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Report - Mendlesham Mast, Stowmarket, Suffolk - 2017

Discussion in 'High Stuff' started by slayaaaa, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
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    Mendlesham Mast
    Mendlesham mast, the first mast over 1000ft to be constructed in Europe, was built in the 50's to broaden the broadcast range for television to East Anglia. Something that you can't miss if you drive up the A140 which I seemed to have done a fair bit. I remember seeing the towering red lights since I was a lot younger but recently they've upgraded the lighting to fit in with civil aviation legislation (Much to the dismay of locals as far as 10 miles away that have complained about it's light pollution http://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/uproar-over-mendlesham-mast-1-105038) which made the mast even more prominent than before. I'd dreamt about climbing this for a long time and if I'm honest, only seeing it as some sort of personal goal, I wouldn't have even bothered posting it because after all, it's just another big mast and countless people have climbed not only this one, but taller ones further afield (props Kev and BHG). However, one day it clicked and I decided fuck it, let's do it and somehow managed to pick probably the best time to climb it. All thanks to a certain friend with a parachute I manged a bit of an insight on tackling this before driving up to Mendlesham and as the mist rolled in, the transition from night to day was one of the best things I've ever witnessed. Imagining myself above the clouds in some sort of Bespin cloud planet esque landscape from Star Wars. This, combined with the purely astonishing construction of this massive structure (involving a 1inch steel ball that holds the whole thing up, but more about that later) I decided to get some pictures and history together and write something about it. Post war British construction at it's best. After it's completion, 2,000,000 people could now watch the commercial program.

    Station Information

    Location: Brockford Green, nr Mendlesham, Suffolk​
    Grid Reference: TM122641
    Landlord: Arqiva (Legacy: ITA/IBA/NTL Broadcast)
    Ground Height: 64m
    Mast Height: 305.4m / 1,002ft

    Current Transmissions


    Analogue Frequencies:
    Service: (MHz), (e.r.p)
    Kiss 105-108 FM: 106.4, 20kW

    Digital Frequencies:
    BBC National (Block 12B)
    Digital One (Block 11D)

    Broadcasting History

    Unfortunately nowadays it no longer plays a key role in television broadcasting as it did once back in the 1960's, 70's and 80's. Providing entertainment for families until it was mothballed for a period of time in 1985 when UHF TV came to East Anglia, doing away with the VHF 405 line television. It now broadcasts Vibe FM (Now known as Kiss 105-108) and has done since 1997 much to the dismay of those with any decent sort of music taste. Since then, the BBC national DAB Multiplex was added alongside other national digital radio frequencies securing the masts' future for now.
    British Insulated Callender's Cables (BICC)

    Amazingly, the contractors from 1959 thought it would be great for their portfolio to record the construction of this mast and shows just how amazing the process was. I highly recommend watching the video which I've included link to below(Unfortunately it won't let me embed this into the report). However I'll take a few screenshots from the video and match them with my own photos to show a little more what make this mast just that bit different.

    http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/861#.TyULK23FIw5.twitter

    The video really is amazing and shows just how lax safety was back then! I've yet to look, but I'm not entirely sure how you would go about building something like this today with current health and safety laws. The shots of the 1950's UHF aerials on the terraced houses at the beginning also caught my interest and it's comparison with the construction of the mast in Hayes by EMI Electronics LTD among other Old school British companies that feature in the film make it an amazing document of not only the masts' history, but also a small section of British electrical and broadcasting industry of the late 50's.

    Construction
    [​IMG]

    ITA engineers were faced with the task of expanding the broadcast of the channel 11 VHF across East Anglia, "The East of England was scheduled as the ninth region in the ITV network, with the search for a transmitter site beginning in early 1957. The station, which would operate on VHF Channel 11, would need to cover all of Norfolk, Suffolk and North Essex, whilst also extending west to Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, and north to Lincolnshire." A big task, using as little masts as possible they needed a central enough position to emit their frequencies across this section of the country meaning they would only need one. "Whilst searching for a location that fulfilled this criteria, the ITA kept all options open by assessing two sites on high ground to the north-west of Wymondham, near the Tacolneston transmitter, whilst also extending the search into West Norfolk." However the ITA were granted permission from the East Suffolk County Council to build a 750ft mast at Brockford Green on the site of the old disused Mendlesham Airfield. The ITA were still considering the Tacolneston site but in 1958 the council announced a revised plan to build a 1000ft at Mendlesham and the ITA agreed this was the best position to broadcast from.​

    [​IMG]

    Painter Bros LTD, a structural steel company that established in 1920 was chosen by BICC to construct the steel lattice sections at their site in Hereford as they had previously helped BICC during the British re-armament of 1934-1939. April 1959 saw the mast begin construction (originally planned earlier but due to a delay in the production from Hereford it was set back to April) and with the fine weather of 1959 (a summer that would be remembered for some time) the mast was completed in 10 weeks.

    Initial testing was carried out in August that year until full power in October. "The Mendlesham transmitter formally entered service at 8.00pm on 27 October 1959 with the ceremonial opening of Anglia Television."​

    Pictures and Construction

    I really want to incorporate how this thing was built into the report so here's a few screenshots from that video alongside a few of my own and a bit of information about how they brought the next wave of television broadcasting to East Anglia and beyond.

    The mast is a 3 sided structure made up of solid corner steel posts braced together with lattice steel angle sections supported at intervals with high strength steel wire ropes.

    The construction begins in Hereford, where all the steel work is fabricated and galvanized. From the factory the templates are drawn on the factory floor, full scale! Straight from the designers plans.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Wooden templates are then used to scribe the raw steel material to be cut down to size. Then flange plates are cut and welded to the leg members followed by gusset plates.

    [​IMG]

    On site, the foundations are nearing completion, built deep in the ground to help support the downwards force and vertical tension of the massive structure and the guy ropes.

    Back at Hereford, the sections are laid out for full inspection before being dipped in a galvanizing bath.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    The Steel sections arrive on site, and are lined up ready to be erected on the pedistool that is designed specifically to distribute the downward force evenly. Amazingly, a 2" steel ball is placed between the pedistool and the rest of the structure that helps hold all 1000ft of steel lattice in place.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Slowly the sections a re winched into place and bolted in by workers up top with the use of a derick to aid construction.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    The guy ropes are raised, bolted into the structure and tensioned simultaneously to make sure the structure is held in place evenly.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Once the structure is complete, the steel screens for emitting are raised and bolted into place.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Now testing will begin and the structure would begin broadcasting in October that year.

    Going Up

    20 minutes before I arrived I could see the red glow from near Ipswich and as it gradually got bigger and closer I got more and more excited and despite the 3AM alarm I was more awake than I'd ever expected. I'd parked up and slowly made the walk towards the site.

    [​IMG]

    I'd scaled a couple fences and avoided the cameras etc. on site and stood underneath the structure. At the time it was pitch black other than the intense red from above when I began ascending.

    [​IMG]

    At this point I'd reached a cage around 40/50ft up and manged to get around it and the tangles of barbed wire that surrounded it fairly easy, assuming the hardest part was over I rocketed up the first 100ft pretty easy until I realized I was in fact absolutely knackered and only 1/10th of the way up, let along the return back down and all before it got too light in the next few hours, I wasn't confident.
    The rests were around 80ft apart from each other and every now and then one would be next to the massive red Delta beacons. 80ft stretches really aren't as easy as I had thought and by the time I was on the 4th platform approx 300ft up I was severely doubting if I could continue and had a rest to re-evaluate the situation. I got another 100ft up and decided it was time to turn around and go home to bed, somehow the next thing I remember i was at the 600ft mark and one of the most amazing things I've ever seen happened right before my eyes, what was once a clear and cold late summer's evening turned into nothing but red and blue.

    [​IMG]

    I couldn't see 20ft above me, or 20ft below me, there was nothing but white, red or yellow mist everywhere.
    I'd actually taken pictures looking up and down at this point and even now I still cant make out which one is looking up and which is looking down. eventually I climbed through it and I could see the sky. I stopped for a bit just over half way to take it all in and watch the stars slowly disappear as the mist rolled in, oddly warm and sometimes cold, it was as if I was climbing into static rain.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After a while I had no idea after this point how high I was until near the top set of 15 guy wires when I was just above the mist and at which time, day light was just breaking over the horizon.

    [​IMG]

    I looked down and all I could see was the mist rolling across the earth as if I was on a plane tens of thousands of feet in the air.

    [​IMG]

    I couldn't believe what I was seeing and after a few pictures I realized that I wouldn't need to worry about being spotted as I couldn't see the ground so no one could look up and see me.

    [​IMG]

    Cont.​
     
    Speed likes this.

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  2. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
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    I reached the 1000ft mark after 60 minutes of climbing and I lay there with my legs and arms on fire, looking over the edge into the clouds and that will truly be something I will never forget.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    I'd done it, whether you or anyone else may not see it as anything more than just another "high stuffz" report, this really was special to me.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    I took a few pictures and conscious of the time I began my descent.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    After another 60 minutes I'd hit the cage again, round the outside, down, over the fence and that point I'd just collapsed. I'd been off the ground for almost 3 hours and my tiredness kicked in all at once. i made it back to the car and with one final glimpse I went straight to sleep. Driving back now was out of the question because I probably would've fallen asleep at the wheel and caused an accident so I stayed until I was ready to get home.


    Sources and Further Reading


    https://www.thebigtower.com/live/Mendlesham/Index.htm

    http://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/uproar-over-mendlesham-mast-1-105038

    http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/861

    https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/showthread.php?t=79361

    http://didangliansdream.co.uk/anglia/then-and-now-mendlesham-1958-2014/

    https://mastdata.com/0/Address/address.aspx?AdID=111169


    Well there you go, bit overkill on the history and picture side of things and this report took me a while to get together, but IMO was worth it because I really enjoyed this and have wanted to tell the story for a while. Hope it wasn't too exhaustive and hope you enjoyed the read. Peace


    [​IMG]
     
    Bolts, kevin arnold, clebby and 7 others like this.
  3. mockney reject

    mockney reject 28DL Regular User
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    I said it at the time and i'll say it again

    You are fucking crazy

    also, the best set of whatsapp pics I have ever woken up too :)
     
    Supersonic and slayaaaa like this.
  4. little_ boy_explores

    little_ boy_explores 28DL Full Member
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    Very nice write up and very nice pics
     
    slayaaaa likes this.
  5. fb

    fb big in japan
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    That is fucking ace.
     
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  6. bhg

    bhg In Search of Lost Time
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    This is amazing!!! Write up, your photos. It's been a long time since I've seen such a good report, thank you!
     
    slayaaaa likes this.
  7. scieron

    scieron 28DL Member
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    Stunning experience & great report! Thanks.
     
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  8. albino-jay

    albino-jay 28DL Regular User
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    absolutely spot on fella!

    my legs and back are aching just thinking about that climb.

    sweet write up too.
     
    slayaaaa likes this.
  9. ab000

    ab000 28DL Member
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    Very Nice! Picked up a lot of radio from here over the years.

    Vibe was actually pretty good and varied when it started, it became more and more commercial until Kiss took it over and ruined it completely.
     
    slayaaaa likes this.
  10. Speed

    Speed Got Epic?
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    Nice, this is what its all about!
     
    fb, mockney reject and slayaaaa like this.
  11. wellingtonian

    wellingtonian Subterráneo
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    Excellent stuff. Very interesting too :thumb
     
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  12. afrojay

    afrojay 28DL Full Member
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    Such a great write up! Some of those pics are just breathtaking.
     
    slayaaaa likes this.
  13. Supersonic

    Supersonic 28DL Full Member
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    Agreed!
     
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  14. mockney reject

    mockney reject 28DL Regular User
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    Noteworthy in my humble opinion :thumb
     
  15. Bolts

    Bolts 28DL Regular User
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    Mate.
     
    slayaaaa likes this.
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