It's Back To The Future As Hi-Tech Icons Get Listed Status

By David Prudames | 26 March 2003
Shows an Equatorial telescope at Herstmonceux, East Sussex.

Left: equatorial telescopes at Herstmonceux, East Sussex. Brian O'Rorke.

A celebrated London icon, the BT Tower has been awarded Grade II listed status along with six other representatives of Britain's role as communications world leaders.

From the twentieth century's first lighthouse to the world's first active telecommunications satellite receiving station, the sites have all represented the cutting edge of technology as well as architecture.

On the recommendation of English Heritage, the seven structures will now be protected from alterations and redevelopments that are not in keeping with their historical character and interest.

Shows the radar training station at Fleetwood, Lancashire.

Right: radar training station at Fleetwood, Lancashire. Roger Booth, Lancashire County Council, Architects Department.

“Our built heritage should be about much more than old buildings,” explained Arts Minister Baroness Blackstone.

“The best of our modern architecture also merits the recognition and protection that listing brings. Structures like the BT Tower and the ntl Broadcasting Tower are cultural and architectural icons of Harold Wilson's 'white heat of technology'.”

“These buildings mark the early milestones of Britain's transformation into one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world today.”

Shows the lighthouse at Dungeness, Kent.

Left: the lighthouse at Dungeness, Kent. Ronald Ward and Partners in association with Trinity House.

Built in the early 1960s, the BT Tower stands at 620 feet above street level and was the first purpose built tower to transmit high frequency radio waves.

Once known as the Post Office Tower, the structure was specifically designed to allow for the rapid expansion of telephone communications and to overcome the difficulty of laying cables in London.

The cylindrical shape of the tower reduces wind resistance and made it a stylish addition to the capital's skyline, but unfortunately a terrorist bomb led to the closure of the observation galleries in 1971.

Shows the British Telecommunications Tower at Cleveland Mews, London.

Right: the British Telecommunications Tower at Cleveland Mews, London. Ministry of Public Building and Works, Architects' Department.

“Britain was a world leader in telecommunications during the 1950s and 1960s and these seven new listings are a tribute to that scientific achievement as well as being architectural icons of the times,” added English Heritage Chairman, Sir Neil Cossons.

Sir Neil also pointed out that while listing will protect the buildings, it will by no means impede their continued scientific work.

“Since the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank was listed Grade I in 1988 it has received grants to be resurfaced, so that it is now more accurate than ever. Listing and scientific progress can work creatively hand in hand.”

The listed structures in full:

  • BT Tower, Cleveland Mews, London. Architect, Ministry of Public Building and Works 1961-65.
  • Equatorial Telescopes, Herstmonceux, East Sussex. Architect, Brian O'Rorke 1953-58.
  • Lighthouse, Dungeness, Kent. Architect, Ronald Ward and Partners 1959-60.
  • British Telecom Earth/Satellite Station Antenna No. 1 Goonhilly Downs, Cornwall. Architect, Husband and Co. and the GPO 1962.
  • ntl Broadcasting Tower, Emley Moor, Yorkshire. Architect, Ove Arup and Associates 1969-1971.
  • Radar Training Station, Fleetwood, Lancashire. Architect, Roger Booth, Lancashire County Council Architect's Dept. 1961-2.
  • County Police Communication Tower, Aykley Heads, Durham. Architect, Ove Arup and Partners 1965-8.
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