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Photos by Martin Watkins and Peter Bigwood Page last updated: 2021-04-28

Wenvoe - photos from the past

Wenvoe, located a few miles to the south-west of Cardiff, was the site of the first television transmitting station in Wales.

It was opened by the BBC on 15-Aug-52, broadcasting BBC Television on VHF channel 5. On 8-Feb-64, the BBC opened a transmitter for BBC-Wales on ch 13, using a completely separate mast.

Wenvoe has the the most dependant relay stations of any main station in the country. This is because Wenvoe's UHF signals can be difficult to receive along the valleys of South Wales.

As with Sutton Coldfield, the original mast was replaced in the mid-1980s. Work will be done to strengthen and improve the Wenvoe mast in preparation for the new transmitting aerials it will support for the post-DSO digital services.

Many people in the television service area of Wenvoe also have receiving aerials directed towards the Mendip transmitter in Avon so that they can receive Channel 4 and other alternatives to the Welsh services.

This first photo was published in 1963 but probably taken in the 1950s - when the mast was built or soon after. Here the Band I aerials are in pride of place at the very top of the mast though they would later be moved and mounted onto the two blank panels immediately above the the slot aerial used for the horizontally polarised Band II VHF radio transmissions; details of this modification can be found via a link at the bottom of this page.

Radio Times cutting from August 1952.

Initially only the reserve 5 kW (10 kW ERP), transmitter was available. The main 50 kW (100 kW ERP), transmitter went into service on 20-Dec-1952.

The FM services from Wenvoe were originally on a rather eccentric set of frequencies,
as this detail from a BBC Engineering Information sheet shows:

When Wenvoe "VHF Radio" opened there were only the usual three frequencies available, and these were allocated to Home West, Home Welsh, and Light. On 28-Oct-57 a relay for the Third Programme on 94.7 MHz, was put into service on a water tower at Bristol to bring reception to that part of the area. Eventually the (then) out of band allocation of 96.8 MHz was negotiated with the Home Office and the Third moved from Bristol to full power at Wenvoe on 1-Mar-59

Years later this odd frequency arrangement proved fortunate as it allowed North Hessary Tor to relay Radio 3 in stereo by RBL from Wenvoe when the PCM feed was brought to S Wales, something that was not possible for the other in band frequencies.

From 1974 comes a picture form the front of "BBC Engineering" magazine. Details below.

mb21 worked his magic on the photo to produce this enlargement. Lest there be any doubt, this shows the original early 1950s mast on the left (Band I ch 5, Band II, and Band V) whilst on the right we see the slimmer early 1960s mast built specifically for the BBC Wales TV Band III ch 13 transmission. Details of the aerial system used for this BBC Wales service can be found via a link at the bottom of this page.

This photo is taken from the cover of a BBC transmitter guide, shows the old Wenvoe mast and its replacement being constructed alongside in 1985.

Spring 1986; the old Band III mast has gone, to be replaced by a brand new mast, already equipped with its AD&C Crossbows for Band II mixed polarisation. As with Sutton Coldfield/Holme Moss/Wrotham (and Kirk O Shotts) the original masts had been designed in such a way that the cylindrical slot Band II aerial was an integral part of the structure. So at these sites the modifications required years later to change to mixed polarisation were out of the question. The next batch of masts built in the fifties (such as NHT, Tacolneston and Pontop Pike etc) were designed differently, as the Band II slots were formed from quadrant aluminium panels attached round the lattice mast, which continued up through the FM radio aperture. This later design was far more flexible, in that the slotted panels could be removed from the central mast relatively easily, and then replaced with the new mixed polarisation elements.

Detailed view (left mast) showing how the original Band I arrangement was modified when the UHF aerial system was added to the original mast.

Wenvoe mk 1 (229m stayed triangular mast) service dates:

15-Aug 1952 BBC TV VHF channel 5 using the medium power reserve transmitter.

20-Dec-1952 Main high power transmitter in service.

20-Dec-1955 Welsh Home service 94.3 MHz

22-Dec-1956 West Home Service and Light Programme. 92.125 MHz and 89.95 MHz.

1-Mar-1959 Third Programme 96.8 MHz.

8-Dec-1964 BBC 1 VHF channel 5 transferred to new aerial system at 214m.

12-Sep-1965 BBC 2 UHF channel 51.

2-Sep-1967 BBC 2 colour transmissions commence.

4-Apr-1970 BBC 1 UHF channel 44.

6-Apr-1970 ITV UHF channel 41.

Feb 1974 Stereo transmissions commence on BBC FM radio.

1-Nov-1982 S4C launches on UHF channel 47.

Jan-1985 BBC 1, VHF channel 5 closed

1986 UHF TV services transferred to Wenvoe mk 3 mast.

Apr-1987 BBC FM radio services transferred to Wenvoe mk 3 mast.

Wenvoe mk 2 (190.5m stayed triangular mast) service date:

8-Feb-1964 BBC Wales VHF channel 13. Closed 4-Jan-1983.

Wenvoe index

St. Hilary

Wenvoe Band III aerial system for ch 13
The Wenvoe Service Area (Bands I & II)
Modifications to the Band I aerial system in preparation for UHF
The UHF aerial at Wenvoe
What might have been - some alternative sites tested
Wenvoe wins out
BBC Engineering 99 (Aug 1974). Wenvoe feature from page 4

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