Emley Moor: 50th anniversary of television tower collapse

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Collapsed mastImage source, Shutterstock
Image caption,
A build-up of ice on the mast's supporting cables caused it to collapse

Fifty years ago a television transmitter collapsed taking channels off the air for millions of viewers across Yorkshire.

The 1,265ft (386m) high metal mast was brought down at Emley Moor near Huddersfield by the weight of ice forming on its supporting cables.

Despite falling across a road and causing damage to a chapel and the transmitter building nobody was hurt.

It was replaced in 1971 by the concrete structure which still stands today.

Image source, Shutterstock
Image caption,
Despite damage to a nearby chapel nobody was injured in the collapse

Brian Glendenning was the senior engineer on duty on 19 March 1969 when the mast crashed to the ground at just after 17:00.

He said staff realised something was wrong when they lost television pictures in their engineering building at the foot of the tower.

"We heard this thundering noise and dashed outside. We couldn't see anything, it was full of very heavy mist.

"As we walked further into the mist we were looking for the mast and we saw what was left of it. There was about 10 foot left sticking up in the air."

Image caption,
The extent of the damage only became evident as engineers at the site walked through heavy mist to the wreckage

Emley Moor carried pictures from Yorkshire Television and the newly established BBC2 colour service. A mobile transmitter was used to get ITV back on air a few days later.

Barrie Stephenson, a BBC engineer called to the scene, said he was surprised no-one was injured.

"When a mast falls down you imagine there is going to be some kind of carnage," he said.

"So our engineer was sitting on his own inside the transmitter hall and he was just shaking. He was staring at the wall and he was just thinking about what might have happened I think."

Image source, Andrew Tatlow / Geograph
Image caption,
Part of the collapsed tower is used by the nearby Huddersfield Sailing Club

Part of the collapsed transmitter was given another lease of life when it was turned into a race control tower at the Huddersfield Sailing Club in nearby Holmfirth.

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