Sutton Common

Page last updated: 19/5/2019

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Sutton Common was shown on the 1959 Network Map as "programmed" with routes to Pye Green, "Manchester" and "Saddleworth". The site appeared on the 1956 "Backbone" map as a baseband connection point for telephony and with a link to Manchester for television, suggesting a dual purpose role was considered from the outset. Unless any temporary facility was provided - this is not apparent in archive photos - the site did not enter service until the mid-1960s.

Early television links between Birmingham and Manchester were provided via cable but this was not suitable for the introduction of 625-line colour services. The sites at Pye Green and Sutton Common extended the SHF network beyond Birmingham. The site at Saddleworth was not built and the Backbone route was diverted - resulting in both Sutton Common and Windy Hill carrying a mixture of traffic for Manchester and which bypassed the city. This led to rearrangement of the bands in use for the different routes.

The concrete tower was completed around 1966 and fitted with pairs of horns for the main Birmingham to Manchester route and a single horn facing Windy Hill. The horn antennas were designed to allow use of 4 GHz and both sections of the 6 GHz band. Initially the Backbone route operated on L6 GHz but this was transferred to 2 GHz over the section Sutton Common - Windy Hill - Hunters Stones to allow other traffic to use L6 GHz. Subsequently the section south from Sutton Common was also moved to 2 GHz. The dishes facing Pye Green and Windy Hill in the 1966 photos are assumed to be for the modified Backbone arrangements.

The redundant horn facing Windy Hill was removed by 1976 and further dishes installed. The site developed further in the 1980s as links moved to digital systems, with the horn antennas removed and more dishes added. Network diagrams for the Manchester area show Sutton Common was used from 1983 to provide a link to the TV-am premises at Knutsford. At some stage the crane at the top of the structure was removed and replaced by a steel tower. A planning application was made in 1992 for "Erection of 17.5 m steel frame tower..." - this stands next to the concrete tower and in addition there are mounting points for small dishes at low level on the main structure, providing local links.

The Backbone link ceased during 1989 but the main north/south links remained - Sutton Common being the middle of a chain of three concrete towers of similar style. A numner of large dishes, some of a relatively old design, remained in place as late as 2012. The tower is used by two local radio stations and for DAB broadcasting - detailed photos of the site in 2008 can be viewed at the Transmission Gallery: Sutton Common



Sutton Common 1966

Copyright BT Heritage [TCB417/E 33247]

A distant view, apparently from the east.

Sutton Common 1966

Copyright BT Heritage [TCB417/E 33248]

Most photos of this site are taken facing north (building to the right).

Sutton Common 1966

Copyright BT Heritage [TCB417/E 33257]

Pairs of horns face Pye Green (towards) and Heaton Park (away) with an additional single horn (top right) facing Windy Hill so "Backbone" traffic could bypass Manchester. The visible dishes face Pye Green and Windy Hill.

Sutton Common 1966

Copyright BT Heritage [TCB417/E 33261]

A different perspective, showing the built-in crane at the top and the waveguides running vertically from each horn.


Sutton Common 1976

Copyright BT Heritage [TCB417/E 65942]

The horn facing Windy Hill has been removed and a couple of new dishes added. The crane is extended - and so is the building, it seems a second storey has been added at the front!


Sutton Common 2005

Copyright Dave Smethurst (Geograph)

Viewed from the north: the cabins in the foreground are for site sharers' use. The main dishes face Heaton Park, including two of an older style. It's possible the dish facing obliquely to the right linked to the TV-am site at Knutsford.