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?


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!

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?

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

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…

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!

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.

Lovely pole – but when was it?

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Ok, folks. This photo is from Conway Road, Llandudno Junction, North Wales.An old photo from Conway Road, Llandudno Junction with an interesting old telegraph pole

Catherine Penrose has written in saying she hopes we can date it and if we have anything else of interest we might add.
Well for starters, and arguably diametrically opposite from “interesting” is that I have spent many an arduous hour – which incidentally, I will never get back – waiting for the London train at Llandudno Jn, and which has, on occasion, been known to arrive.
But what about the pole? she asks. When do we think this was? I told her I would make up a date if none were forthcoming

A note from Here’s Johnny on facebook reckons 9th April.  Thanks for that Here’s but the tree is in leaf, and pre-global warming, unlikely in April.  And Nick Barber reckons 1900-1914.  And my made-up guess date is 1902. Any advance on that?

OTY Telegraph Pole Appreciators.


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B eing given the gift of membership to our most august society can be so life-enhancing.  This was the case for John Cranston (#0620) from Norfolk.  The photos that accompany this post are his and his own words, which follow, succinctly tell his story…

A tall telegraph pole at Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk
A metal plaque upon a telegraph pole at Wells-next-the-Sea, with the words "Exchange PRS" Notches in a telegraph pole saying NTC 09

Dear Number One,

I was going to send you some old shots of Mull*1, but they can wait because today, in my very first outing as an ambassador for the TPAS (ooh, I’m so excited) I came across this beauty (though sadly without the cross arms I assume it used to have) in Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk.

“Can I help you?” asked a bloke in a bobble hat who was looking at me looking at the pole. “I’m a BT engineer.”

“Actually, I’m a member of the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society. I’m looking for the date.”

“They don’t have dates,” says BT man.

“I think you’ll find they do,” I replied in my best anorak, train-spotter tone.

And there was one. It was round the back. And it seems to be from the National Telephone Company, 1909.  

(But this is the odd thing: there was no record of a telephone service in Wells till about 1914. And the National Telephone Company never reached anywhere near that part of Norfolk. Perhaps the GPO simply inherited it from the NTC’s stores when it took over in 1912?)

And I love the old label still attached to the front. It must be original. It looks and feels like lead.

In case anyone’s ever arranging a Stunning Telegraph Poles of the Norfolk Coast Sightseeing Tour, it’s in The Buttlands in Wells, next to the Crown Hotel. Click the link for the Google Street view:

Lots of love,

Number 0620

A few things I like about this letter:  Being addressed as “Number One” for a start – I could get used to that – though this amply describes my membership number within TPAS, my actual number, because I am not a free man at all is 76,735,969,742.  Please see sister website www.hiraethog.com for confirmation of this.
Secondly, he went out on our behalf to the wider community and performed admirably his telegraph pole appreciation duties, unstintingly and reported back here.
Thirdly, he finished his letter with some love.  And there’s just not enough of that stuff going around.

*1 We have his shots from Mull btw – what a treat.

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