pontop pike



THE PONTOP PIKE TRANSMITTER provides the main UHF, BBC National FM and DAB coverage to Newcastle Upon Tyne, County Durham and parts of Northumberland.

It is the primary of three UHF main stations in the north-east region.  The Teeside and North Yorkshire area to the south are served principally by the Bilsdale transmitter, whilst the northerly reaches of Northumberland are the responsibility of the Chatton transmitter.

The station commenced service provisionally on 1 May 1953 as the BBC 405-line VHF Band I television transmitter for England's north-eastern counties.  The Independent Television Authority (ITA) sited their equivalent 405-line (VHF Band III) transmitter at nearby Burnhope, which is now a facility providing transmission for analogue Channel 5 and Independent Local Radio (ILR) on FM Band II.

The Pontop Pike mast, which dates from the opening of the permanent station in November 1955, is the second longest serving on a main transmission site for the purpose of providing continuous television coverage.  It is exceeded only by the mast at Divis which became operational just a few months earlier in July 1955.




UHF Coverage Map

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April 2002


April 2002


May 2008


May 2008


May 2008


The North-East/Tyne Tees region was the last on the UK mainland to complete Digital Switchover with the respective Stage 1 and 2 processes taking place simultaneously at Pontop Pike, Bilsdale and Chatton (plus their associated relays) rather than being rolled out on staggered dates as necessitated elsewhere.

Stage 1 (DSO1) took place on 12 September 2012 and Stage 2 (DSO2) on 26 September 2012.

Based on the status of engineering activity as of late-April 2011 (when the site was last photgraphed), Pontop Pike is seemingly retaining the original GRP cylinder at the top of the structure that houses the main UHF aerial system.  This also appears to be the case at Bilsdale and Chatton based again on the position as of April 2011, making the north-east the only region where none of the main transmission masts have undergone full removal and replacement of the main UHF aerial system and cylinder.

The reserve UHF provision at Pontop Pike is a six-tier installation which has been fitted just below the DAB aerial system.

See the Aerials page for two new images featuring the reserve installation.




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Site Building and Plates

 Both images from April 2011 (added Mar 2012)


 Updated March 2012



Pontop Pike History

405-Line Television

In August 1952, the BBC completed Phase 1 of their 405-line transmitter network with the opening of the last of their initial five national Band I stations at Wenvoe, near Cardiff.  Phase 2 of the network was to be based on smaller 'medium-power' stations intended to fill in the most significant coverage gaps.  The chosen area for the first of these stations was the North-East of England, a vastly industrial as well as agricultural region which had somewhat crucially fallen beyond the range of the high power transmitter at Holme Moss.

Nevertheless, the north-east seemed a surprise first choice for a medium-power station, especially for those who anticipated the affluent and densely populated South of England as the first recipient.  In the event, the south would have to wait until November 1954 for the opening of their station at Rowridge.  Meanwhile, efforts focused on establishing the north-eastern station (and also a temporary station for Northern Ireland) in time for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth on 2 June 1953.

The location chosen for the north-eastern transmitter was Pontop Pike, a site of fairly urban surroundings 1000ft above sea level, located just north of Consett and ten miles south-west of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.  The BBC were already familiar with this locality as they had since March 1952 used a nearby Post Office relay station that formed part of the forwarding chain from Holme Moss to the Kirk o'Shotts transmitter in North Lanarkshire.

Initial work on establishing the broadcast transmitter at Pontop Pike commenced in December 1952 and was typically delayed in the coming months by extreme winter weather.  However, March 1953 saw the completion of the temporary 285ft stayed-mast (the top 50ft comprising the aerial system) and the arrival from London of the temporary transmitters which were to be housed in BBC Outside Broadcast units.

After a week of test transmission commencing 24 April, Pontop Pike began regular broadcasts on 1 May 1953, along with the temporary Northern Ireland station at Glencairn (replaced later by Divis).  Transmissions from Pontop Pike were on VHF Channel 5 and initially at reduced power, but were sufficient enough to provide adequate coverage for Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and most of County Durham.

After the successful opening, work progressed on completion of the permanent station buildings and 442ft (135m) stayed mast. These facilities finally came on-line from 16 November 1955, enabling the station to deliver its maximum intended output of 17kW (vision e.r.p). This extended the transmission range to include Teeside and much of Northumbria.  The increased power also caused problems with swamping in areas close to the transmitter but these were resolved with the installation of attenuators on the receiving aerials.

Other 'medium-power' BBC 405-line transmitters to be established included Blaenplwyf (October 1956), Divis (July 1955), Meldrum (October 1955), North Hessary Tor (December 1954), Rowridge (November 1954), Sandale (October 1956) and Tacolneston (February 1955).


VHF Radio

Regular transmissions of the BBCs Home, Light and Third radio programme services on Band II FM began 20 December 1955, quickly following the opening of the permanent station and mast.


UHF 625-line Television

Pontop Pike was chosen to carry UHF transmission in preference to the adjacent ITA transmitter at Burnhope, principally because it could offer virtually the same aerial height (around 1450ft/442m above sea level) as its nearby counterpart, but with the benefit of a shorter mast which was more suitable for carrying the heavier UHF aerial system.

The first regular 625-line UHF transmissions were BBC2 on Channel 64, which commenced on 5 November 1966.

BBC1 & ITV UHF transmitters (Channels 58 & 61 respectively) both entered programme service in July 1970.  The last analogue UHF transmitter to enter service was Channel 4 from November 1982, broadcasting on Channel 54.

Aerials>  Site & Station Plates>  Supersize Images>  UHF Coverage Map  BBC Crest



Pontop Pike, Consett, County Durham, DH9 9AT

Grid Reference:



Arqiva (Legacy: BBC/Crown Castle/NGW)

Ground Height:


BBC1 Region:

North East & Cumbria

Mast Height:


ITV1 Region:

Tyne Tees and Border

Aerial Height: (*)



UHF Tx Number:


(*) Average UHF aerial height above sea level (a.o.d)   




Digital Television




Analogue Radio (FM)











: Ch/Polarisation/e.r.p







: 58 / H / 100kW 



BBC Radio 1:




: 54 / H / 100kW 



BBC Radio 2:




: 49 / H / 100kW 



BBC Radio 3:




: 50 / H / 50kW 



BBC Radio 4:




: 59 / H / 50kW

BBC Radio Newcastle:




: 55 / H / 50kW



Classis FM:














Digital Radio










BBC National (Block 12B)





Digital One (Block 11D)









(Shutdown completed 26 September 2012)

Analogue Television 




Digital Television



















: 58 / H / 500kW






: 48 / H / 10kW


: 64 / H / 500kW  






: 55 / H / 10kW


: 61 / H / 500kW 






: 59 / H / 10kW


: 54 / H / 500kW






: 62 / H / 10kW


: No Service - transmitted from Burnhope 




: 65 / H / 10kW






: 53 / H / 10kW










Bilsdale    Burnhope    Chatton


Pontop Pike Transmitter @ A.T.V (Aerials and Television)


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