DOWN THE TUBES - THE COLLAPSE AT WALTHAM
"B.B.C.2 FOR MELTON IN 18 MONTHS"
...Declared the headline in the Melton Times of Friday May 7 1965.
Melton was high on the list of priorities for BBC2 reception. A BBC spokesman told a Melton Times reporter that it was a distinct possibility BBC2 would be available to viewers within a 30 mile radius of Melton within 18 months.
A week earlier, a team from the Corporation’s Research Department had launched a balloon to an altitude of 1000ft from a field just outside Waltham on the Wolds. The balloon, which had been launched on three occasions to date, carried a transmitter. A number of mobile receiving stations located within a 30 mile radius monitored the signals.
"Research has been slowed down because of unfavourable weather” Mr Dennis Taplin, in charge of the unit, told a Melton Times reporter.
The data would be analysed by the corporation’s experts at its Surrey HQ.
The balloon had not gone unnoticed by villagers, and had also drawn many sightseers.
The results were evidently satisfactory, as work began the following year to erect the new transmitter. Then, as the Melton Times of Friday November 18 1966 announced.
"£200,000 B.B.C. 2 MAST CRASHES"
The 950-foot television mast, which stood as a gleaming landmark over the Leicestershire countryside, today lies twisted and broken as if, like a toy, it had been flattened by a giant hand.
The life of the almost finished mast, due to transmit BBC2 pictures next year, came crashing to an end with the sound of a thunderclap in the small hours of Wednesday morning. And it was the end, too, of the fears of a man who lived in its shadow
Brig. T.G.G.Cooper, of Waltham Lodge, was awakened by”a terrific sound, almost like thunder.” He looked at his watch. It was 2.25 a.m.
“The noise seemed to go on for some time,” he told the Melton Times “There was a lot of metallic clinking sounds. I looked out of my bedroom window; I saw the light on the tower wasn’t on.
It was blowing hard at the time I didn’t know for certain that the mast had come down, I constantly feared that one day it might fall over.”
The foreman in charge of erection, Mr. John Mason, had watched the mast grow since its beginning in March this year.
Wednesday was just another day, he left Melton, where he is living, and stopped at Waltham post office to pick up tea, sugar and mail.
“Did you know your mast is down!” said Mr Steve Watts from behind the counter. Mr Mason dismissed the remark as a joke. He left but returned minutes later, he sat down until he had sufficiently recovered from the shock.
Back on the site when being interviewed by a Melton Times reporter, Mr. Mason looked pale and drawn as he picked his way through the jumble of metal at the foot of the mast.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I think everyone here feels terrible about it. We’ve worked on the mast every day – even some Sundays.
The last people on the site before the collapse were four electricians from a Huddersfield firm working on the transmitter. The last of them left about 9.30 pm.
One of them told the Melton Times: “It was windy but it was nothing out of the ordinary. When I was coming up the road, the mast looked as thought it had a ‘dogleg’ in it.
“The lights on it were not in line. This would be about 7 p.m. it was swinging and seemed to be leaning a bit at the top.”
A few hours later the room in which they had been working had been crushed by the tower. Telephone communications were cut. An electricity board official hurried to the scene to check the safety of an 11,000V cable fed in to the building at the mast’s base.
The £200,000 tower was the first all cylindrical one of its kind in the country. It weighed 250 tons and was seven feet six inches in diameter. From the way it fell, the mast appeared to have buckled before breaking up. Several section lay around the footings.
Permanent guy lines were hanging from the tower. There had been a delay in fixing them into place because of bad weather conditions. A lift had been installed inside the mast and while the weather was poor work continued on the interior.
We checked with R.A.F Cottesmore to establish wind speeds at the estimated time of the collapse. At a height of 10metres the speed between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. was 32mph.
A spokesman said that at 1,000 feet the wind could have reached about 60 miles an hour. “We used the mast as a visibility point.” He added.
The village of Waltham feels that the collapse of the mast is almost a personal loss.
Mrs. Elsie Gilbert, of Main Street, said that she felt really upset about it. “When I looked out of my bedroom window in the morning, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I think everyone is shocked about it. We have watched it grow over the months.
The B.B.C. hope to put up a temporary mast. The area to be covered is bounded by Lincoln in the north, Uttoxeter in the west, right across to the Wash in the east and Kettering in the south.
It would seem the residents of Waltham and those working on the site had reason to be thankful in the light of subsequent events at Emley.Moor, near Huddersfield.
There, in March 1969, a 1265ft tower which, in 1964 replaced one of 445ft, collapsed. In this fall, the local church was cut in half by the ice laden guy ropes, the church warden being particularly lucky, having left the church only half an hour earlier, after being called in for tea by his wife!Despite the enormous potential for damage to person and property; no-one was killed or seriously injured in either of these incidents.
Much of the debris was put to use by resourceful types in and around the village, some of the tube sections proved ideal for sheltering pigs and other animals, and, indeed, do so to this day.One heavy smoker in the village felt many emotions on the morning after the collapse. His doctor had earlier, strongly urged him to quit, suggesting he might lose his sight as a consequence, so when he could not see the mast, he was convinced that he was experiencing the onset of blindness; he was relieved to hear of the collapse.
Waltham | Emley Moor
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