This fascinating tower held a remarkable record in the United Kingdom for over 15 years.
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the BT Tower, a historical landmark in London.
1. What is the BT Tower?
The BT Tower is a communications tower that was built in the 1960s to support the microwave aerials that were used back then to carry telecommunications traffic from London to the rest of England.
It also used to house offices and served as a tourist attraction as the 34th floor houses a revolving restaurant.
Right now, the tower still serves its purpose as an important communications hub and houses a TV Network Switching Centre used by advertisers, production companies, and television broadcasting stations.
2. It’s located just north of Westminster
This iconic landmark is located in the center of London, just north of Westminster and just to the northwest of the City of London, the historical center of the city.
It’s located in the Fitzrovia district in Central London and other places of interest such as the British Museum and Madame Tussauds are just a few hundred meters away.
3. It was constructed by the General Post Office
The tower was originally known as the “GPO Tower” for the simple reason that it was commissioned by the General Post Office. They operated the General Post Office microwave network, a network of interconnected microwave signals in the UK.
This network was operational from the 1950s until the 1980s, after which the network was replaced by subterranean optical fiber links.
4. It used to have a couple of different names
The tower was originally known as the GPO Tower, but was also commonly referred to as the:
- Post Office Tower
- British Telecom Tower
- BT Tower
The latter is the common name of the tower today, even though many people still refer to it as the “Post Office Tower” as well.
5. It was the tallest structure in the UK upon completion
Construction of the tower started in June 1961 and it topped out on July 15, 1964, and officially opened to the public on May 19, 1966.
It has a roof height of 177 meters (580.7 feet) and an architectural height of 189 meters (620.1 feet), a height that made it the tallest structure in the UK at the time!
One of the most amazing facts about the BT Tower is that it held this record for nearly 15 years as it was only overtaken in the year 1980 with the completion of “Tower 42,” originally referred to as the “National Westminster Tower.”
6. The tower was built on a very solid foundation
The architects of the Ministry of Public Building and Works took care of the design and these included Eric Bedford and G. R. Yeats. The design has the form of a concrete cylinder that is clad in glass.
The soil in London is not exactly suited for tall structures as it mostly consists of clay. Therefore, the beams for the foundation were sunk into the ground about 53 meters (173 feet) deep. A large square concrete platform of 27 meters (88 feet) and about a meter thick was built on top of it.
The tower itself was built on top of a reinforced concrete pyramid which is supported by 6 massive layers of cables.
All of this has resulted in the fact that the BT Tower only sways about 25 centimeters (10 inches) during storms with winds of 150 km/h (95 mph)!
7. The BT Tower became an instant success with tourists
Queen Elizabeth II visited the BT Tower on May 17, 1966, and just two days later, the tower was opened to the public in an opening ceremony conducted by two prominent politicians at the time named Tony Benn and Billy Butlin.
The tower, which was obviously heavily advertised as the tallest building in the UK at the time, became an instant success and welcomed almost a million visitors in the first year.
The 34th floor was home to a rotating restaurant called the “Top of the Tower” and about 100,000 people dined here the first year as well, a massive success!
8. It was only open to the public for 15 years
Unfortunately, the success didn’t last and the lease of the restaurant expired in the year 1981. It wasn’t renewed and the restaurant closed, along with the tower which simply seized to be a tourist attraction.
With skyscrapers built in the city that are much taller, such as for example the Shard, and tourist attractions such as the London Eye, it looks doubtful if the revolving restaurant will ever open again.
9. It’s home to the world’s largest LED-based screen
One of the most fascinating facts about the BT Tower is that it was completely renovated in the early 2000s and during this renovation, a lighting system was included to brighten up the London skyline.
The original lighting system only consisted of 7 different color schemes and was replaced by a 360 degrees colored lighting display in October 2009.
This LED-based display is the largest of its kind in the world as it consists of 529,750 LEDs, arranged in 177 vertical strips, and covers an area of 280 square meters (3,000 square feet).
The screen covers both the 36th and 37th floors of the building at a height of 167 meters (548 feet).
10. A miniature of the tower can be seen in Legoland Windsor
To emphasize the fact that the tower is one of the most important landmarks in London, a miniature version has been added to a popular theme park.
You can admire a small version of the BT Tower in Legoland Windsor, a theme park and resort in Windsor, Berkshire, not too far away from Windsor Castle!