Lisnagarvey Transmitting Station 80 Year Anniversary interior Lisburn Museum

The end of an era? Lisnagarvey Transmitting Tower

Opened in 1936, Lisnagarvey Transmitting Station at Sprucefield, outside Lisburn. was part of a regional broadcasting initiative. Its distinctive ‘Blaw-Knox tower’ is a familiar site to many motorists on the A1 road, standing at almost 500 feet.

The Marconi transmitter at Lisnagarvey was hugely powerful, and its signal could travel for up to 1000 miles at night!  It is the last one of its type in Northern Ireland and only a few others are known in Europe.

As the BBC indicated earlier this year, as part of a cost-cutting drive, the broadcaster is closing some of its Medium Wave (MW) transmitters across the UK, this includes the transmitter at Sprucefield.  They note:

A large and increasing share of radio listening in the UK – including to the BBC – is digital, and the BBC is committed to a digital future for radio. In recent years we have made significant investment in local DAB expansion, all of our local radio stations are available on digital terrestrial TV (such as Freeview), and we have transformed our online and mobile offering with BBC Sounds.

The BBC’s intention to close MW transmitters was first announced ten years ago in 2011. In 2018 we commenced with these and continued them in 2020 across Scotland, Wales, and England. We are now moving onto the next phase with a further set of closures across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in May and June 2021.

Medium Wave broadcasting of Radio Ulster is therefore being discontinued.

What will happen to the Marconi transmitter?

For more information see this excellent piece by BBC Engineering.