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Rowridge TimeLine


12 Nov 1954


Rowridge BBC 405-line transmitter enters programme service, broadcasting on VHF Channel 3 and initially at reduced power from a temporary 200ft tower.  (See 'The Opening of Rowridge' below)





16 June 1956


The temporary 200ft tower is replaced by the permanent 450ft stayed mast.  (See 'The Opening of Rowridge' below).  





30 Aug 1958


The Independent Television Authority (ITA) transmitter at Chillerton Down enters service.  It is positioned three miles south-east of Rowridge, thereby adhering to the principle of siting ITA transmitters close to those of the BBC.

Aerial height at Chillerton Down is 400ft greater than Rowridge due to its 750ft mast and higher ground elevation.









15 Jan 1966


First 625-line transmissions from Rowridge - BBC2 on UHF Channel 24.  The station carries UHF in preference to Chillerton Down despite a much lower aerial height, as the latter is unable to support UHF aerial systems on its mast.





1 July 1967


First BBC2 colour transmissions from Rowridge and five other transmitter sites. (Crystal Palace, Sutton Coldfield, Winter Hill, Emley Moor and Belmont)  




13 Dec 1969


ITV (Southern Television) begin 625-line colour transmissions from Rowridge on UHF Channel 27.  ITV 625-line transmitter at Dover enters service the same day.  





27 Dec 1969


BBC1 begins 625-line colour transmission from Rowridge on UHF Channel 31.


4 Dec 1982


Channel 4 is launched.  Transmissions from Rowridge begin on UHF Channel 21.




3 Jan 1985


405-line Television closes.  BBC1 transmissions from Rowridge on VHF Channel 3 cease.




July 2010


Construction of the new 187 metre mast commences.  The new structure is required to support UHF aerials specified for Digital Switchover.




7 Mar 2012


Stage 1 of Digital Switchover commences as BBC2 analogue ceases transmission on Channel 24 from the old mast and new digital multiplex PSB1 commences transmission on Channel 24 from the new mast.




21 Mar 2012


Stage 2 of Digital Switchover is completed with all remaining analogue transmissions from the old mast shut down and replaced by new digital multiplexes on the new mast.  Hereonafter, the old mast continues with radio transmission only.




June 2015


With all remaining radio services now transferred to the new mast, removal of the old mast commences.  The work is completed by early autumn.





 The Opening of Rowridge

In August 1952, the BBC completed the first phase of their VHF Band I television transmitter network by opening the Wenvoe station, near Cardiff.  This was the fourth and last of the so-called 'national high-power' transmitters that followed Alexandra Palace into service and typically served between 4 and 11 million people across large geographic areas that encompassed most of the UKs main provincial cities.

Phase Two of coverage expansion was to be based on smaller 'medium-power' transmitters, designed to provide coverage to smaller (but nevertheless significant) geographic regions not served by the initial five stations.

Towards the end of 1952, pressure was coming from all un-served corners of the country for regional television transmitters to be implemented in time for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953.  The obvious choice for the first medium-power station appeared to be the South of England.  The region spanned the coastal counties of West Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset, as well as parts of Somerset, Wiltshire, Berkshire and Surrey.  This offered a potential 2 million extra viewers in some of the most affluent areas of the country.  Based on this, a station for the region was expected by Spring 1953, with the Isle of Wight rumoured as a probable location.  

However, to the surprise of many, resources were instead directed towards developing a transmitter for the north-eastern counties at Pontop Pike (County Durham), as well as a temporary station for Northern Ireland at Glencairn (County Antrim). Both of these stations entered service on 1 May 1953, with the latter replaced by the Divis transmitter in July 1955.

Meanwhile, back in Southern England, the BBC installed a temporary mobile transmitter at Trueleigh Hill, located on the South Downs Way, near Shoreham-By-Sea, West Sussex.  The transmitter was allocated VHF Channel 3, the frequency scheduled for the anticipated Isle of Wight station.  Entering service on 9 May 1953, the transmitter boosted weak signals from Alexandra Palace in London.  However, coverage was confined to a relatively small area around Brighton and the East/West Sussex border.

Not surprisingly, Truleigh Hill provided little or no comfort outside its limited coverage range, especially on Coronation Day. However, it was around this time the BBC confirmed a siting for the Isle of Wight transmitter.  The location was Rowridge Farm, a remote area of high ground towards the north-west side of the island, between Calbourne and Newport.

The BBC gave a typically optimistic estimate of 9 months to 1 year for completion of the new station.  In the event, 18 months were required but this was to enable completion of a permanent site.  This gave Rowridge a key advantage over the Pontop Pike station, which at this time was still broadcasting from improvised transmitters stored in Outside Broadcast Units.  Rowridge would, however, have to operate initially from a temporary mast.   

With permanent site buildings ready, BBC engineers were able to install and test both main and standby transmitters in time for the station opening.  The main transmitters had a maximum power of 5kw/2kw (vision/sound respectively), although the latter would operate at a maximum 1.25kw to maintain the standard vision to sound ratio of 4:1.  The reserve transmitters provided a maximum 500w/125w (vision/sound respectively).

The initial transmitting structure was a 200ft (60m) tower, which would be replaced in due course by a 450ft (135m) stayed mast. Programmes would be fed off-air to Rowridge on a one-way link from Alexandra Palace, via a Post Office microwave station at Alton in North Hampshire.  In the event of this link failing, Rowridge could receive emergency feed from Wenvoe via aerials fitted at the top of the 200ft tower.  The one-way link from Alexandra Palace would later be replaced by a two-way arrangement, enabling outside broadcasts from the south to be fed via Rowridge back to London.

With only a temporary mast in place, the station would have to operate initially at 50% power, with a consequential halving of the intended 40 mile coverage radius.  Test transmissions commenced on 18 October 1954 and results showed satisfactory reception throughout the initial 20 mile radius.  Reception was however still weak around the area covered by the temporary transmitter at Truleigh Hill, forcing the BBC to keep the station running until at least the completion of the permanent mast at Rowridge.  This required switching transmissions from Truleigh Hill to VHF Channel 2.  

The Rowridge transmitter entered full programme service on 12 November 1954, with the opening ceremony performed from Southampton Civic Hall by the Duke of Wellington.

With the station now in regular service, the focus was on constructing the permanent mast, which would take a further 18 months to complete.  By late Spring 1956, the 450ft mast was operational and broadcasting test transmissions.  Although these proved successful throughout most of the service area, there was still a weakness in the far eastern sector of the region - the area served by Truleigh Hill.  This forced the BBC to give the temporary transmitter a further stay of execution.

The continued need for Truleigh Hill caused disappointment not only for BBC engineers at Rowridge, but also for viewers in the Cardigan Bay area of Wales.  The development of their own station at Blaenplwyf was being delayed and it had been rumoured that they would acquire the Truleigh Hill transmitter as an interim measure.

The permanent 450ft (135m) mast at Rowridge entered full programme service on 16 June 1956.  The Truleigh Hill transmitter remained in service until 5 August 1959, when it was replaced by a permanent relay on Whitehawk Hill, Brighton, which continues in service today as a UHF relay of Rowridge.

Truleigh Hill, meanwhile, is now the site of a permanent base station for mobile communication and other services.



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