The Oldest Pole


And so to continue our sequence on ye olde poles – we seem to keep uncovering ever more ancient ones. Very special thanks to Gene Kingsley who sent us this photo of a pole that is presently 105 years old and still standing at Spalding, Lincolnshire.  Gene reckons this pole is not long for this world because it has a “D” label on it.  But I know of poles, still standing, that have been labelled thus for years so it could be around for a while yet.


Surely though, it’s going to be hard to beat the pole which BT Openreach recently donated to the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall.  This pole was still going strong despite having been in active service since 1894. The only reason it was taken down was because the markings used by BT to check the pole have been weathered away.  However, the date of 1894 is still clearly visible.  Making this 119 year old beauty the oldest telegraph pole in the UK. 

Unless you know different of course.

Ye Olde Telegraphe Pole

For something arguably as humdrum as a telegraph pole and the society celebrating the appreciation thereof, we don’t half receive a lot of correspondence about them.  Much of it pertains to general knowledge, Trivial Pursuit (TM) type questions such as “How many are there?” And “Which one is the oldest?”.  The answer to question 1 can be found here and here. We’ve started to look into question 2.



Well clearly 60 years in the ground and open to all weathers doesn’t seem to do them any harm. This fresh looking thing was sent in by Disco Dave (#0526).  This, he tells us, is a shallow climbable pole from one of his recent surveys. It’s a 24ft light pole from 1953. The label between the C and the 1 is an a559 label and it tells us that on this particular pole we are allowed to attach no more than 7 dropwires in any 180 degree arc so as not to overload it.




From the same correspondent…

Just started on this years batch of pole replacements and found this beauty from 1937 that needs changed out. 76 glorious years are about to come to an end for this poor fella 🙁


A very old pole



And then there’s telegraph pole aficionado and Lord of the Northern Poles, Kev Currie (#0530) who found this beauty, planted in 1936.  I make no apologies for plugging, again, Kev’s flickr photostream.  His is most definitely a connoisseur’s collection of pole pics.  Kev doesn’t say where this pole is and his other locations are quite ambiguous too.  Some photos he has marked as being somewhere around the Dogger Bank in the North Sea. 

Anyway, is 77 years the oldest photographed pole?  Watch this space.

Not long for this world

Woe is me!

Lord of the Northern Poles, Kev Currie (#0530), was on his way home from Ikea in Edinburgh a few yesterdays ago, driving down to the Scottish Borders whereupon he found a line of 46 poles marked for removal.  This is one of them.  “Marked for removal”?  That sounds like a euphemism to me…

Where’s grandad gone?”

“He’s gone upstairs, son, now shut up and put some more of his stuff in the skip.”

Kev’s online photo archive makes for very interesting browsing for we telegraph pole afficionados. Herewith my formal request to be able to post more up on here.  Particularly the “test” pole.  Can I Kev?  Please?


Cast Iron Australians

We’ve had a letter this week for Norma Warren from Esperance in Western Australia.

A cast iron pole

We have 14 iron poles made by Buller Ltd U.K. which we are using in our local reserve, as they are part of the history of this town.

They are the original poles used to link Adelaide to the west. The line came through Ceduna, Eucla, Esperance and onto Albany in Western Australia. 
Do you have any information on when and where these were made and sent to Australia?
We would love to find out more about them but I am not sure where or how to get started. Please can you help?
Norma Warren,
Esperance Western Australia
It was an interesting coincidence that the very next letter in my email inbox after this came from genealogical website They were suggesting I take a look at their all-new database of ancestral criminals and deported miscreants. Look, I’m only telling it how it is!
Anyway, It’s highly likely that one of our readers may be able to help Norma.  If so, drop us a line at the usual address:

Astounding Magic Lantern Images

Lovely pole on the North Staffs Railway near PoyntonWe have, in recent days, been in correspondence with a certain Mr Adrian Trainsett Esq.  Whereupon said correspondent did furnish us with the first, of what he promised would be many, “magic lantern images”.  Notwithstanding the image owner having to come to terms with the vagaries of modern internetular communication, we took immeasurable delight in receiving the fine image you see at right and the following few words…

I hope I have attached to this marvellous method of communication, a magic lantern image of a railway telegraph pole on the former North Staffs Railway at Higher Poynton, Cheshire.
This magnificent pole has extra “irons” on it. I believe to allow some wires to cross the railway and continue their way to the junction with the LNWR.

I intend to submit more for your perusal.

Adrian Trainsett Esq.

Whilst we are grateful to Mr Trainsett for his kind submission, and look forward to subsequent tenderings… him having such an interesting surname and this being such a small world I can’t help wonder if he knows my old school friend, Brian Scalextric?

Fine GPO Specimens

Now here’s something to warm your cockles on this wet and wintry August day. The first three of these poles I am familiar with as they are from the A543 Denbigh to Pentrefoelas moors road.  They were kindly sent in by regular reader, Welsh Highland Railway volunteer, TPAS member #0449 and all-round good egg, Malcolm Hindes:

Along the fast stretch between Glanygors and Bylchau is a long lonely row of armless poles, nearly all with top-mounted double spindles (the type I usually refer to as “antlers”), some still with insulators.

However the real fun comes further east. Dropping down from Bylchau is a run of good bog-standard 2-arm poles, mostly in excellent condition and complete with insulators. My first photo is of one of these, with a lovely strut, near the bottom of the hill at map ref. SJ 001642, about 3 miles from Denbigh.

The next pole down (second shot) has crossarms at right angles for a spur up a side road (which I suspect is the old road), and alongside that same side road is a real beauty, crossarms at right angles again, double-J spindles, antlers and everything but the kitchen sink.

A gorgeous pole near Bylchau, Denbighshire Pole with right-angled crossarms on the A543 near Bylchau, Denbighshire A gorgeous pole with right-angled double crossarms and spindles on the road to the Denbigh Moors

A double crossbar pole in Stourbridge



This next photo is from another GPO pole connoisseur, Graeme Fisher. This double crossbar number from opposite Wollescote Park, Stourbridge. I suspect that Graeme has potential as a rich-source of good pole photos – watch this space. Meanwhile, it would be remiss of us not to give his most interesting website a plug.

Welsh Highland Railway Revisited

Telegraph Pole #1 along the Welsh Highland Railway Telegraph Pole #1 from the front Telegraph Pole #2 along the Welsh Highland Railway

Ever true to his word, Malcolm Hindes (#0449) has sent in some photos of the pole route he’s helping to restore along the Welsh Highland Railway line at Porthmadog*, in Gwynedd, N. Wales.

The first (and second) photo is of an ex-GWR pole which is now Pole #1 along the route between Gelert’s Farm and Penymount.  The existence of which we first alluded to back in February.

The route is in course of reconstruction following dismantling for construction of the Porthmadog Bypass (failing which the old Pole 5 would have been sticking up through the road surface!), so it is not yet fully equipped.
This pole was the first one acquired by the present-day Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. When the Cambrian Coast line was converted to Radio Tokenless Block working, Porthmadog Signal Box was demolished and the pole route felled.

One pole was left conveniently close to the Gelert’s Farm access crossing and found itself collected very late one Saturday evening by a group returning from “The Ship ” (Y Llong). In the cold light of day the following morning it was promptly erected at the trackside and has been in place ever since. Most of the crossarms are original and we still have examples of insulators embossed GWR or BR(W).

Malcolm has also sent us a picture of Pole #2 which he believes to be ex-Leeds Corporation Electricity Department and which, he says, was recovered years ago by Peter Lowe of the Abbey Light Railway. They have given it offset cross-arms due to the close proximity of a signal.

These poles are clearly visible when traversing the all-new and all-singing Porthmadog bypass which you can see raised in the background.  Also captured behind pole #2 in this exquisitely framed photo is the Welsh Matterhorn, aka Cnicht, up which yours truly has many times experienced the joys of vertigo.



* Porthmadog; surely the new Mecca for railway enthusiasts, what with the Ffestiniog Railway, Welsh Highland and of course the Cambrian Coast Line.

The Welsh Highland Railway

A telegraph pole at the Welsh Highland Railway, Porthmadog At 8’x3’x3’ and 15cwt you’d be forgiven for thinking that this K6 telephone kiosk was the star of this photo.  Especially when you consider it was moved to this position on a 7½ inch gauge railway truck and lifted by shear legs, block, tackle, rollers, grunting and swearing.  See here, look you.

But my cunningly placed large red arrow indicates what I’m really interested in.  In the background can be seen W.H.R. Pole #1.  That pole is the start of the Welsh Highland Railway line to Penymount.  No wires as yet. But according to Malcolm Hindes, (#0449) who sent it me, this is a genuine Great Western Railway pole, acquired when the Cambrian Coast line was converted to R.T.B. (Radio Tokenless Block) and the whole pole route dismantled.

They have two more poles laid at track-side waiting to go up  – fitted with new crossarms sourced from Glasfryn forestry. The W.H.R. pole route is currently only about 10 poles long and the crossarms have been cut down from 4 insulators to 2 but is being reconstructed for the 2012 season and the whole run adds to the heritage feel of the railway .  So why not get yourself along to W.H.R. this spring and take a look at these magnificent genuine GWR telegraph poles.  Oh, and there are some trains there too apparently.

Malcolm (#0449) is resident climber of said rickety poles at WHR.  And I’m trying to think of a clever/subtle way of reminding him that he said he’d send us more photos of the rest of the poles when he got the chance. No, that would be just too cheeky!

Finally, finials

A telegraph pole finial near More Church, Shropshire Yes, at last we get to talk about telegraph pole finials.  This prompted by John Woodall (#425H) who sent us the photograph (right) of his mystery object, described as 11″ x 8″ which appears to form part of his garden furniture.  The brass door-knob on the top is a later addition.A telegraph pole finial in a garden at Ardversier, Inverness

It was the Victorians who first started to decorate their telegraph poles with finials.  This, presumably, to pretty up this ugly [sic] industrial architecture which was springing up across their countryside.  But this is likely to be one as fitted by the GPO, in the 1930s.  If, like me, you have your head forever skywards, you will spot more of them.  The one at left, one of a run of them near More Church, Shropshire.

Later GPO finials were made of metal.  And amazingly you can pick one up on eBay for a song.  The selection below all sold at recent auctions – they ranged in price from 99p for the wooden one to £9.06.  Clearly nobody understands the value of these things.  Maybe it’s time I cornered the market?

Telegraph pole finials as sold on eBay

Archaeological Remains

A retaining wall made out of retired telegraph poles in Inverness GPO markings on a an old pole in Arversier, Inverness

W ell, almost. John Woodall (#0425H) sent us a few items of interest recently.

Telegraph pole markingsFirstly, some photos of a retaining wall in his garden at Inverness made from retired telegraph poles.  He says the poles came from Pocklington in East Yorkshire, and were used for a Pole Barn in Regent Street before they ended up in his wall 391 miles further north.  The barn housed electrical firms’ vans apparently. 

Now, we’re always interested in absolutely anything telegraph pole related here, but John sent us these because he thought we’d be particularly interested in the markings thereon.  We’ve zoomed and scanned and photo-enhanced these as best we can and the results are hereabout. Do please click on each photo for the fuller-sized version.


Due to the inadequacies of photographing something so fine as telegraph pole hieroglyphics, John kindly sketched the markings off this first one.

A GPO work docket from 1948.Lost in the creosote and dare I say, weeds, is another GPO stamp.  This one would seem to read GPO 1931.

W ere they a Civil Servant or Lollipop lady, then these poles would certainly have received a CBE or similar award by now. A long and useful working life propping up telephone wires in E. Yorkshire. Semi-retirement supporting the roof of a shed in the same town. And today still grafting at holding back soil as part of a wall up there in Inverness.  Somebody should write to the Queen.

Not finished there though.  John was busy dismantling an old government issue George VI table (as you do) and tucked at the back of a drawer he found a GPO work-docket for erecting a pole and wires in Tomnahurich Street, Inverness dated 1948.

I wonder if the job ever got done. Or did it, like so many work requests which land on my own desk, slip to the back of the drawer where they lie, forever undone.


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