The Post Office Tower - A Communications Icon
...The Sixties: A Brave New World
The Sixties - A Brave New World

The Postmaster General, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, said that the Post Office Tower symbolised 20th - century Britain. Lean, practical and futuristic, it epitomised the technical and architectural skills of the second industrial revolution.

Booklet: The Post Office Tower, London. Two shillings and sixpence.
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The Tower was operationally opened on Friday 8th October 1965 by the Prime Minister (Harold Wilson) making an inaugural telephone call to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham. Mr. Wilson later unveiled a plaque near the foot of the Tower and then rode in a lift to the restaurant floor for a view of  London 540 feet below.
The Royal Visit
The Royal Visit
Her Majesty the Queen visited on 17th May 1966 and took tea with the Postmaster General who presented her with a gold replica of a model of the Tower.

Post Office Magazine: July 1966 price 3d [Anthony Wedgwood Benn and the Queen]
The Public Opening

The Tower was opened to the public on 19th May 1966. A ceremony of invited dignitaries in the morning was followed by the public opening in the afternoon.

The Programme of Opening

The Post Office Tower soars 250 feet above the dome of St. Paul's and is the tallest building in Britain. It is 580 feet high and is surmounted by a 40 foot trellis mast supporting a radar aerial designed to help short range weather forecasting.

It has been built to provide more long distance telephone and television circuits. These are carried on four main microwave radio paths - from London towards Birmingham, Coventry and the North; toward Southampton, Bristol and the West and also for the satellite communication ground station at Goonhilly Downs; toward Dover, Folkestone and the Continent; and toward Norwich and the North-East of England.

Besides its strictly functional use the Tower adds to the itinerary of London's attractions. The public can view the panorama of London from galleries near the top of the Tower. Two lifts, each travelling at 1,000 feet per minute, carry passengers to the three public observation platforms.

In addition there is a public revolving restaurant and cocktail lounge near the summit; the restaurant makes between two and three complete revolutions every hour. Butlin's Holidays Ltd provide the catering at "the top of the tower" restaurant.

11.00 am

  • The Postmaster General Rt. Hon. Anthony Wedgwood Benn MP will speak and invite the Mayor of Camden to be the first visitor.
  •  Sir William E Butlin MBE will respond.
  • The Mayor of Camden will reply for the visitors.
  • The Director of the London Telecommunications Region of the Post Office, Mr. A.B. Harnden TD will close the ceremony.
11.15 am

  • Guests will be invited to go to the top of the tower. Refreshments will be served.

The Tower was opened to the Public at 3pm on 19th May 1966 by Tony Benn and Billy Butlin.

An early film shows two ribbons, the first being cut by Tony Benn (MP) and the second by Billy Butlin who had leased the restaurant.

Extract (DF 899) from The Post Office Circular (Telephone Edition) 17th August 1966

"Enquiries are being made at Post Offices and Telephone Managers' Offices for information about admission to the Post Office Tower. The following details - which should be extracted and kept at public enquiry points - will enable staff to assist members of the public who wish to visit the Tower."

Public entrance Maple Street, LONDON, W1.
Admission charges Adults 4 shillings: Children under 14  2 shillings.
Children under 14 are not admitted
 unless accompanied by an adult.
Hours of admission Mondays to Fridays 9.30 a.m. to 9.30 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays 9.0 a.m. to 9.30 p.m.
Refreshments at the Tower These are limited to lunch and dinner only at
Butlin's Restaurant (Top of the Tower),
to whom applications must be made for reservations.

Note: The BT Tower CLOSED to the public in 1980.


Undoubtedly, the main attraction, the 'Top of the Tower' restaurant, leased to Butlins, could seat 120 diners on the 11 feet wide revolving section which formed part of the 34th floor. A complete revolution took 22 minutes.
topofthetower cog wheel
"Patrons will notice that the emblem of the 'topofthetower' is a cog-wheel and this is carried on the carpet, serviettes, and also on the jackets worn by the waiters. This emblem signifies the single cog-wheel which actually drives the revolving floor and is worked by as little as a two and a half h.p. motor."

In the days when the Post Office was responsible for both the postal and the telephone service, letters collected from the Tower were franked "Posted at the POST OFFICE TOWER".

Books and Films
Book: White Heat Book: Sixties London
White Heat (1964-1970) by Dominic Sandbrook A history of Britain in the Swinging Sixties includes the opening of the Post Office Tower. The term 'White Heat' originates from Harold Wilson's speech at the Labour Party Conference in Scarborough on 1st October 1963... "The Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or for outdated methods on either side of industry". Wilson spoke of a revolution of science of which the Post Office Tower was later cited as a fine example of such technological developments of the period.

Sixties London - Photographs by Dorothy Bohm With texts by Amanda Hopkinson and Ian Jeffrey Contains 17 black & white and 30 colour photos of London in the Sixties. ISBN: 0 85331 699 6
Note: White Heat page 758 reference 5... On the revolving restaurant, see a <> website entirely devoted to the history of the tower.

DVD: Look at Life
DVD: Released in March 2006 Rank Organisation's 'Look at Life' featured dining in style and included a five minute film, 'Eating High', about the Post Office Tower in its heyday. "Enjoy a panoramic view in the revolving restaurant at the Post Office Tower."

Interesting facts: The diners' meals were prepared in the kitchen on the 36th floor and were transported to the 34th floor by mini serving lifts. The wine cellar was located in the basement. A service charge of four shillings (20p) was made to cover travel in the main lifts.

DVD: Smashing Time
DVD: Smashing Time...
Rita Tushingham and Lynn Redgrave - Two girls go stark Mod*! Smashing Time (1967) was a film in which two northern lasses move to Swinging London in the 1960s. The film closes with a sequence at the 'Topofthetower'. Also starred Michael York, Anna Quayle, Irene Handl, Ian Carmichael, Jeremy Lloyd, Toni Palmer and Murray Melvin.

Note: *By 1964, the majority of British youth was split into two factions called Mods and Rockers who each dressed in their own distinctive style.




Dave Harris writes: "I found this browsing some old newspapers. It comes from the Bletchley District Gazette. Yes, of Bletchley Park fame. It brought back memories. I joined eight years later than the advert in 1975. It was then Post Office Telecommunications in Bletchley. I was really the last of the pre-computer engineers. No pagers, no computers and mobiles were huge green caravans. I did 6 courses as a youth and TOIT (Technical Officer In Training) at Bletchley Park. How I long for those old days when people actually enjoyed going to work!"

There is room at the top in the Engineering Division of the GPO
We require from you:-

1- 'O' Level standard in English, Maths, Physics and one other subject so that you may continue your studies to Ordinary National Certificate, Higher National Certificate, Sandwich Course, A.M.I.E.E. or a Degree.

2- A desire to find out about and work with electronic and electro-magnetic systems of communications.

3- Enthusiasm and ambition.

Those leaving school with the foregoing attributes are taken into the Engineering Division between the ages of 16 to 18 1/2 to serve a three-year apprenticeship with salaries at 16 of £327, 17 of £395 and 18 of £441. During each year an apprentice spends 14 weeks at a Technical College, 4 weeks at a G.P.O. Training School and the remainder on practical work in the various departments of the Engineering Division. At 21 an apprentice can be appointed to a Technical Officer on a salary scale of £847-£1,196 with ample opportunities for further promotion right to the top.
Vacancies will shortly occur at Bedford, Bletchley, Hemel Hempstead, Luton and Stevenage. Interviews are conducted during the Easter holidays and successful candidates commence in the following September. Further information can be obtained from: The Telephone Manager, C13/3 Telephone House, Bedford. Telephone No. Bedford 52377.

Bygone Days
Bygone days at the Tower
Step back in telecoms time to the bygone days of the Post Office Tower.

Learn more...

Image: Still from GPO film circa 1966.

"The Post Office Tower London" 32 page booklet priced 'two shillings and sixpence' designed and produced by Holdens Press Bureau Ltd for GPO. Printed by W.S Cowell Ltd, Butter Market, Ipswich.

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