We get asked an awful lot of questions here at The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society. Not least, why do we bother? But many of the questions we receive are also about telegraph poles. Here are the answers to a few of them.


How big are telegraph poles ? No hard and fast answer. But 30ft (9m) would be a good average pole.

They are classed for width as (L) Light, (M) Medium, (H) Heavy or the less commonly used Stout.

How deep are they planted ? A pole should be “planted” approx 6ft (1.8m) into the ground.

The doby mark is a notch 3 metres from the bottom of the pole. A pole then correctly planted would show the 3 metre mark at a height of 1.2 metres above ground level.

Often “Depthing Tubes” are fitted which allow inspectors to check that those rascal erection contractors have buried them deep enough.

How long does a telegraph pole last ?

And how often are they tested?

Telegraph pole testing cycle plate

There is no reason why a properly treated pole shouldn’t last 100 years. We know of one that was “planted” in 1908 and is still not even classed as decayed.

They are tested first at 12 years from new then on a 10 year rolling cycle of inspection.

The inspection is often scurrilously described as the pole being whacked with a hammer and the inspector listening for the dull thud of rot. However, proper inspection requires a sample boring remote from the ground line.

Since 1964 telegraph poles have been affixed with a testing cycle sign (see left). This one was last tested in August 2006, test cycle G.

What does the green ‘C’ mean?

Shallow climbable poles have a green 'C' placard

This pole was not planted deep enough. It is classed as shallow, climbable.
What about a red ‘D’ then?

Poles that have found to be decayed have a 'D' placard

This pole was found to be defective (likely decayed) at its last inspection. It is marked for replacement, as and when!  A pole can be defective because :

A.  It’s rotten.
B.  It’s not planted deep enough.
C.  It has too many wires hanging off it and insufficient stay wires to counter-balance.
D.  Too close to spiked railings
E.  It has too many Coffee Morning posters stuck to it

And what about H?

Poles that are adjacent to a hazard have a 'H' placard

The H is for hazard. unlike a Z pole where the engineer could position his or her ladders to eliminate the hazard threat, the H pole can only be worked on through use of a hoist.  If you’d like to see what the hazard is in this example click right here.

Possibly no longer in use.


Z Poles?

A 'Z' Placard

If there is a ‘Z’ plate on a pole it means there is a hazard next to the pole i.e. a spiked fence, but the engineer can still position his ladders in such a way as to reduce the hazard rendering it safe to climb.


Thanks to Disco Dave for the H & Z pics and to Campbell Brodie for further info.

What do all these marks mean?

The markings on a BT pole

This pole belongs to B.T.

The horizontal notch is the “doby” mark, ie 3m from the bottom, 1.2m from ground level

It was preserved (in creosote) in 1999.  It will have been planted some time after that due to the pole lying in the yard until the lazy buggers finished their hand of cards to go out and plant the thing – anything up to 3 years later.

Apparently the 2I indicates which woodyard the pole came from*


*Thanks to John Paine for this info – he has mislaid his definitive list of woodyards and codes. It’s probably in the cupboard in the garage.  Or under the stairs.

Then what about these? The markings on a BT pole These are just the sequencing numbers for this pole in a run of poles from the exchange / branch.  I bet there’s one numbered 5 or 7 nearby.
 Who is responsible for telephone poles? B.T. Openreach. NOT the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society.  We just admire them. So if a pole near you has fallen down, or something has dropped off one onto your car windscreen then it is nothing to do with us.
 What about electricity poles? Your local power company.  Around here (in Wales) it’s Scottish Power.  Presumably they have Welsh power in Scotland.  Anyway, see previous answer pertaining to “nowt to do with us”.
Are the markings (or the crossarms) on a telegraph pole always on the side nearest London?   Yes, absolutely.  Except for all those where they’re not of course.


Does the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society have a BIBLE? Absolutely we do.  It’s called  “The Telegraph Pole” by W.H. Brent B.Sc (Hons.) A.M.I.E.E. and you can read it <HERE>
Thanks to :  Disco Dave & Campbell Brodie* for updates to these FAQ pages. And to Pete Gerrard aka Treebore for bringing along our bible.

* Possibly the same person