Prior to 1971, the good people of West Yorkshire had dreadful luck picking up those wireless signals. What with the area’s transmitting Lattice Tower, built in 1956, not quite up to the task of providing the output needed for the increasing television signals sweeping Yorkshire, a new build was begun. This original 150-metre-high tower was then replaced in 1964 by its ill-fated successor that was double its size. So begins the tale of Emley Moor Mast.
At 386 metres high, this new structure was a behemoth transmitter known as a guy mast. Unfortunately, five years after its construction, at 5 PM on the 19th March 1969, the senior engineer and his staff sat in the maintenance room at the base of the tower lost signal on their television. This was followed by a deafening crash that shook the earth under their feet. Upon exiting their workspace, they saw the air was thick with mist making visibility difficult. When they were able to make out the cause of the loud disturbance, they saw the wreckage and debris strewn across the moor and noticed that only ten feet of the tower was left standing (BBC, 2019).
With Yorkshire Television off the air in a blink of an eye, and the company facing closure, a temporary 61-metre mast was thrown up within four days with a 204-metre temp from Sweden replacing it within the month (Smith, 2020). The people of West Yorkshire were saved, and the inquest would begin. What had brought this behemoth down?
It was eventually put down to large blocks of ice forming on the tower and snapping the guy cables that stabilised this massive mast (Behrens, 2020). As a BBC engineer who arrived on the scene in the aftermath mused, you would expect absolute carnage as the result of such an accident (BBC, 2019). But incredibly nobody was injured and only one building, a Methodist chapel, sustained any damage, a miracle (Gadd, 2015).
So, with temporary masts giving the people their wireless and tube fix, work began on our current landmark in 1969. Finished in 1971, this new reinforced concrete tower, while smaller than its goliath predecessor is an impressive 330 metres and has held the title of the tallest freestanding structure in Britain for the past fifty years (BBC, 2018).
In 2015, figures suggested that Emley Moor Mast delivered TV to more than 1.5 million homes in West Yorkshire. Though with the explosion of online streaming, I assume this number has decreased. An 8-minute lift journey up the tower rewards any visitor with a 360-degree view of the ancient land of Kirklees from an impressive looking observatory below the antennae (Gadd, 2015).
I fully empathise with the good folk of late Sixties Emley who, after recently having the largest structure in Britain fall on their quiet little village, expressed concern about the new concrete giant being built nearby. While some of our original still lives on as a little tower at the Huddersfield Sailing Club headquarters (Senior, 2011), our current, record-breaking, grade-II-listed mast is still supplying the signals to those of West Yorkshire still hanging on to the classic, analogue TV experience.
For anybody interested in visiting Emley Mast in a different format, while also supporting our amazing NHS, please visit the link below for information on getting The Story of Emley Mast & Skinny Mast.
BBC. (2018, April 12). Upgrade starts on UK’s tallest tower at Emley Moor. BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-43739083#:~:text=A%20major%20project%20to%20build
BBC. (2019, March 19). Emley Moor: 50th anniversary of television tower collapse. BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-47623847
Behrens, D. (2020). The up-and-down story of the TV mast at Emley Moor. Yorkshire Post https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/heritage-and-retro/heritage/and-down-story-tv-mast-emley-moor-2942259
Gadd, M. (2015, January 30). Inside the tallest tower in Britain (and it’s NOT The Shard). Mail Online. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2933043/1-084ft-high-60-mile-views-takes-EIGHT-minutes-reach-Inside-tallest-tower-Britain-s-NOT-Shard.html
Senior, S. (2011). The Fall and Rise of Emley Moor. http://tx.mb21.co.uk/emley/hsc/
Smith, J. (2020). Emley Moor Transmitter. A.T.V. Poles, Brackets, Clamps & Aerials. https://www.aerialsandtv.com/knowledge/transmitters/emley-moor-transmitter