Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Trip To Billinge Hill

This week I took a drive over to Billinge Hill in Wigan. The hill is home to a large transmitter site that contains 4 large towers full of all sorts of antennas and microwave links.

The 2 towers set back from the road are on the site of a former Lancashire Police communications and monitoring centre that was active from 1938 to 2005 when the Police switched to digital. As the Police started to use VHF radio systems from 1938 a site was established at Billinge Hill which later was to become one of the nine regional Directorate of Telecommunication bases.

Lancashire Police already had a VHF radio station at Barnacre Nr Garstang. It had a 20-mile range and fed two cars using the latest two-way radios. By 1938 new radio stations at Billinge, Higham near Burnley and Newhey near Rochdale were serving 140 cars equipped with radios.

The compound held numerous buildings such as the Pocketphone workshop which was a service centre for Police radios. There was also an aerial riggers workshop and the Chief Wireless Technicians Office.

Throughout the operation life of the site there were many rumours that it was involved in secret government communications and had a direct link to RAF Menwith Hill; a United States Air Force monitoring station in North Yorkshire. The site manager defended these claims stating that the sole purpose of the depot was to maintain and improve Police and Fire radio communications in the area.

There was also claims of a nuclear weapons bunker under the site but this was simply confusion caused due to a water board reservoir underground which was nothing to do with the depot.

Another reason rumours dogged the site is the fleet of 27 yellow vans that operated out of it. They were unmarked due to government rules following IRA attacks.

I parked up and had a nosey around the transmitter site. The 2 set back towers are on private land and I couldn't access them, mainly due to the inclement weather! They are loaded with microwave links, cellular panel antennas and numerous dipoles which I'm guessing serve local businesses etc.

On the top of one of the towers is an array of 6 short antennas which appear to be some sort of directional array. If anyone knows what they're for then send me a message or drop a comment and I'll get back to you.

At the side of the road on the top of the hill is a transmitter tower that is fed by a transmitter building below and holds numerous large microwave dishes.

There's not alot else on this tower except a couple of folded dipoles. The microwave links likely serve phone communications over a long distance. I'd guess there is some form of relay to Winter Hill in the distance.

On the opposite side of the road is another compound which also houses a transmitter building and a large mast.

The tower also holds numerous microwave links and not much else.

I went to the site hoping to get the drone up to get some aerial footage and photographs and also to play some radio but the weather was horrendous with heavy rain and strong winds so I gave it up as a bad job and went to Werneth Low instead.