Victorian Telegraph Pole Finial

Contributed by Ruth Lesli

Victorian Telegraph Pole Finial

In contrast to today, this object represents the height of the Victorian age and the wealth of the empire upon which the sun never set. It represents a time when it was not unrealistic to pay skilled craftsmen to make objects that served no other purpose than to be pleasing to the eye.

The growth in the use of telegraph poles in the Victorian Period presented an ugly eyesore. For this reason, some local authorities insisted that the poles be fitted with a finial, an ornamental ball with a spike on top, to make them more attractive.

This Victorian determination to disguise and assuage functionality with beauty can be seen in the legacy of exterior and interior architectural decoration on many buildings of the period. It is also notable in the landscape in the wealth of parks in all major cities with their fancy wrought iron fencing. Even the telegraph pole was deemed necessary to enhance with a finial, though these are now gone from the landscape, presumably too expensive to replace.

We owe much to the the Victorians for the beauty they left us. And considering today's financial circumstances, how long will we have to wait to be able to indulge in such luxuries again?

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  • 1 comment
  • 1. At 19:56 on 22 January 2011, Quadhurst wrote:

    There is nothing Victorian about this finial. The concept [technological necessaties being given an aesthetic image] may well be Victorian; but this particular finial dates back only to the 1930s, when it was first introduced by the GPO. A much older finial - larger than the one featured - dated back to Victorian times and to the electric telegraph rather than the phone network (though was continued for the incipient phone network towards the end of the 19th century). But this particular finial is firmly and unequivocally 20th century. Many survive (the finial was, latterly, manufactured in metal rather than in timber. Many surviving timber finials on telegraph poles are badly rotted and wasted; but they're still around.

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