The digital switchover starts this week, and with that in mind I thought I’d feature a couple of prominent features of the local landscape in this week’s pictures from the past feature. This may seem odd, but as a cyclist and outdoors type of person, I often recognise and navigate the landscape by the prominent, striking towers that broadcast TV and radio. Locally, there are currently three masts at two transmission stations – two at Sutton Coldfield, where a temporary one has been built while the existing one is upgraded, the tallest being 270.5 metres high,and one at Common Barn, on the edge of Hints Quarry at 305 metres high, between Hints and Hopwas, referred to as Lichfield.
Like any geek, I find fascination and mystery in any such installation, and keep a keen eye on any changes, and I followed the modifications to the Sutton Mast recently with some eagerness. This also ties in with my respect for people who work at heights. Indeed, if you’re queazy about them, look away now. All of the material here is featured on the wonderful site MB21, an exploration of UK broadcast TV transmission. It really is a fascinating site.
Engineers working on Lichfield mast, using a helmet cam just like the one I use on my bike. Some bad language, but if they’re prepared to do that for a living, I’ll forgive them anything. Stunning.
I spotted the above film some months ago in an excellent post paying tribute to Lichfield mast by the wonderful Tamworth Time Hikes. Check it out. If Mark is reading this, I’ll be in touch soon mate, promise.
Most people don’t realise that big masts like this usually sit on a single ball bearing, often about the size of a billiard ball. The reason for this is that the hawsers that tie the stack to the ground keep it upright, and it can sway in the wind by moving on the bearing freely. Were it fixed, the members of the tower would soon shear off. The above, excellent film shows the laying of the mast bearing at Lichfield around 1961, set to music played over test cards transmitted from the station.
There’s a fine collection of very stiff, utterly clipped BBC accents here on this first transmission from Sutton Coldfield Transmission Station. The increasing ease of the speech is noticeable as the broadcast progresses. I wonder if they realised what a revolution they were kicking off?