Happy Birthday BT Tower

By londonist_alex2 Last edited 152 months ago
Happy Birthday BT Tower

The BT Tower is 40 years old today! Staff at the tower are marking the celebration with a party , so if we hear of a rash of fatalities in the West End caused by vol-au-vents thrown from 620ft above ground level, we'll know that things have got out of hand.

It seems to us that the Tower, formerly known as the Post Office Tower, is one of those structures that we can always see, but are never quite sure where it actually is. Which is no surprise, because apparently we're not supposed to know it's there. According to the chaps at urban75 , it's actually a secret...

Despite the BT Tower being one of most recognisable and conspicuous buildings in London, it was classed as an 'official secret' until fairly recently, and taking or possessing photos of the BT/Post Office Tower was technically an offence under the Official Secrets Act!

Crazy. Here's some more facts....

* Costing £2 million to construct, the 189m (620ft) cylindrical tall tower is made from 13,000 tonnes of concrete, steel and glass, and at the time of opening was the tallest building in London. It's shape was designed to reduce wind resistance and gave it stability and style.

* Entry to the building is provided exclusively by two internal high-speed lifts that travel at six metres a second (22 km/h), taking 30 seconds to reach the top, making Telecom Tower the only building in the country which is allowed to be evacuated by lift (an oddity which required Parliamentary legislation to be passed).

* Large portions of the Doctor Who serial The War Machines was set in the Tower and it was toppled over and later eaten by Twinkle the giant kitten in The Goodies episode Kitten Kong. The poor thing is also destroyed through sabotage in the Alan Moore graphic novel (soon to be a movie) V for Vendetta.

And some links.....

* a general lowdown from wikipedia

* more facts, history and some great photos at urban75

* an article by Jonathan Glancey on the Tower's appeal

And finally a question. Our memory might be deceiving us, but we're sure that Buzby was supposed to live there. Is that right?

Last Updated 07 October 2005


My housemate is obsessed with the tower.

He got the chance to go up there earlier this year, after dreaming of it for 27 years.

His pictures are here:


You forget to mention that there used to be a revolving restaurant at the top of the tower which was closed for security reason (IRA bombings). It would be nice if they reopened it!


The 1967 Swinging London movie "Smashing Time" has as its climax a party in the revolving restaurant that was then atop the tower. The thing starts spinning out of control and our heroines Lynn Redgrave and Rita Tushingham are embroiled in something like a food fight. Good fun.


just to mention, the tower is located at the corner of charlotte street and howland street (well i suppose the block its on is technically fitzroy street, but oh well). i used to live in UCL halls across the road from it, making it a handy landmark when i was lost

Peter Eyres

an fantastic iconic building that has stood the test of time.


No, Buzby never lived there. He lived at the top of a telephone pole. (or was it with Maureen Lipman?)

The bomb (1971) was claimed by the Angry Brigade, but I notice a lot of web pages say that no one claimed responsibility. At one point on a walk round the aerial galleries, the missing walkway under where the bomb went off has been replaced by a steel mesh... you look down between your feet straight down to the ground ~450ft below!

The observation gallery (where the bomb went off) was closed to the public, but the restaurant stayed open for many years until the lease with Bultins ran out.