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

On this day in 1971, the 350-metre high concrete transmitting tower known as the Emley Moor Mast was opened, becoming Britain's tallest “freestanding structure”.

Here at MoneyWeek we're big fans of London's Shard. We used to have a fine view of it from our office window, and watching it slowly rise above London Bridge station from the comfort of MoneyWeek Towers was very satisfying. 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. As they would. 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 (1,084 feet) 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.

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

Ben Judge

Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.

Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.