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Department for Culture Media and Sport

Once Wilson's "White Heat", Now History: Tessa Blackstone Lists Bt Tower

Arts Minister Tessa Blackstone today listed the BT Tower, a celebrated icon of C20 London, along with six other historically and architecturally outstanding communications structures located around the country.

Each nominated structure is a landmark of its type and together the buildings illustrate the rise of a vital new British communications technology in the 1950's and 60's.  The decision to list the structures was taken on the advice of English Heritage, who put together their initial recommendations as part of a thematic study of post war communications buildings.

Revealing the listings Baroness Blackstone, Minister of State for the Arts said:

"Our built heritage should be about much more than old buildings. 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.  " 

Welcoming the decision to list, Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage stated:

"Britain was a world leader in telecommunications during the 1950's and 1960's, and these seven new listings are a tribute to that scientific achievement as well as being architectural icons of the times.

Listing will not impede the buildings' 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."
 
Note to Editors

1. The main purpose of listing a building is to ensure that care will be taken over decisions affecting its future, that any alterations respect the particular character and interest of the building, and that the case for its preservation is taken fully into account in considering the merits of any redevelopment proposals.

2. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (then known as the Department of National Heritage) announced in March 1995 that there would be public consultation on recommendations for listing arising from English Heritage's thematic studies of post-war and other building types. In August 1995 the Department announced that the consultation procedure would be extended to proposals to spot-list individual post-war buildings. However, the Secretary of State may take action to list a building at any time on the basis of information before her if she considers it to be under threat of alteration or demolition.  The public consultation for these structures was undertaken by English Heritage between November 2001 and January 2002.

3. Further details of English Heritage's recommendations can be obtained from Historic Environment Designation Branch, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH.
 

 The Buildings
 
BT Tower, Cleveland Mews, London – Grade II
The BT Tower, once known as the Post Office Tower, has adorned the London skyline since it was built by the Ministry of Public Building and Works in 1961-65. The first purpose-built tower to transmit high frequency radio waves it was designed to allow for the rapid expansion of telephone communications and to overcome the difficulty of laying cables in London. To preserve the accuracy of the sensitive narrow-beam transmitters they had to be sited on a stable structure. The cylindrical shape of the tower reduced wind resistance and gave it not only stability but great style. The tower, incorporating observation galleries and a restaurant, stands at 620 ft above street level, including the 40ft London Weather Centre radar mast. Sadly, a terrorist bomb led to the closure of the observation galleries in 1971. The restaurant closed in 1980 when the owner's lease expired. It has subsequently been refurbished and is now used for corporate entertainment.

Equatorial Telescopes, Herstmonceux, East Sussex – Grade II*
The name relates to the orientation of the telescopes which are mounted to lie parallel to the earth's rotation axis. The observation centre was built between 1953-58 to take over the work of the Greenwich Observatory. The architect, Brian O' Rorke, made his reputation as a designer for the Orient Line's luxury liners. Set on a high bastion, the observatory suggests a fine early 18th century garden building, yet also reflects the latest technical advancements of the time.

Lighthouse, Dungeness, Kent – Grade II*
In 1959-60, Ronald Ward and Partners built the first 20th century lighthouse at Dungeness in Kent. The building redefines the traditional construction of a lighthouse by using concrete drums of contrasting black and white aggregates. Holes at the top are for foghorn loudspeakers. Inside, an elegant cantilevered spiral staircase leads to the lighthouse's automatic equipment.

British Telecom Earth/Satellite Station Antenna No.1, Goonhilly Downs, Cornwall – Grade II
The British Telecom Earth/Satellite Station Antenna No.1 in Cornwall was the reception and transmission station for Telstar, the first active telecommunications satellite. Designed by Husband and Company and the GPO, this building, apart from its scientific and historic interest, also has a dramatic visual quality. Other countries have adopted the design. Still used today for special transmissions such as the Olympic Games, the equipment is manoeuvrable through 360 degrees horizontally and 90 degrees vertically.

ntl Broadcasting Tower, Emley Moor, Yorkshire – Grade II
Built by Ove Arup and Associates, the ntl Broadcasting Tower on Emley Moor, previously known as the ITV Broadcasting Tower, was the tallest building in England when erected between 1969-71. It replaced a steel mast that collapsed after just three years. The architect chose concrete for the replacement because it met the demanding specification and because its good looks suited this environmentally sensitive moorland setting. It combines perfect technical performance with architectural elegance.

Radar Training Station, Fleetwood, Lancashire – Grade II
"A cute little piece on the seafront" was how Nikolaus Pevsner described the Radar Training Station at Fleetwood. Designed by Roger Booth of Lancashire County Council Architect's Department and built in 1961-2, this building still fulfils its role as a practical training centre for coastal navigation and radar. An elegant modern design, it complements the adjoining 1840s style lighthouse credited to Decimus Burton, a major Victorian architect who built the Wellington arch in London.

County Police Communication Tower, Aykley Heads, Durham – Grade II
The elegant, ultra-thin design for the County Police Communication Tower at Aykley Heads in Durham responds to its aesthetically sensitive site overlooking Durham Cathedral. Precast reinforced concrete allowed the contractors to build a slender but rigid mast demanded by the sensitive equipment to avoid distortion of the narrow radio-frequencies. Ove Arup and Partners designed and built the tower between 1965-8.

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