21 January 1971: Emley Moor Mast, Britain’s tallest ‘building’, opens

Here at MoneyWeek we’re big fans of London’s Shard. We have a fine view of it from our window, and watching it slowly rise above London Bridge station from the comfort of MoneyWeek Towers was very satisfying. When lightning struck, my colleague Chris Carter was able to catch it on video.

The view from (near) the top is incredible, too, for those that have £25+ to spare.

Its owners, and pretty much everybody else, claim it is Britain’s tallest building, topping out at 309.7m (1,016 feet to old people, stubborn people, and Americans), with a viewing platform at 244m.

But in Yorkshire, they take a different view. To them, Britain’s tallest building stands up on a hill near Huddersfield. The mighty – and very elegant, in a brutalist concrete way – Emley Moor Mast.

At 330.5m high, it is indeed a fair bit taller than the Shard. It has a viewing platform, too – 275m up – but it is a technical control room, and not a place the public routinely has access to.

It is undoubtedly the tallest “freestanding structure” in the UK, but a building? Perhaps… perhaps not.

There has been a broadcast transmitter on the site since 1956. Originally, it was a 135m lattice tower built by the Independent Television Authority. That was replaced in 1966 by a guyed mast that was actually taller than the current tower, at 385m. But in March 1969, a winter storm brought it down. Later that year, work began on the construction of the current concrete tower, which opened on this day in 1971, broadcasting TV and radio over a 10,000km2 area.

Today the mast is officially known as the Arqiva Tower (though not by many people). And in 2002, English Heritage granted it Grade II Listed status

Also on this day

21 January 1976: Concorde’s first commercial flight

Almost seven years after its maiden flight, and at a total cost of £1.3bn, Concorde finally entered commercial service on this day in 1976. Read more here.

  • the-gog

    “Today the mast is officially known as”

    It’s not a mast, it’s a tower. Towers are free-standing and not guy-supported. Masts have to be guy-supported. Skelton mast is the tallest man-made structure in the UK at 1,198 ft but as it’s not a tower, it’s not free-standing.

  • Ana Prada

    Technically the Shade should be visible for nearly 40 miles on a good night with the light flashing. Where is the furthest reported sighting?