A small part of Bere Alston’s commercial heritage is shortly due to vanish for ever; indeed, by the time this article is in print it may already be gone. Standing at the junction of Woolacombe Road and The Down is a telegraph pole that has been in that position for more than 100 years. The pole bears the date 1900, its year of manufacture, and would have been erected in that position shortly after. It has now begun to rot at the base and is to be replaced on the grounds of safety.
Originally the pole was equipped with seven cross arms, each carrying up to eight spindles and insulators. The 28 pairs of wires that it carried were probably enough to service the whole of the rural area to the northeast of the village at that time. Each wire was a single strand of thick bare copper wire, a mile of which weighed 80 pounds. It was thus known as eighty pound copper. Modern wires by contrast can be as thin as two and a quarter pound to the mile in some cables.
In later years the single wires and arms were removed and the pole used to carry an aerial cable which feeds various distribution points along the road.
Poles of this age are not that unusual, which proves the effectiveness of, the now banned, creosote as a preservative. However such longevity only happens when the pole remains undisturbed in one place, repositioning a pole will almost guarantee that it will begin to rot within ten years. By contrast, modern poles have been known to show signs of rot within 30 years of being erected, even if they are not moved.