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Photos by Alexander Heath, David Foord and Sean Cooper Page last updated: 2020-06-19

Earlier Photos

It's pronounced "tackle-stun" and, situated a few miles to the southwest of Norwich, in Norfolk the site forms the hub of television and radio services to East Anglia.

Originally built by the BBC in the mid 1950s, Tacolneston was planned at a time when it was thought that Band III would be made available for BBC use to supplement their coverage of 405 line TV. In fact the European Broadcasting Conference, Stockholm 1952, allocated channel 13 at 50kW with vertical polarisation for the Norfolk station, but this plan was quashed by the arrival of ITV, and the BBC had to shoehorn Tacolneston into the existing network of Band I transmitters.

As a result channel 3 was chosen as the "least awful" option, but even this had to be negotiated bilaterally with the Belgians to avoid interference between Tacolneston and a station at Liege. In addition care had to be taken to protect the eastern fringes of Rowridge's service area, also using ch 3.

Full details can be found in a BBC R&D paper linked from the bottom of this page. 405-line BBC TV went into service at low power on 1st February 1955. On 9th June 1958, the ERP was finally increased to maximum planned, at that time. 18 kW.

The original two tiers of two batwings each facing northeast and northwest, were replaced by a system of dipoles mounted on a 1.98m diameter cylinder. Six tiers of dipoles facing northwest, four tiers facing both northeast and southwest, but none facing southeast towards the Suffolk coast and Belgium. This new aerial system gave an increased ERP of 45 kW and was brought into use on 4th December 1961. Similar modifications were also carried out at the co-channel Rowridge site, which also had an ERP increase to 100 kW at the same time. 405-line BBC 1 closed in January 1984.

BBC FM radio transmissions began on a trial basis, at reduced power, from December 22nd 1956, especially to allow East Anglia to enjoy VHF radio over Christmas. The Light Programme was not available during this test phase, and warnings were given in the local press that the service might occasionally be interrupted due to engineering work, but the BBC's new studios in Norwich were able to begin providing regular VHF opts on the Midlands Home Service from February 1957. The timing of Tacolneston offering a full service on VHF - 6.35pm on Tuesday 30th April 1957 - exactly matches BBC East's weekly Tuesday night 6.35pm opt.

Radio's 2 & 3 were converted to stereo on 19th March 1976 by means of a rebroadcast link from Wrotham, via Sudbury. Radio 4 was converted to stereo when the PCM feed arrived in December 1980. Conversion to mixed polarisation was in June 1986. Radio 1 was added on 19th December 1989. Classic FM was available from the launch on 7th September 1992, and shares the same aerial as the BBC national services.

Radio Norfolk launched on 11th September 1980. The service was transferred to Stoke Holy Cross in December 1999.

The site became a main UHF station when BBC 2 went into service on 9th September 1967. The original UHF aerial is described in a BBC paper also linked from the foot of this page. ITV was added on 1st October 1970 and BBC 1 from 3rd October 1970. Channel 4 was available from the start on 2nd November 1982.

Analogue Channel 5 was transmitted from this site from the launch on 30th March 1997, at very low power from an aerial only 2/3rds up the mast (97m), and directional to the north and west only. It barely served Norwich at all! (Norwich Central had its own Norwich Central relay for Ch5).

Major work was done in the summer of 2000, to replace the old UHF cylinder and spine with a new combined aerial system for analogue and DTT. DTT launched in the autumn of that year.

DAB service dates are: Digital One, 18th July 2002, BBC, 21st November 2003.

DSO was on the 9th and 23rd November 2011.

In our first photo we see the original cylinder and the derrick being hoisted into place...

The derrick is now in place and the new spine and panels are being hoisted...

Also, the Ch 5 UHF panels can just be seen on the right of this picture.

Our next set of photos come from Sean Cooper:

Top half of the UHF aerial (151m), analogue channels 1 - 4, lower half (145m), pre DSO DTT.

Above: we see that the band II log periodics previously used for BBC R Norfolk have now been removed.

Tacolneston index

The Service Area of the Norwich Band I TV transmitter
The original UHF aerial at Tacolneston

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