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Stroud District Council calls on BT to help preserve historic communications 'landmark'

Published: Tuesday, 20 September, 2016

100 year old telegraph pole takes centre stage in canal refurbishment

Stroud District Council and BT have joined forces with the world’s oldest canal company to ensure an unusual piece of local communications heritage is preserved for future generations.

A telephone pole, believed to be more than 100 years old, will remain part of the canal-side landscape, even though it’s no longer in service.

This follows a special agreement between Stroud District Council, Openreach – BT’s local network business - and the canal’s owners, Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation.

The 30-foot pole, situated just east of Oilmills Bridge, at the heart of the Cotswold Canals restoration project, is believed to be one of the oldest in the country.

It is the last remaining pole of its kind in the area, distinguished by the number of cross pieces at the top. Such poles were a distinctive feature in early photos of the canal.

Advances in communications technology mean the pole is no longer needed, so Openreach had planned to remove it. Instead, with the support of Stroud District Council – which is restoring the canal - and the Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation, it will continue to be maintained as if it were part of the working network.

Martin Northfield, Openreach’s local asset assurance programme manager, who came up with the idea, said:

“After discussions with the council, rather than handing over the pole, we felt it would be better for everyone if Openreach continued to look after it as if it were an operational pole, that way it will be checked and tested regularly and kept safe.”

Councillor Steve Lydon, leader of Stroud District Council, said:

“Our thanks go to BT for ‘saving’ this pole. I’m pleased that the ever-increasing number of towpath users will be able to learn about and enjoy this part of the canal’s – and the district’s – history, for years to come.”

Paul Coles, BT’s regional manager for Gloucestershire and the South-West, said: “BT has a long-established record of helping to preserve communications heritage, but this is certainly one of the more unusual projects we’ve been involved in.

“After carrying out routine safety checks, engineers will remove any cables that are still attached. As well as the distinctive cross pieces, this pole was fitted with porcelain insulators and connection boxes, which probably date back to the 1950s. We will ensure they are also preserved.”

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