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Winter Hill transmitting station

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Winter Hill
Winter Hill is located in North West of England
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown in North West England
Winter Hill is located in Lancashire
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown in Lancashire
Winter Hill is located in Greater Manchester
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown near Greater Manchester
Winter Hill is located in the Borough of Chorley
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown in Chorley Borough
Winter Hill is located in Blackburn with Darwen
Winter Hill
Winter Hill
Shown near Blackburn with Darwen
Mast height309.48 metres (1,015.4 ft)
Coordinates53°37′32″N 2°30′53″W / 53.625556°N 2.514722°W / 53.625556; -2.514722
Grid referenceSD660145
BBC regionBBC North West
ITV regionITV Granada
Local TV serviceBay TV Liverpool
That's Lancashire
That's Manchester

The Winter Hill transmitting station is a broadcasting and telecommunications site on Winter Hill, at the southern boundary of the Borough of Chorley, Lancashire and above Bolton. It is owned and operated by Arqiva.


The original mast at Winter Hill was a 140-metre (450 ft) tower that came into service on 3 May 1956, and carried the programmes of Granada Television (weekdays) and ABC Weekend Television. In 1966 services were transferred to a new higher mast erected adjacent to the original tower. The main mast structure is 309.48 metres (1,015.4 ft) tall and has a diameter of 2.75 metres (9.0 ft). During the period of parallel digital and analogue transmissions, the DTT antenna attached to the top of the mast brought the overall height to 315.4 metres (1,035 ft),[1] however as part of the Digital Switchover plans, this antenna has now been removed, reducing its overall height to 309.48 metres (1,015.4 ft).[1] It is one of the tallest structures in the United Kingdom, the tallest being Skelton mast ; however, at 778.1 metres (2,553 ft) above sea level, Winter Hill has the highest television transmitting antenna in the United Kingdom and is higher than Gragareth, the highest hill in Lancashire.


A view of the mast from beneath, illustrating the tubular structure
A view of the mast from beneath, illustrating the tubular structure

Unlike most masts, which are of a lattice design, Winter Hill mast is of a tubular construction. Five other masts in England share this design (Belmont, Bilsdale, Mendip, Waltham and the original ill-fated structure at Emley Moor).

Support wires, to hold the mast vertical, are pitched at 120° when viewed from above. These are connected at 5 heights, giving 15 supports in total. In recent years, these wires have been strengthened, and 152 metric tons (150 long tons) of dampening chains have been fitted by Arqiva (then NTL Broadcast) to reduce the oscillations caused by high winds that were a factor in the collapse of Emley Moor's original structure in 1969. During 2007 - 2009, the mast was strengthened to allow the installation of the new heavier digital transmission aerials.[2] Its ropes weigh 85 tons, made by British Ropes, with steel from Steel, Peech and Tozer of Templeborough in southern Yorkshire. The column weighs 210 tons and has 375 segments, with steel from United Steel Companies at Scunthorpe in northern Lincolnshire.[3]


An advantage of the tubular design is that engineers can ascend the inside the mast and avoid adverse weather, which is a problem on frame structures. Maintaining the outside of the mast is typically performed using a bosun's chair.

The mast has always had a series of red aircraft warning lights but in October 2006 these lights were substantially brightened making the mast far more visible to passing aircraft. These lights can be maintained from the inside, as the lamps swing inwards for maintenance.

Eight external platforms encircle the mast along its height. These can be accessed from the inside of the mast, and are used to maintain the supporting wires, and the ILR antennas.


The station's coverage includes approximately 6.3 million people. The coverage area is mainly southern Lancashire and Cheshire. Relay Transmitters are needed around eastern Manchester, northern Lancashire and the Wirral peninsula. The transmitter also covers the North Wales coastal areas and although not the 'correct' television region, it is the preferred region for some in North Wales, mainly because it carries Channel 4 (as opposed to S4C, however since digital switchover Channel 4 is also available on all Welsh transmitters), Channel 5 and a much more powerful[quantify] digital terrestrial output than the Welsh transmitters. The region's ITV franchisees, Granada Television (weekdays only until 1968) and ABC Television (Associated British Corporation) weekends (launched in 1956), were on air much earlier than North Wales' franchisee, WWN (Teledu Cymru) which launched in 1962 (subsequently HTV Wales) giving viewers more choice than they would with the Welsh transmissions. ABC Television lost its franchise in 1968, when Granada Television commenced broadcasting seven days a week. Since the digital switchover, the Welsh transmitters are broadcasting DTT at a much higher power and Channel 4, and Channel 5 are now included in the line-up. However, because of terrain and rough landscapes of North Wales, many will find it easier to stay with Winter Hill (as small local relays will only broadcast a limited range of the digital channels).


High resolution vertical panorama of the main mast
High resolution vertical panorama of the main mast



Winter Hill is the principal transmitter for the Granada region and in 2009 it became the first in the UK to broadcast digital television in high definition.[4][5]

Winter Hill's 700MHz clearance will end on 10 February 2020 when, somewhat surprisingly, Winter Hill will become an A group (excluding MUX 7 which are due to be switched off before the end of 2020 anyway). Because the A group is the opposite end of the band from Winter Hill's C/D, people with original C/D group aerials in poor signal areas may struggle to pick up the signal (see Winter Hill graph).

Only four of the 70 Winter Hill relays broadcast six digital multiplexes (Lancaster, Saddleworth, Pendle Forest and Storeton). All the others broadcast just the three public service multiplexes BBC A, BBC B and D3&4. Winter Hill also broadcasts a Manchester multiplex on Channel 27[citation needed].

Present channels

These were moved around until February 2020 due to the 700MHz clearance.

Frequency UHF kW Operator System
474.000 MHz 21 3 LTVmux (Liverpool) DVB-T
498.000 MHz 24 2 LTVmux (Manchester) DVB-T
522.000 MHz 27 1 GImux (G_MAN) DVB-T
538.000 MHz 29 100 COM4 (SDN) DVB-T
554.000 MHz 31 100 COM5 (ARQ A) DVB-T
562.000 MHz 32 100 PSB1 (BBC A) DVB-T
578.000 MHz 34 100 PSB2 (D3&4) DVB-T
585.833 MHz 35- 100 PSB3 (BBC B) DVB-T2
602.000 MHz 37 100 COM6 (ARQ B) DVB-T
626.000 MHz 40 4 LTVmux (Preston) DVB-T
746.000 MHz 55 23 COM7 (ARQ C) DVB-T2
Before switchover
Frequency UHF kW Operator
754.166 MHz 56+ 10 BBC (Mux 1)
786.166 MHz 60+ 10 Arqiva (Mux C)
810.166 MHz 63+ 10 Arqiva (Mux D)
834.166 MHz 66+ 10 Digital 3&4 (Mux 2)
842.166 MHz 67+ 10 BBC (Mux B)
850.166 MHz 68+ 10 SDN (Mux A)


Analogue television transmissions from Winter Hill ceased officially during the early hours of 2 December 2009. Since then the site has carried only digital terrestrial television transmissions.

Frequency UHF kW Service
615.25 MHz 39 Channel M
687.25 MHz 48 12.5 Channel 5
743.25 MHz 55 500 BBC One
775.25 MHz 59 500 ITV Granada
799.25 MHz 62 500 BBC Two
823.25 MHz 65 500 Channel 4

Digital television

The following is a list of the television relays served by Winter Hill, including UHF channels for each multiplex it carries. Only Lancaster, Pendle Forest, Saddleworth and Storeton carry all the main 6 multiplexes and have done so since 1998 when Winter Hill also started broadcasting these channels. Before 2009, the Cornholme, Lydgate, Todmorden, Walsden and Walsden South transmitters in West Yorkshire also relayed signals from Winter Hill, until this was changed to relay Emley Moor in 2009.

Transmitter BBC A D3&4 BBC B SDN ARQA ARQB
Austwick 45 39 42 N/A N/A N/A
Backbarrow 53 60 57 N/A N/A N/A
Bacup 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Barrow Town Hall 44 41 47 N/A N/A N/A
Birch Vale 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Blackburn 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Bollington 27 24 21 N/A N/A N/A
Brinscall 21 24 27 N/A N/A N/A
Broadbottom 45 42 39 N/A N/A N/A
Brook Bottom 53 60 57 N/A N/A N/A
Burbage 47 41 44 N/A N/A N/A
Buxton 27 24 21 N/A N/A N/A
Cartmel 28 25 22 N/A N/A N/A
Chaigley 27 24 21 N/A N/A N/A
Chatburn 26 23 29 N/A N/A N/A
Chinley 53 60 57 N/A N/A N/A
Congleton 44 41 47 N/A N/A N/A
Dalton 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Darwen 45 39 42 N/A N/A N/A
Delph 26 23 29 N/A N/A N/A
Dog Hill 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Elton 27 24 21 N/A N/A N/A
Far Highfield 52 56 48 N/A N/A N/A
Glossop 28 25 22 N/A N/A N/A
Haslingden 26 23 29 N/A N/A N/A
Haughton Green 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Ladder Hill 26 23 29 N/A N/A N/A
Lancaster 27 24 21 25 28 22
Langley 27 24 21 N/A N/A N/A
Lees 28 25 22 N/A N/A N/A
Littleborough 27 24 21 N/A N/A N/A
Macclesfield 28 25 22 N/A N/A N/A
Manchester Hulme 44 41 47 N/A N/A N/A
Melling HP 57 60 53 N/A N/A N/A
Melling VP 57 60 53 N/A N/A N/A
Middleton 28 25 22 N/A N/A N/A
Millom Park 28 25 22 N/A N/A N/A
Moss Bank 27 24 21 N/A N/A N/A
Mottram in Longdendale 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Newchurch 21 24 27 N/A N/A N/A
Norden 53 57 60 N/A N/A N/A
North Oldham 27 24 21 N/A N/A N/A
Oakenhead 44 41 47 N/A N/A N/A
Over Biddulph 57 53 60 N/A N/A N/A
Parbold 41 44 47 N/A N/A N/A
Pendle Forest 28 25 22 27 21 24
Penny Bridge 26 23 29 N/A N/A N/A
Portwood 28 25 22 N/A N/A N/A
Prestbury 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Ramsbottom 53 60 57 N/A N/A N/A
Ribblesdale 41 44 47 N/A N/A N/A
Romiley 44 41 47 N/A N/A N/A
Roose HP 22 28 25 N/A N/A N/A
Roose VP 22 28 25 N/A N/A N/A
Saddleworth 45 39 42 51 52 48
Skelmersdale 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Stavely-in-Cartmel 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Stockport 24 21 27 N/A N/A N/A
Storeton 28 25 22 23 26 29
Stunningdale 44 41 47 N/A N/A N/A
Trawden 53 60 57 N/A N/A N/A
Urswick 44 41 47 N/A N/A N/A
Walton-Le-Dale 27 24 21 N/A N/A N/A
Wardle 28 25 22 N/A N/A N/A
West Kirby 27 24 21 N/A N/A N/A
Whaley Bridge 45 39 42 N/A N/A N/A
Whalley 46 43 40 N/A N/A N/A
Whitewell 53 60 57 N/A N/A N/A
Whitworth 28 25 22 N/A N/A N/A
Woodnook 45 39 42 N/A N/A N/A



Frequency kW[6] Service
88.6 MHz 4† BBC Radio 2
90.8 MHz 4† BBC Radio 3
93.0 MHz 4† BBC Radio 4
97.4 MHz 2 97.4 Rock FM
98.2 MHz 4† BBC Radio 1
100.4 MHz 5 Smooth North West
103.9 MHz 2 BBC Radio Lancashire
105.4 MHz 5 Heart North West

† Relays the signal from Holme Moss to cover south and central Lancashire [6]


Frequency Block kW[6] Operator
220.352 MHz 11C 0.25† CE Manchester
222.064 MHz 11D 10 Digital One
223.936 MHz 12A 1.5‡ Bauer Central Lancashire
225.648 MHz 12B 10 BBC National DAB

† Broadcasts from a directional aerial to cover Greater Manchester.

‡ Broadcasts from a directional aerial to cover central Lancashire (Wigan, Preston, Southport, Blackpool and surrounding areas).

Plane crash

On 27 February 1958, a Silver City Bristol 170 Freighter (G-AICS) travelling from the Isle of Man to Manchester crashed into Winter Hill (also known as Rivington Moor) several hundred yards away from the mast. Thirty-five people died and 7 were injured. The weather that night was so severe that none of the engineers working in the transmission centre were aware of the crash. Several feet of snow hampered rescue efforts, and a snowcat vehicle had to be diverted from the A6 to cut a path for emergency vehicles.


  • 1956: Granada Television weekdays & ABC Television (Associated British Corporation) weekends commence black and white television broadcasting prior to main mast construction.
  • 1958: Fatal plane crash kills 35 people, 7 survive.
  • 1962: BBC commence broadcasting on VHF Channel 12 (including the Manchester version of Look North)
  • 1965: Main mast is completed, replacing the old 450' construction, which is removed.
  • 1965: BBC 2 UHF transmissions start.
  • 1967: BBC2 UHF Colour Transmissions start.
  • 1968: ABC Television loses franchise; Granada Television commences broadcasting seven days a week.
  • 1968: ITA (Independent Television Authority) build the single storey engineering building.
  • 1969: ITV and BBC1 transmit in colour on UHF.
  • 1970: Relaying service set up with Emley Moor mast.
  • 1974: Local radio stations set up wire frame ILR transmitters on the hill. ITA became IBA, following start of commercial radio broadcasting (in 1973).
  • 1981: Channel 4 create additional engineering building.
  • 1981: Occasional Channel 4 test transmissions start.
  • 1982: Additional ILR transmitter put into operation for further local radio. Channel 4 commences transmission (on 2 November 1982).
  • 1983: Channel 4 set up relay service.
  • 1989: NICAM stereo transmissions commence from the site.
  • 1997: Channel 5 commences transmission
  • 1998: Radio station Century 105 starts broadcasting from the main mast (became Real Radio, now HEART).
  • 1998: Low power Digital TV transmission start.
  • 2009: Analogue TV signals were switched off in two phases on Wednesday 4 November 2009 (BBC Two Switched off) and 2 December 2009 (remaining analogue channels).[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b Chorley Council - Planning Applications - Ref: 07/00056/FUL
  2. ^ The Transmission Gallery - Winter Hill
  3. ^ Times Friday 10 September 1965, page 9
  4. ^ "Freeview set for HD channels". Ofcom. Archived from the original on 19 October 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  5. ^ "Ofcom confirms three Freeview HD channels 'by end of next year' • The Register". Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  6. ^ a b c Radio Listeners Guide
  7. ^ "Digital UK - Granada TV Region". Retrieved 19 October 2008.

Further reading

  • The Devil Casts His Net, Steve Morrin, ISBN 0-9534503-1-7, The Winter Hill Air Disaster.

External links

This page was last edited on 23 November 2021, at 19:24
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