ONE of the oldest telegraph poles in the UK will remain part of Stroud's canal-side landscape.

The 30ft pole near Oilmills Bridge in Ebley is believed to be more than 100-years-old but is no longer in service, so was going to be removed by Openreach.

But a special agreement has been made between Stroud District Council (SDC), Openreach and the canal's owners, Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation, which will allow the pole to be maintained as if it were part of the working network.

Martin Northfield, Openreach’s local asset assurance programme manager, who came up with the idea, said: “After discussions with the council, rather than handing over the pole, we felt it would be better for everyone if Openreach continued to look after it as if it were an operational pole, that way it will be checked and tested regularly and kept safe.”

The piece of communications heritage, situated just east of Oilmills Bridge at the heart of the Cotswold Canals restoration project, is the last remaining pole of its kind in the area, distinguished by the number of cross pieces at the top.

Such poles were a distinctive feature in early photos of the canal.

Councillor Steve Lydon, leader of SDC said: “Our thanks go to BT for ‘saving’ this pole.

"I’m pleased that the ever-increasing number of towpath users will be able to learn about and enjoy this part of the canal’s – and the district’s – history, for years to come.”

Stroud had its first telephone exchange in 1885 in Palace Chambers, London Road, and in 1896 there were only 34 subscribers in the National Telephone Directory for the town.

However, the next year two of the canal’s main proprietors, Charles Hooper & Co and Marling & Co Ltd, both had business telephones at Stonehouse.

This pole is believed to date from 1895/6 and was likely part of the link between Stonehouse and Stroud.

The canal towpath would have offered a relatively obstacle-free route between the two towns and brought in much-needed revenue for the canal owners – the Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation.

Paul Coles, BT’s regional manager for Gloucestershire and the South-West, added: “BT has a long-established record of helping to preserve communications heritage, but this is certainly one of the more unusual projects we’ve been involved in.

“After carrying out routine safety checks, engineers will remove any cables that are still attached.

"As well as the distinctive cross pieces, this pole was fitted with porcelain insulators and connection boxes, which probably date back to the 1950s. We will ensure they are also preserved.”

The telegraph pole has not been in use for between 20 and 30 years.

Openreach will check the condition of the pole every six years to ensure it is stable.