in the wild. It’s got the little hat on it, and the black connection box thingy whose name escapes me for always – and it’s also not actually part of the fence it’s in front of. So thanks Paul, a definite contender. Paul, by the way, having the words “london” and “midland” in his email address we presume is something of a railway fan.
Next up is Geoff Bovingdon’s entry for our newly created “Most Southerly” telegraph pole competition. So new is this competition that being the only entrant so far, Geoff’s chances of winning any prizes off us are still close to zero. This rather low-resolution photo is an olde power pole in the grounds of a redundant gold mine in Central Otago in New Zealand. Geoff is also a contender for the longest ever wait between sending us a photo and it actually appearing on here.
Thanks for for your entries folks.
Hull, the city, not the underneath part of a boat – is unique in telephone lore insomuch as it has its own independent telephone network. This came about largely due to endless patent and rights squabbling and the attempted breakup of the NTC (National Telephone Company) monopoly. I would only be summarising someone else’s history work were I to publish it here – and I’d also have to work that bit harder too – so I’ll just give you the link <here>
Anyway, Hullovian Aaron Bailey sent us in these photos of this 30ft Medium telegraph pole he has acquired (as you do) and answers his own question in identifying the HTC lettering as Hull City Telephone. He also asks about the insulators and what they’re made of. So off I went on a little surf. HTC took me to Hull City Transport and the many complaints about them – what’s public transport for if it’s not for complaining about. Whereas Hull City took me to a fascinating page about becoming a mascot for the forthcoming Hull vs Stoke City game – sounds fantastic and my application is in the post.
An extended week-long surf later I think I have the answer. I think it is a proprietary resin called “Telenduron” which sounds like something that would stop eggs sticking to your frying pan – little known or remembered it fell out of favour with telegraph pole types as it became degraded and pitted.
Aaron worked on the power lines for 7 years and managed to collect a few pole signs over this time and the last photo shows us his rather nifty display pole. I can’t help but feel that to be truly authentic though he should have left room for a missing cat poster.
Aaron wrote back to tell us that all the more recent poles in Hull now have KC or KCL (Kingston Communications) cut into them instead of HCT. He says he tried to sell the pole on eBay hoping for some interest in the insulators – someone sent him a message asking if the pole was the one removed from a street in Hull. Sure enough, Aaron searched on Google maps and there it was. I think it is this fact – that someone recognised this very pole – that has impressed me more than anything anywhere in the world so far this year.