The way to London (revisited)


Our most acutely reminiscient readers may remember our article Pointing the Way Toward London.  Where we espoused and then propagated the notion that the crossarms on a telegraph pole will always align towards London.

Well, Phil from Occamhome over there in Aol wrote in with further proof if it were needed.


Re ” Pointing the Way Toward London”….
Further proof (if required) is given when John Mills & Will Hay are being chased in a car in the film “The Black Sheep of Whitehall” 1942. John Mills notices the cross arms are on the London side so it must be true…..

And so now, indeed, it IS true.

Ghosts of lost poles

Society member #0620, John Cranston, was gifted membership of our elite group for Christmas last year.  This, he found, was a life-changing present.  Now, John is a regular correspondent to these pages and has as recently as 10 months ago sent me these pictures and the accompanying text.  It is late on a Wednesday night and I feel I may be quicker to the pub if I just post John’s words here almost verbatim.  Besides, I couldn’t explain what this is all about any better than he.

A telegraph pole label nailed to a wall The wall where the telegraph pole might have been

Dear Telegrafenmastdirektor (as they might say in Germany but probably don’t *1),

This appears to be an old label from a distribution pole. I’ve only seen one other like this, on a pole dating from 1909. Later poles seemed to have metal numbers hammered into them so, what do you reckon, pre-WW1?

Then what’s it doing on a wall up St Clement’s alley in the middle of Norwich with no pole in sight – especially as it’s on a building dating from 1938?

Well, it’s next to a piece of metal ducting which clearly once carried a telephone cable (there’s a BT inspection chamber near its base).

And, hey, old photos show a distribution pole once stood nearby. This picture shows it in 1933.. to the right of the streetlamp.. poking up above the rooftops. 

St Clements Alley, Norwich in 1933

I like to think that when it was removed – possibly in the late 30s – the engineers simply nicked the label off the pole and bashed it into the wall to mark the replacement distribution point.

It’s amazing how being given a membership to the TPAS for Christmas suddenly makes you so much more observant.

And just to let you know my TPAS mug is breaking in nicely. A few more hundred cups of Lidl Knightsbridge Red (the FINEST builders’ tea on the market) and it’ll have just the patina I want.

Feel free to ignore this email in its entirety. *2


Hash 0620 (I don’t know where to find the hash key). 

Brilliant sleuthing J. C. #0620. Keep up the good work.

*1 They do actually.
*2 We managed for a full 10 months.

Square poles and the spy who came in from the poled.

Our telegraph pole surveillance network runs wide and deep.  Disturbing images just in from our agent in the field, codename “Ectoplasm” show power companies experimenting with laminated, square poles.

We hope you’ll excuse the relative low resolution of these photographs.  Agent Ectoplasm used a camera concealed within his butty* box to sneak this latest intelligence back to Telegraph Pole Appreciating HQ.  Ecto (as he’s known to his pals) needs to find a better place for his camera, because surely they’re going to get suspicious with him waving his butty box around like that to get these pictures.  

We’ll be passing these photos higher up our chain of telegraphular command to see what our boffins make of it.  Should we be worried? A quirky anomaly in pole land or the start of something more sinister?

 Good work Ectoplasm, we’ll carve your name with pride.

A digger planting a square profile telegraph poleClose up of the laminate on a square power poleA square profile telegraph pole squarepole4

*lunch/snappin’/sandwich  depending on where you’re from

A pint of my usual please, Landlord…

A beer pump shaped like a telegraph pole

My son, who seeks out these things, sent me this picture.  It neatly encapsulates two out of my three favourite things in the whole wide world.  Yes, telegraph poles and beer.  About the third item I shall remain discreet, this being a family website and all.

This bespoke pump handle was created by a beer obsessed husband and wife team called Cabin Fever Craft from Michigan.  Despite the bland Budweisers, Coors, Miller Lite bilge that gets passed off as beer in the UK, America does in fact produce some fantastic ales – real artisan stuff – so hoppy you could ride a bike on it.  It’s only right that they should have pump handles to boot.

Guatamalan poles and Dollies

Our use of the word “month” to describe our “Pole of the Month” takes this chronological division of time to its loosest possible definition.  You certainly couldn’t set your calendar by it.  Perhaps I should re-title it “Pole of the length of time since I last remembered to put one up”.  Not quite so prosaic.

guatemalan poleAnyway, herewith a photo that was submitted to me as a possible contender for P.O.T.M.  And while this is clearly an interesting piece of street furniture – insomuch as it’s a right old mess and it’s in Santiago Atltlan which is in Guatemala – it just doesn’t quite float my boat enough to warrant POTM status somehow.    Perhaps it’s that the photo is just of the central gubbins? And that the top is missing, and the bottom; as too is any interesting background.  You see, for the true poetry of a pole to come out we need to see it harmonising in its natural environment.  So, Simon Shouler – who I think sells houses for a living – thank you very much for taking the trouble to send us your submission, but I’m afraid it won’t go down in history as a T.P.A.S. P.O.T.M.


A ceramic dollyOn another note, Brian MacDermott wrote to us…

I seem to recall as a young lad (late 1950s, UK) that we called insulators ‘dolls’ or ‘dollies’. Is my memory correct??

Many thanks


 Well, I have never actually heard them called dollies, but I like the idea so much that I’m going to perpetuate this idea.  So Brian, the answer to your question is “Yes”.  insulators are (from now on at least) called dollies.

Shortest Telegraph Pole in S. Africa

Rob Stayt, a retired policeman, telephone tech and polymath farmer from South Africa sent us this photo of a pole that is so short it is hard to imagine it ever being beaten in the T.P.A.S vertical challenge.

Rob tells us that a combine-harvester pulled down the farm telephone ine down along with three poles ( a drive-by uprooting as it were).  Once he’d chased down the errant harvester and demanded apology for Mrs Stayt who was on the phone at the time Rob decided to repair the part of the line near the house.  This is the result.


Now, Rob lists his address as Natal, South Africa… I remember my missus going to ante-Natal classes – I always wondered why she was so bloody long!

Reg Tracepurcel

If ever anyone looked like a murderer it’s Reg Tracepurcel.  Shifty shop steward type.  Yes, we know his sort.  My Missus reckoned it was the old guy, played by Martin Jarvis. But I had Tracepurcel’s card marked all along.

Endeavour Episode #3

Detective Constable Endeavour Morse

ITV's EndeavourAs if the new ITV series “Endeavour” isn’t already enough for murder mystery and Inspector Morse buffs – this week there was an added dimension in that episode #3 featured a telegraph pole.  Not only was this pole key to solving the dastardly crime, but it’s constituent ceramic insulators were provided by this very society.  Also the expertise [sic] that helped their props dept reconstruct a GPO pole of the era.  Relying on me for expert advice will probably lead to a flurry of emails about anachronistic technology from real ex-GPO types.  Serve them right for asking me. 

‘Twas some months ago we posted them a collection of mostly intact double-groove insulators.  And a couple of months later when we received back a parcel of completely different and largely broken ones.  They had, it seem, edged their bets and borrowed some off Jack Nesbit too (British Insulators website), returning me his lot by mistake.  Only they got knacked in the post. Oh what a tangled web we weave.

Anyway, me and Mrs TPAS borrowed a telly for the event, sat down with a box of past-their-sell-by Maltesers and got ourselves enthralled in the murky world of murder on the telly.  If you want to spoil things and see just whodunnit, click right HERE.  I said it was going to be him all along – shifty looking so and so.

You can watch it on the ITV iPlayer thingy here. It’s available for the next 23 days.


The Beast of the Scottish Borders

A dinosaur bite?

Lord of the Northern Poles, Kevin Currie* (#0530) sent us this photo he took recently…

Not sure if this was a woodpecker or a dinosaur! but either way some thing took a big bite out of this poor defenceless telegraph pole in the Scottish Borders! 

Here be beasts.  Big beasts!  Big bad biting beasts! Go careful out there.

* Happy Birthday Kev

World’s even shorter shortest poles

Well, there I was smugly satisfied that I personally had already bagged the world’s smallest telegraph pole back in June of this year.  And then along comes telegraph pole connoisseur, Graeme Fisher, from Stourbridge with these absolute gems.  These, he tells me, can be found at the Cable and Wireless Telegraph Museum at Porthcurno

They’re so sweet they make you (me anyway) say “aw bless!”.  Look, they’ve even got the proper cable tie-offs on the insulators – you just don’t see that anymore. 

Anyway, thank you Graeme.  You can expect more gems from our telegraphic cognoscentic correspondent in the coming weeks. I know that because I’ve already got the pictures.

Candidate for the world's shortest pole The business end of one of the world's shortest poles Candidate for the world's shortest pole

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