This was the Future, Vol.17: supplemental

typed for your pleasure on 12 December 2009, at 6.38 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Modern cinema’ by The Summer Hits

Here’s a neat little follow-up: Vol.17 of this series spoke about the glass-and-concrete space phallus known as the Post Office Tower — which is nowadays called the BT Tower, after its current owners, British Telecom — located in London’s West End. As previously mentioned, one of its selling points was a restaurant at the top of the tower, bizarrely named topofthetower. It operated to great amounts of success until 1971, when it was closed to the public after an IRA-made bomb exploded in the mens’ toilets.


100 Cool Points to anyone who can correctly guess where this still is from.
Hint: you’d have to be a Dodo to not know where it’s from, really

However! According to Retro To Go, BT plan to refit and reopen the tower’s restaurant to the public; their plan is to have it completed by December 2011, so that it can be ready and running in time for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Nice! Although it’s more than likely not going to have similar fab 20th century Modern decor as it did thirty years ago, it’s good to see that one of London’s landmarks will get a new lease on life…

Incidentally, topofthetower was part of the Butlins conglomerate. Mr Butlins is known as the man behind the Butlins Holiday Camps, which were bargain-priced, chalet-based resorts located in various areas around England and Ireland, that provided entertainment and other recreational activities for holidaymakers. The site Butlins Memories has a fab page that has scans of the original topofthetower menu from the Sixties. Take careful notes BT, as that’s what you have to live up to

EDIT (01 JAN 2014): Why not check out the ‘Eating High’ segment of the Sixties-era ‘Look at Life’ film series? Finally, a video that hasn’t been yanked by YouTube! I say that now, of course…

Random similar posts, for more timewasting:

Links kilns slink links (you can't get a lot of anagrams out of a five-letter word) on October 11th, 2010

Moderns on January 29th, 2007

11 have spoken to “This was the Future, Vol.17: supplemental”

  1. Euchre writes:

    Doctor Who – The War Machines 🙂

  2. Mahtek writes:

    It’s taken 40 years to clean up the mess from the blown up crappers? 😯 I can imagine it was all quite vile, but still? Did it take this long before the economy got so bad that someone was willing to respond to the “Help Wanted” ad?

    Well, if they had purchased the new fixtures right after the explosion, it may just be a frozen in time recreation.

  3. Davecat writes:

    Euchre
    Yeah, it probably helped a bit that I pretty much gave the answer away in the previous instalment, durr hey. So what address d’ye want those Cool Points shipped to? 🙂

    Mahtek –
    A veritable poosplosion! No; actually British Telecom had fixed everything up, but they never reopened it to the general populace, in the interest of ‘homeland security’. Or whatever the early Eighties equivalent to that tyranny was in England.

    Interestingly enough — this is from its Wikipedia article, so you might want to have several fistsful of salt handy:

    Until the mid-1990s, the building was officially a secret, and did not appear on official maps. Its existence was finally “confirmed” by Kate Hoey, MP, on 19 February 1993: “Hon. Members have given examples of seemingly trivial information that remains officially secret. An example that has not been mentioned, but which is so trivial that it is worth mentioning, is the absence of the British Telecom tower from Ordnance Survey maps. I hope that I am covered by parliamentary privilege when I reveal that the British Telecom tower does exist and that its address is 60 Cleveland Street, London.”

    The Post Office / BT Tower: Hiding in plain sight for nearly 45 years. Much like the nonexistent Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea.

  4. Mahtek writes:

    Ahh…not putting it on maps! Now that’s a clever way of foiling a determined terrorist!

    The fact that they didn’t try to blow it up again is absolute proof that it worked! Still, I would have covered it in camo netting just to be sure.

  5. Davecat writes:

    Covered what in camo netting?
    Wink, wink. 🙂

  6. Mahtek writes:

    The man who came up with the idea of leaving important buildings off of maps was rewarded by The Crown with a huge bronze statue! It depicted him holding a sword and shield as a defender of the Empire.

    When it was completed they hid it where no one would ever find it.

  7. Davecat writes:

    *rimshot* 🙂

  8. Everhard writes:

    Here is my chance to step in as Mr Know It All… (So, what’s new?) I watched the thing being built from the apartment where I grew up at the top of a high building in North London (73 Brecknock Road, London N7 — the building is long since demolished). It had an amazing view over London, which I suspect is why my dad lived there. (My mum, my brother, and me finally moved away in about 1968.)

    Anyways, we went up the tower on a couple of occasions. Not to the revolving restaurant, of course (that was for rich people) but to the two floors immediately below. One of them had windows and the other was ‘open air’ with thin vertical metal bas (like prison bars in westerns but much thinner and closer together).

    For years we had a translucent green plastic PO tower a few inches high, that we bought at the real tower, standing on the mantlepeice of the house here in Stepford-on-Sea.

    Incidentally, I belive it was the Angry Brigade who planted the bomb, not the IRA or the Red Brigade. (No, I had nothing to do with it…)

  9. Everhard writes:

    I mean ‘thin vertical metal bars…’ that is ‘bars’ with an ‘r’.

  10. Davecat writes:

    You and your knowing stuff and experiencing things. You got to see the PO Tower being built? That’s fab! And your memento combines three ace things I like: the PO Tower, transparent things, and green things. Ooo, lovely…

    Your description of the open air floor with metal bras bars sounds rather like Toronto’s CN Tower, as there’s a floor like that there as well. There might be some structural reason for that, but then it might simply be a case of ‘we’ve built this ridiculously high tower, and there are going to be loonies who want to see exactly how high off the ground they really are’.

    Should you have the funds, I suggest picking up a copy of the DVD ‘Look at life: Swinging London‘, as it compiles a lot of the Sixties-era ‘Look at Life’ featurettes that you’re doubtless familiar with. One of them is ‘Eating high’, which goes on about the Tower; it’s a different film than the YouTube one I’ve included with this post. Highly recommended! Maybe I should go watch my copy…

  11. Everhard writes:

    I missed the Youchoob video first time round, for some reason. “This, the tower of a million voices, is largely a silent place.” Yeah, right.

    Like church steeples, I always half expect rocket-shaped structures to start emitting smoke and steam out of their bases and a count-down to echo from loudspeakers…

    I remember black marble walls in the entrance foyer (as I dimly recall it); a multi-level spacious place leading to the elevators. And those elevators! (‘Lifts’ as we call them over here.) When they started, well, it was like they lit those five main engines. And when you reached orbit (or the observation deck) you went into damn near zero-G for a few seconds.

    A thing that has always stuck in my mind, although I cannot imagine why it is significant, is that when going from the lower deck (the open air one) to the higher deck (with the windows — the one you see in the video) you can sense (visually) the minor difference in height above the ground.

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