What did the BT Tower look like over 50 years ago?

The BT Tower is one of the most famous buildings in the UK, discover more about how it was built.

In 1954 a system of broadband and microwave links was proposed ahead of the expected increase in demand for long-distance telephone calls and television networks. Using a tower in central London meant traffic issues caused by cable laying could be avoided.

The location of the Post Office Tower (as it was originally called), in Cleveland Mews, Fitzrovia was chosen due to its proximity to the Museum telephone exchange in Howland Street. Construction started in 1961 - the photo below was taken on April 6th 1962 around three and a half years before it opened.

In the video below, find out more about the construction of the BT Tower.

In 1962 a competition to name the planned tower was run in Post Office Magazine, specifying ‘names must be short, easy to say and should express something of the purpose of the tower’. The name Post Office Tower was chosen above suggestions such as: Pointer, Spindle, Liaiser and Telebeacon. The winner was awarded a £10 prize.

The Tower was designed by Eric Bedford and G. R. Yeats. Writing in Architect and Building News, Eric Bedford said: “If the tower has achieved anything as a piece of design, this lay in the fact that an honest attempt had been made to meet the functional requirements and to combine these with the simple principle of slenderness, accepting the structure that emerged rather than attempting to impose any pre-conceived notion of what a tower should look like.”

Watch other episodes in our ‘Secrets of the BT Tower’ series

Credit: BT Archives

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