The Great North Road

BBC online have been doing a bit of a feature, of late, about the A1(M) which runs from London, north and into Scotland. Well this paragon of tarmac tedium was preceded by an altogether more romantic route called the Great North Road. Littered with coaching Inns, quaint villages, hand-pumped petrol stations and myriad telegraph poles this road took rather more of a meander to get to the same place.  Until, that is, the demands of the motorist widened it and took all the bends out.

Secretary of Norwich and East District TPAS, John Cranston (#0620), alerted us to the existence of the delightful film you see below. Shot in 16mm by Colonel Lionel Paten in 1939 who was expecting the imminent war to make a bit of a mess of the old place so set out to capture it as it was.  “…The poles just get more scrumptious as the cameraman gets further from London”, said John, “Watch as he eventually decides to set up his camera in front of his parked car and not behind the bloody thing every time.  A few minutes of silent heaven.”  And this it truly is.  I promise you will gasp, your spectacles will turn a rosy hue and your eyes will mist… or you’ll reach for the off switch.

This youTube representation also holds the world record for the quickest descent into racist bigotry within its comments section.  From the very first, those emboldened by recent political upheavals were at it like rabid bull terriers with their trolling hatred, xenophobia and bile.  As a species we deserve everything we get.  Mr Cranston was rather less sanguine about the levels of vile acerbity and I’m still wiping his metaphorical spittle from my lug-holes!

(Twiddle all you like, you’ll get no sound out of this video)

 

 

The Fabled Lost Pole of Bala Leisure Centre

We’ve had a fabled lost tape-measure in this house for many years now – last seen when putting some shelves up under the stairs. Apparently, it’s right where I left it according to Mrs TPAS.

Anyway another futile hunt for same earlier put me in mind of a conversation I once had with Ged McCarthy the old pole prospector from them thar Mersey hills. We were sat around his camp fire in a layby on the B5105 late one night, eating beans from a tin and retelling tales about poles of yore, stay wires, double grooves and all that when he started to scratch out a map in the dirt on the back of his van and proceeded to mark an X.

“Ooh aar!”, he said, “Arr!”, he insisted, “Arr! here be found the remains of the fabulously fabled five-armed pole of Bala Leisure Centre.” {further oohs and arrs omitted for brevity} “Lost for many a year in the undergrowth it be, and nobody that has set eyes upon it has ever lived longer than a lifespan.” he warned. My spine chilled – Ged’s mate Deggsie had spilled Special Brew all down my back.

So magnificent is this pole that back in the 1920s they used to run bus trips to see it. People came from as far away as Norwich to gaze upon its tall wooden sticky-uppy grandeur. Slowly, though, fashions changed, fibre broadband arrived and BT Openreach came along and stuck a ‘D’ plate on it and its fabledness became lost to mankind.

Not any longer, because now you can light up the walls in your office/lounge/kitchen/bedroom/massage parlour with our reproduction of the original art-deco unoriginal fabled tour poster of the day. These come in A2 size (420 x 594 mm), unframed, satin finish all posted in a lovely refreshing cardboard tube. Just what your Christmas pressie idea head-scratching was looking for and only £8.99 plus p&p. And while you’re doing your Crimbo shopping you really ought to stock up on our diamond-encrusted*1 Telegraph Pole Appreciation for Beginners book. Key Stages 1-4 will delight, amuse, educate and something else your appreciative gift recipient – and they might just buy you something much nicer in return.
And if you enter the code IAMSKINT during checkout you’ll get 10% off everything – yes, everything: posters, memberships, mugs, books, everything. So just buy everything. What are you waiting for?The fabled lost pole of bala leisure centre
*1 We use only the finest homeopathic diamonds to encrust our books.

Edwardian poles in Berkshire

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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)

5970d73b385be IMG 0991 a 1904 pole at Turville, Bucks.

Either the start of the walk or one of the poles. And one of the poles – serving suggestion, finger not included.

5970d73b385be IMG 0991 a 1904 pole at Turville, Bucks.

Look carefully – double D plates. Fear the worst for this one. And again, helpful pointer to the 1904 date.

Long time, no hear

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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?

campbell2campbell2campbell2

Aged pole in Shildon (Co. Durham)

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Alex Latham’s eye was taken by this olde pole in the small town of Shildon*1 Co. Durham:

I thought it quite remarkable for it to have survived for so long in an urban area.
Judging by the large amount of wires streaming away from it in all directions, it seems to be keeping busy in its old age, unlike most of its peers that will now have been retired or replaced.  I say long may it survive and continue to do its duty!
Alex

Can’t tell the vintage of distribution pole #44 from this angle, but it certainly looks long in tooth and there is something pleasing about the wires in the second sky picture. (Click the pictures to enlarge.  Oh, you know this by now!)  Thanks Alex for keeping your eyes so peeled 🙂

An old distribution pole in Shildon, Co. Durham.An old distribution pole in Shildon, Co. Durham.An old distribution pole in Shildon, Co. Durham.

*1 Never flippin’ heard of it.

Pole Saviour

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Special thanks to Gareth Spencer, part BT, part hypnotiser for the tip-off for this story.  Also a phone call while I was away on my hollies in Ireland from a BBC reporter who wanted this society’s anshauung*1 on the whole story.

One of the oldest telegraph poles in the UK has been saved to remain forever*2 to stand alongside the canal at Oilmills Bridge in Ebley near Stroud in Gloucestershire.  This is the first time we have heard of poles actually being saved – with BT Openreach promising to continue to look after it as though it were an operational pole despite its being unused for up to thirty years.  It is believed that the pole dates from 1895 and formed part of the link between Stonehouse and Stroud.  I feel a bus trip coming on here.

Anyway, congratulations to the oft-maligned BT Openreach who get nowt but praise from our particular direction (WNW from there) and now that I have some names they can look forward to many, many emails from me.

A saved multi-arm fascinator pole near Stround

L2R: Martin Northfield, BT Openreach; Cllr Steve Lydon, Stroud District Council and Paul Purcell, Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation by said pole.

I don’t normally just lift photos off the internet, but I haven’t been able to source one of my own.  So, in a weak attempt to assauge any copyright infringement flak that may come our way, I’d just like to say what a fine and informative newspaper the Stroud News & Journal is – I wouldn’t eat chips out of anything else.  And reporter Saul Cooke-Black’s sterling work at Stourbridge FC is sterling indeed.  The full story of the above and from which mine is so obviously cribbed can be found <<right here>>.

*1 I’ve been playing with my thesaurus and can see me irritating a lot of people with my smug erudition as I bandy anshauung around from here on.
*2 Possibly not true: forever means infinity which is technically the limit that a function ƒ is said to approach at x = a when ƒ(x) is larger than any preassigned number for all x sufficiently near a.

People called John and telegraph poles

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Two amazing facts for you here tonight.

1.  This post is in response to an email that is just about to celebrate its first birthday in my inbox.
2.  A disproporionate number of people called John are into*1 telegraph poles.

Member #0512 and a long-time friend and correspondent to these pages and an ascendent of telegraph poles in the Oxford region sent us these photos.  He says

A couple of pics of a pole I had to recover from the old Austin Morris works in Cowley Oxford. Now it’s not hard to imagine the voice of Lord Nuffield himself travelling along these now defunct wires! what do you think?
Regards

I think you are right, John.  And who knows what tone of Lord Nuffield’s voice these wires may have carried.  Altruistic endeavours, likely – or if my swift internet search*2 is anything to go by – something altogether less suited to these pages.  Moving swiftly on…

To fact #2.  29 members of this prestigious society have the name John.  I’m not really sure how many members we actually have as I was a bit random at dishing out numbers at the start but I’ve always been consecutive and we’re now up to #0743 which was issued yesterday.  So, for argument’s sake, let’s say 700.  That’s 4% of TPAS members are called John.  Yet when I come to look at a graph of the number of people called John in the general public I find I can’t understand it, at all,  and so this whole point I was going to make – and it was really going to be a big point, sort of peters out in the hope that you won’t read this far anyway.  Amazing what you find out on the internet.  Here’s John’s lovely photos.

A three-armed telegraph pole at Cowley plant, OxfordA telegraph pole lying down on the job at Austin Morris works, Cowley, Oxford

*1 into [preposition] dig, like, rather fond of, appreciate
*2 Note I didn’t say google here – down with the non-taxpayers.

Another one bites the dust

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Peter Burton has written to us.  Now, by his choice of email address I presume he must have been having difficulties with a child’s pushchair or maybe a golfing trolley.  Anyway Peter really gets what Telegraph Pole Appreciating (fast becoming Telegraph Pole Conservation) is all about:

There was a line of beautiful hedgerow TPs in a lane near Zelah, Cornwall, often admired by me. Unfortunately, most have recently had one of their three cross bars sawn off to fit a new heavy duty cable. But worse still, the pole at the bottom of the lane, with a full compliment of insulators and sequestered by oak and hazel in the corner of an idyllic field has been cut down and a huge, plain, black, sinister looking pole erected in its place. This ugly, brutal new pole has none of the charm and delight of the previous pole, which has stood there since before WW II. The picture shows the old pole – I did not have the heart to photograph the alien usurper. I fear more old poles will soon be vandalised or removed. And they call it progress. Not for me……….I am heartbroken by the murder of an old friend and the vandalism to the others in the hedge.

A 3 armed pole near Zelah in CornwallClose up of the top of a telegraph pole near Zelah, Cornwall

I fear we really are seeing the last of these old poles now. The answer for us serious appreciators of such telegraphic aesthetics is to restore and install your own pole in your own garden. I have, and soon they’ll be organising bus tours to come and see it. Now there’s an idea !

Isle of Wight Telegraph Pole Project.

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A line of telegraph poles along a heritage railway on the Isle of WightRegular readers of these fair pages may remember our insulator appeal on behalf of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Well, we’ve had the following letter from Stuart Duddy telling us of their progress:

Hi Martin

I thought you might be interested to see how our project to reinstate the telegraph route along our railway line is progressing. The following link summarises the activities which took place during a couple of weekends in November: <Telegraph Pole Project Summary>
 
As a result of the appeal which you kindly placed on your website on our behalf, a couple of your members contacted us regarding insulators.  A young chap named Jake Rideout (from Somerset, I believe) visited us back in August with a tray of approximately 50 ceramic insulators and we were recently contacted by another of your members, Ian Bristow who lives in Lincolnshire, and he seems very confident that he can also assist, possibly with about 200 insulators, which is most encouraging.
 
With kind regards
 
Stuart

Just goes to show what wonderful people telegraph pole appreciators are – well done to Jake & Ian.

West Somerset Railway

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Highly irregular regular correspondent to these most fair pages, Willie Montgomery Stack writes and and encloses photographs…

Sir,
Members of the TPAS East Dorset (2015) branch – not to be confused with any previous grouping or organisation bearing the same name – paid a visit to the West Somerset Railway on June 4th, cameras at the ready.
   One member was flashing away furiously for the entire 75 minute journey on the old Great Western branch from Bishop’s Lydeard to Minehead. The rest of us were just happy to take photographs.
   And look what we saw when the prints came back from Boots this morning – some very unusual finials on the top of several of the track-side poles, eight-sided and with the poles themselves apparently tapered to make them fit. (Photos 1 and 2 below).
   Have you ever seen the like? We would appreciate it it you could bring this to the attention of the wider society – nay, perhaps even to society in general!
Yours,
WMS

A very old pole trackside of the West Somerset Railway. A very old pole trackside of the West Somerset Railway.
A very old pole trackside of the West Somerset Railway. A very old pole trackside of the West Somerset Railway.
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