thebigtower


mendlesham

 


THE MENDLESHAM TRANSMITTER originally provided Anglia Television's main 405-line VHF service, broadcasting to the East of England on Channel 11 (VHF Band III).

It is currently both a local FM and national DAB radio transmitter and the main Arqiva (ex-NTL Broadcast) engineering team base in East Anglia.

 

TRANSMISSION STRUCTURE

Mendlesham broadcasts from a 305.4 metre (1000-ft) stayed triangular-section lattice mast, the first of seven such structures built for the Independent Television Authority (ITA).  When the Mendlesham station entered service in October 1959, the mast was the tallest structure in Europe.  However, it was ultimately eclipsed in 1965 by what was initially one of its own relays - the 385 metre (1265-ft) cylindrical mast at Belmont.

The Mendlesham mast is secured by fifteen stay lines, which attach to the structure at five points and descend in three directions in sets of five to a total of nine ground anchor blocks.

The six other 305-metre (1000-ft) masts built for the ITA are sited at Arfon, Black Hill, Caldbeck, Durris, Lichfield and Strabane.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mendlesham History

FINDING THE SITE

The East of England was scheduled as the ninth region in the ITV network, with the search for a transmitter site beginning in early 1957.  The station, which would operate on VHF Channel 11, would need to cover all of Norfolk, Suffolk and North Essex, whilst also extending west to Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, and north to Lincolnshire.  In achieving this objective, the ITA had to avoid co-channel interference to the continent and also Chillerton Down's Channel 11 transmissions across Southern England.

The existing BBC Band I station for East Anglia was located at Tacolneston, ten miles south-west of Norwich.  In accordance with the standard procedure, the ITA searched for a site nearby.  However, the BBC still had problems operating Tacolneston at full power, partly because it too was co-channel with its Southern England counterpart (Rowridge), but mainly because of issues with European transmitter interference.  The ITA envisaged similiar problems, especially with the higher power required for Band III.

With ITA engineers now considering a siting non-adjacent to Tacolneston, it was soon apparent that the station would be best placed towards the south-east corner of the projected service area.  This meant signal strength towards the Suffolk and Essex coast could be minimised to around 15kW (e.r.p), reducing the risk of both domestic and continental interference, whilst the longer distance transmissions towards the north and west would be as high as 200kW (e.r.p).  To successfully implement this, an aerial system with highly directional capabilities would be required.

Whilst searching for a location that fulfilled this criteria, the ITA kept all options open by assessing two sites on high ground to the north-west of Wymondham, near the Tacolneston transmitter, whilst also extending the search into West Norfolk.

However, in December 1957, East Suffolk County Council announced they had granted the ITA permission to build a 750ft mast at Brockford Green, site of the disused Mendlesham Airfield, located fifteen miles north-west of Ipswich.  This site was ideally positioned, but the ITA refrained from publicly expressing their preference.  The two sites near Tacolneston, High Oak and Mattishall, were still officially under consideration, as well as a fourth site at Snetterton in West Norfolk.

By April 1958, East Suffolk County Council had approved a revised proposal for Brockford Green (Mendlesham Airfield), which allowed the ITA to build a 1000ft mast.  This entailed moving the station and base point of the structure a further 200ft away from the nearby main road (A140) to facilitate the necessary increase in 'fall-area'.  If the ITA went ahead, the 1000ft structure would be the highest built so far in the UK and Europe.

 

SITE CONFIRMED

In June 1958, having eliminated all other possibilities, the ITA finally announced their East Anglia transmitter was to be a 1000ft mast sited at Brockford Green.  The name chosen for the station was Mendlesham.  Although this name was used also for the former airfield, the decision was still greeted with some objection from the proud residents of Brockford.  However, the ITA once again emphasised their right to choose a name they considered commercially attractive as opposed to geographically accurate.   This was a policy they had adopted from the very beginning with their first two stations at Croydon and Lichfield.

Whilst construction of the site commenced soon after the announcement, work on the mast did not begin until the following April, mainly because delivery of the aerial system was delayed.  However, continuous fine weather enabled the completion of the 1000ft structure and installation of the aerial system within four months.  Initial trade tests took place from 6 August 1959 with testing at full power (200 kW e.r.p) from 5 October 1959.

The Mendlesham transmitter formally entered service at 8.00pm on 27 October 1959 with the ceremonial opening of Anglia Television.

 

VHF RELAYS

Although Mendlesham performed well throughout most of the service area, reception was less than satisfactory in the remote western and northern outskirts.  The ITA addressed this in 1965, with the opening of relays at Sandy Heath (Bedfordshire) and Belmont (Lincolnshire) in July and December respectively.  Both stations were built primarily as future main UHF transmitters, but initially provided the necessary VHF coverage improvement in their respective areas.  

 

UHF AND BEYOND

The switch to UHF in East Anglia from 1967 onwards did not provide a role for Mendlesham as its siting within the region was not suitable for this purpose.  The Norfolk area was to be served by Tacolneston, whilst a new BBC-built station at Sudbury would serve Suffolk and North Essex.  The remaining areas to the west and north were to be covered respectively by Sandy Heath and Belmont.

Mendlesham therefore continued transmitting ITV to East Anglia on VHF-only but it did however become the site of the ITA Colour Control Room (CCR) for East Anglia, commencing operation with the start of ITV UHF-Colour transmissions from Tacolneston on 1 October 1970, only to be absorbed in 1978 (along with three other CCR sites) into the Regional Operation Centre (ROC) based at Croydon.

The ITV 405-line service to East Anglia finally closed on 6 January 1984 and with no other services transmitted at that time, Mendlesham became redundant for broadcast purposes.

However, the station did eventually resume public broadcasting in November 1997, providing the transmission for Independent Local Radio station Vibe FM (now Kiss FM).  Its duties were extended further in December 2001 with the addition of the Digital One DAB services, followed by the BBC National DAB service from 13 July 2010.

The station also remains manned on a fairly regular basis in its capacity as Arqiva's East Anglia Service Centre base.   


 

 

 

 

  Above: The former and present station plates.

 

 

 

 Above: The main Service Centre buildings before the Arqiva rebranding.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Above and below: The rebranded Service Centre, during a period of unattendance.

 

 

 

Above:  One of three sets of five stay-lines.  This group is directed towards the east.


STATION INFORMATION


Location:

Brockford Green, nr Mendlesham, Suffolk

Grid Reference:

TM122641

Landlord:

Arqiva (Legacy: ITA/IBA/NTL Broadcast)

Ground Height:

64m

BBC Region:

N/A

Mast Height:

305.4m

ITV1 Region:

N/A

Aerial Height: (*)

 

 

UHF Tx Number:

N/A


  CURRENT TRANSMISSIONS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Television 

 

 

 

Analogue Radio (FM)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

None - Transmitted from Tacolneston and Sudbury   

 Service:

(MHz)

(e.r.p)

 

 

 

 

Kiss 105-108 FM:

106.4

20kW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Radio

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

BBC National (Block 12B)

 

 

  Digital One (Block 11D)

 

 

 


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