The Shard Is Nowhere Near The UK's Tallest Structure

By M@ Last edited 79 months ago
The Shard Is Nowhere Near The UK's Tallest Structure

The Shard is, without argument, the tallest building in London. You might assume that it's the tallest structure in the country. But it's not. Not by a long chalk.

As this handy list shows, the Shard barely scrapes into the top 10. Nine communications masts around the country are taller.

The Shard stands 309.6m to its tip, making it the tallest building in the UK. But there's a difference between buildings and structures. Buildings have to have habitable floors that you can stand upon and make little cooing noises at the view. Structures, on the other hand, do not need floors. Examples include obelisks, chimneys and — most lofty of all — communications masts.

The UK's tallest structure is the Skelton Mast in Cumbria. It is 365m high. That's like perching Nelson's Column on top of the Shard, though much less photogenic.

The Skelton Mast in all its unmemorable glory. Image by Michael Whitfield under Creative Commons licence.

Even that pales in comparison to the former record holder. The Belmont Mast in Lincolnshire once stood 387.7m tall — higher than the roof (though not the spire) of New York's Empire State Building. This was not only the tallest structure ever built in the UK, but also the loftiest mast of its type anywhere in the world. It has since been reduced to around 352m, which is still much taller than the Shard.

Both these masts are guyed — that is, held in place like a tent pole, with strong steel cables to the ground. Does this mean that the Shard can claim to be the country's tallest freestanding structure. Nope. That accolade belongs to the bewitching Emley Moor transmitter in West Yorkshire. At 330.4 metres, it trounces the Johnny-come-lately in Southwark.

Emley Moor mast. Image by Chris Charlesworth under Creative Commons licence.

While we're on the topic, it's often claimed that the Shard is Europe's tallest building. That's what you'll be told by the View From The Shard. Here's a screengrab...

It's a fib. Moscow has three towers that are taller. The text should say 'the EU's tallest building' or, with Brexit in mind, 'Western Europe's tallest building'. Then again, making up alternative facts is all the rage at the moment, so we can't blame England's 10th tallest structure for overstating its prominence.

Last Updated 24 February 2017