chillerton down



THE CHILLERTON DOWN TRANSMITTER broadcasts Independent Local Radio (ILR) on FM and two groups of DAB services across the Isle of Wight and the mainland's southern coastal counties.  It was originally the primary site for Independent Television VHF 405-line transmissions across the South of England.

It is located in a highly prominent position on the Isle of Wight towards the centre-south of the island.  The mast can be seen across much of the Isle of Wight and (in clear conditions) from the mainland, unlike the adjacent main UHF transmitter mast at Rowridge which is on a more reclusive and lower elevated site three miles to the north-west.

The station's transmitting structure is a 229 metre (750-ft) triangular cross-section lattice mast which is held in place by fifteen stay lines secured at ground level by nine anchoring blocks.  











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Chillerton Down was built by the Independent Television Authority (ITA) to provide Independent Television (ITV) coverage to Central Southern England on 405-line VHF Band III.  This was the seventh ITV transmitter to come into operation and followed the opening of the St Hilary station (serving South Wales and the West) in January 1958.

Having rolled out their previous transmitters in the same geographic order as the BBC, Chillerton Down represented the first deviation from this practice by the ITA, but only because the BBC had at the equivalent stage of their national roll-out decided to defer their southern area transmitter at Rowridge in favour of stations in North-East England (Pontop Pike) and Northern Ireland (see Divis), albeit influenced by events and associated political pressure at the time.

For the purpose of commercial broadcasting however, the south of England was obviously a higher priority for the ITA due to the area's greater population density and affluence.  


By choosing to site their station close to Rowridge on the Isle of Wight, the ITA adhered to the established practice of locating their transmitter near the existing BBC Band I installation.  However, some initial opposition to the use of Chillerton Down for this purpose led to a proposal to co-site the ITA transmitter at Rowridge requiring the construction on that site of a higher mast capable of supporting aerial systems for Bands I-III.  

In the end, the proposal for the ITA station at Chillerton Down was accepted but on the basis of the authority constructing a 750-ft mast of 'slim-line' design which would minimise visual intrusion on the landscape.  This was considered a far more diserable option than the proposed new mast at Rowridge which, by virtue of lower site elevation, would possibly have produced the first of the ITA's 1000-ft structures.  The use of the slim-line mast at Chillerton Down did however effectively rule out straight away the possibility of the station carrying the future UHF transmissions.


Chillerton Down came into regular operation on 30 August 1958 when ITV was formally launched in the south of England region, with the programme service provided by Southampton-based Southern Television.  Transmissions were on VHF Channel 11 at a peak output of 100kW vision e.r.p, which easily spanned the projected mainland coverage area comprising Hampshire, South & East Dorset, South & East Wiltshire, most of West Sussex and on the far northern fringe some parts of Surrey.  At the same time, the directional nature of the aerial system minimised signal strength towards the south thereby negating the risk of interference to overseas stations.


From 31 January 1960, the service area of Southern Television was extended to East Sussex and Kent with the opening of the new ITA main transmitter at Dover.  A further station came into operation in August 1970 to fill a void in coverage from the two existing main stations.  Located at Newhaven in East Sussex, its opening marked the completion of the ITV 405-line network both in Southern England and nationwide.

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The switch to UHF transmission together with the associated concept of co-sited BBC and ITA transmitters began in the Southern England region on 15 January 1966 with the start of BBC2.  With Chillerton Down unable to support the heavier UHF aerial systems on its slim-line mast, Rowridge was the designated UHF main station for the area.  This was to be the first of several instances of a much shorter BBC mast carrying UHF in preference to the taller adjacent ITA mast based predominantly on strength issues.

(See also Burnhope/Pontop Pike, Divis/Black Mountain and Rosemarkie/Mounteagle)

The ITV UHF-Colour transmitter at Rowridge came into operation on 13 December 1969 under the second stage of ITV UHF roll-out.  To remotely service this transmitter (and those based at the subsequent UHF main stations at Hannington and Midhurst, together with all associated relays) the ITA installed at Chillerton Down one of their fourteen regional Colour Control Rooms (CCRs).  The south-east part of the region would be serviced by the CCR at Dover, that station also upgrading to UHF transmission for ITV from the same date as Rowridge.

With advances in technology however, all fourteen CCR operations were eventually converged into just four Regional Operation Centres (ROCs) with both Chillerton Down and Dover being absorbed by the first of these at Croydon in 1978.


For its final years as a television transmitter, Chillerton Down was associated with a different regional ITV company, following the surprise (and somewhat controversial) loss of the south and south-eastern ITV franchise by Southern Television to Television South (TVS) from 1 January 1982.

This association would last until January 1985 when Chillerton Down ceased 405-line transmission along with the remaining VHF television transmitters.  After then, the station's only television-broadcast-related function was to provide an off-air (RBL) feed for ITV and Channel 4 to the Channel Islands as an alternative to that provided by the Stockland Hill transmitter in Devon.  This arrangement however has now been superceded by alternative sources not involving either mainland station.   

Under the ownership of NTL (1991-2005) and now Arqiva, in addition to the current FM/DAB broadcast duties, Chillerton Down now operates (along with all other ex-ITV 405-line main stations) as a Regional Service Centre.   However, as with all other stations designated as such, routine manning has been scaled back under Arqiva ownership.




Chillerton Down, Chillerton, Isle of Wight

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Analogue Television 




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None - Transmitted from Rowridge   








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None - Transmitted from Rowridge     

Digital One (Block 11C)



South Hampshire (Block 11D)




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