back to article London's famous BT Tower will become a hotel after £275M sale

BT has agreed to sell off its iconic BT Tower for £275 million ($346 million) to a company that intends to convert the central London landmark into a hotel. BT Tower BT Tower to be replaced by 3D printed BT Tower READ MORE The UK's former state-owned telecoms giant said it has sold the BT Tower to US-based hotel owner- …

  1. werdsmith Silver badge

    If wandering through Fitzrovia the bottom of the tower is reached along a pokey, dull little alley. It feels so inauspicious considering this was the glam building built at a time when central London generally avoided building above the height of St.Pauls dome, the earlier Shell building alongside the Thames stopped 4 metres short.

    I've always loved seeing it above everything. Even today it doesn't have high structures close to it.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      If wandering through Fitzrovia the bottom of the tower is reached along a pokey, dull little alley.

      Heh, been there, done that. Had to go there for a meeting and figured it would be easy enough to find. Then wandered around a bit trying to find the way in.

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      RE: the bottom of the tower is reached along a pokey, dull little alley

      It was an Official Secret for a while though...

      https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11144773

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: RE: the bottom of the tower is reached along a pokey, dull little alley

        As urban legends go, the one about it being omitted from OS maos is a very persistent one, but total bullshit.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: OS maos

          Hmmm, I suppose some areas of UK might look like mayonaise when portrayed on a map.

        2. Red Ted
          FAIL

          Re: RE: the bottom of the tower is reached along a pokey, dull little alley

          It was on OS Maps...

          The National Library of Scotland host old OS maps and Sheet TQ 28/38 - City of London Published in 1971 has it marked as PO Twr

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Giant Kittens?

    ... and at least it's not being purchased - one hopes - by anyone or anything with a name bearing a suspicious similarity to WOTAN...

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Re: Giant Kittens?

      They ought to get a replica WOTAN made though and put it in the hotel lobby as an exhibit...

  3. Oh Matron!

    Good news....

    I've been lucky enough to have been up to the top several times. Still think it's the best view in London (no tourists, unlike the Shart)

    1. Red Ted
      Thumb Up

      Re: Good news....

      I too have been up it a few years ago. Quite a splendid view and nice to watch it change, without having to leave your seat, at about 0.067rpm.

      Famously has an exemption from the fire regulation about not using the lifts in case of a fire.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Good news....

        Famously has an exemption from the fire regulation about not using the lifts in case of a fire.

        Oh, that's perfect for a hotel.

        1. abend0c4 Silver badge

          Re: Good news....

          As I understand (not having had the opportunity to visit), there are two fairly modest lifts.

          I recently stayed in a tower in Porto of a similar era, purpose-built as a hotel, though considerably shorter. It, too, had two modest lifts, though one seemed semi-permanently out of order. Even with a modest number of guests, the restricted lift access was a significant bottleneck. Especially as the restaurant was on the top floor.

          From a logistical point of view, I can't quite see that its use as a hotel really, er, stacks up.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Good news....

            I was wondering about the equipment floors of the tower, whether they could be converted to rooms or capsules.

      2. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Good news....

        I recall going up the then Post Office Tower shortly after it was opened. Don't recall he year, but as I got a presentation pack of the postage stamps, must have been October 1965. All I recall of the actual visit was that the lift was really fast on the way up.

        I also visited it a few times for work events, and have a certificate saying I visited the BT Tower on the 19th February 2010, signed by Sir Michael Rake, the then chair. (Night time view, if you went up in daylight I think you got a different certificate.)

        I do hope they retain the rotating restaurant, it was good.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: the lift was really fast on the way up

          Was it even faster on the way down?

          Funny enough, if you really want to see an iconic lift, go to Northampton...

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Lift_Tower

          Read the para starting "From the time it was built" about free-fall testing.

    2. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: Good news....

      "unlike the Shart"

      Oh good, not just me that calls it that :)

    3. ElPedro100

      Re: Good news....

      Many years ago, when I was working for the British Met Office, I had to go to the top of the tower to fix the wind measuring system. On top of the tower was a mast with the anemometer on top and I had to go up the mast to fix it. I later found out that at the top of the mast I was at the highest point in London as that was above the height of the NatWest Tower. The views were amazing but I was grateful for the safety harness and hard hat that I was wearing. These days I just sit and program computers all day. Not quite so exciting.

      1. TrickyRicky
        Coat

        Re: Good news....

        I've always wondered why a hard hat seems de rigeur when at a very high point where, by definition, nothing is above and able to fall on you. Also where the fall is going to be a spectacular termination, regardless of headgear.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Good news....

          I think it was an episode of Dirty Jobs where the host was in a building that worked with huge pieces of steel. He asked a worker why nobody was wearing hard hats. The worker pointed at the piece up in the air, told him how many tons it weighed, and concluded that if it were to fall on you, a hard hat would just mark the spot on the floor where you died.

  4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Secret places and maps

    Even with something as patently obvious as the tower, there is a certain logic in not including some items on maps of the quality of Ordnance Survey. Particularly in the time before GPS. It meant any potential miscreants would have to have to do the work of plotting its position themselves. Not particularly onerous but something that would require reccy near the building.

    An example of where security through obscurity can help, like when the Czechs took down street signs in 1968 when the Russians invaded.

    1. myhandler

      Re: Secret places and maps

      Or put a commercial radio station in the lower floors and everyone will think that's the only occupant.

      That'll be Capital Radio and denizens of MI5 /6

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Secret places and maps

        I remember when Capital Radio (194) was the commercial station for London area, none of this stuff with bits regionally. They were on the corner of Euston Road. No idea if they are still there.

        Peter Young

        Alan (Fluff) Freeman

        Kerry Juby

        Nicky Horn

        Kenny Everett

        These are the ones I remember.

        Back to the Zimmer frame and reclining chair with a laptop balanced on the rug over my knees....... The wonders of WFH!

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Secret places and maps

      Even with something as patently obvious as the tower, there is a certain logic in not including some items on maps of the quality of Ordnance Survey. Particularly in the time before GPS. It meant any potential miscreants would have to have to do the work of plotting its position themselves. Not particularly onerous but something that would require reccy near the building.

      This is kinda normal for government work. When I started at BT, we were in a new List-X building. Which meant it was supposed to be discrete. So the facilities people who ordered a big, illuminated BT sign to go on the side of the building were told to cancel that order.

      Which is also part of the FUN! sometimes of going to meetings in places that do sneaky stuff. Some are easy, like Aldermaston is well signposted, and any miscreants going there are likely to very quickly regret it. Others.. Much less so. So finding the damn places sometimes meant wandering around, seeing the most secure looking building and if they had a reception, asking if this is <redacted>. Sometimes resulted in a simple 'No'. Sometimes they'd take pity on a lost soul and point me in the right direction. It taught me to allow plenty of time before visiting that kind of client to find the place. Pre-satnav, was fun because places weren't on the maps. Post-satnav, it showed you driving around a field. At least post- clients could give you a postcode or waypoint to navigate to, then eyeball it from there.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Secret places and maps

        I remember those days quite well

        The joys of seeing a spiffy site at <redacted> with a big fat MOD no photos sign and all freshly built and with MOD plod at the gates... then my boss drives past, carries on for about 2 miles, turns left down a country lane to what looks like a cow shed with a hole in its roof... and that where we're working out of for the next 2 days, making stuff for professor Z whos the leading authority on <redacted> and prefers his sky lit cow shed......

        His office was nice and warm though... when it started to snow.... and he started with the "when I was in the artic.. " type stories....

  5. AndrueC Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The UK's former state-owned telecoms giant

    That was over 40 years ago. It became a PLC before most of your readership were even born. Don't you think perhaps it's irrelevant now?

    1. Dabooka

      No, not in the slightest

      Especially when we're still paying the price for selling it off and witnessing first hand what a disaster it is putting essential national infrastructure into private hands

    2. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      BT is irrelevant now - they invented the monstrosity of bureaucracy that is OpenReach and I'll never forgive them for having created such a heinous behemoth that hides behind jargon, messes up jobs and messes them up again for good measure. In my 30-odd years of dealing with them, it's been nothing but hassle. I remember the first time I dealt with them, as a relative neophyte, we got them to wire up the comms frame to a patch panel, and they managed to only get the first socket right.

      Telecoms giant they may have been, but give me a smaller provider any day

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Is there anyone that is any better?

        From the comments on here on other articles there are plenty that are worse. There can only be so many companies providing the infrastructure due to the costs and overlap.

        Unlike the other utilities the service is provided over unique lines, not a shared pipe or wire.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Unlike the other utilities the service is provided over unique lines, not a shared pipe or wire.

          Not always, but that's all part of the joy of telecoms. Often lines aren't unique and are shared, ie indie telco may lease fibre from BT, VM, C&W, COLT etc and resell it. Whether that matters usually depends on what you're trying to do. If it's diversity, ordering from 2 suppliers may end up with both on the same route. If the endpoint only has a single entry, it'll be shared. Even though a dual supplier policy sounds good, in practice it can be pointless because there's no real certainty that suppliers might groom or regroom capacity and end up sharing a route. Finance types seem to like this one though because it creates an opportunity to play one supplier off against the other, or a new supplier come renewal time.*

          Personally, if you really want diversity, buy it from a single provider. That way circuits can be planned and maintained to remain seperate, and that seperacy can be maintained and protected during any network shuffling.

          * Sorry if I've no-bid when you've tried to do this, but unless you can control the solution, you can't provide five 9s, or really meet any of the stuff you might have put in your bid or desired SLA. It just doesn't work that way.

  6. wiggers

    "the 177 meter (581 ft) high structure"

    Meters measure things (electricity, pressure, etc).

    Metres are the SI unit of length.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Metres are straight, meters are round.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      More importantly, is approximately 8 Brontosauruses high (the Borntosaurus being the most appropriate unit approved by the Reg standards).

  7. CaroleS
    Mushroom

    But will Kitten Kong be invited to stay?

  8. RSW

    £275m sounds a bit cheap for such a building in London, does that not include the ground it sits on?

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Its not obvious if they bought the whole BT site or just the tower itself. Being grade 2 listed means you can't do that much and certainly not knock it down and build something more profitable in its place.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Well, it is very thin, so it probably dosn't come with much ground.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Please blow it up

        and make if land smack on top of that other 1960's concrete monstrosity that is 115 New Cavendish St (aka University of Westminster)

        It was dated when I started going there in 1972 for my Mech eng degree. These days, it needs bulldozing. mind you, I've not been near it for years. not since the Cleveland Kebab House closed down.

        1. hoola Silver badge

          Re: Please blow it up

          Where I used to work at a university in the Midlands there are similar issues.

          One building is a horrendous grubby concrete box that was never finished because it started to move before the remaining floors were added. Another was designed by some funky architect and recently had millions spent replacing the funky roof. Both (along with some other buildings) would all benefit from being demolished and replaced with something that is fit for purpose.

          I agree that we do need to preserve some buildings but some of the stuff that acquires listed status really does beggar belief.

          1. MarthaFarqhar

            Re: Please blow it up

            The University I worked had many such buildings. I think its part of the charter that they have to have a set percentage of crap designed buildings, Bonus points if the construction teams manage to add to the crapness.

    3. DJO Silver badge

      £275m sounds a bit cheap

      It cost £2.5m to build which allowing for inflation is around £70m so not a bad deal. The issue is land prices have gone from silly to absolutely insane, having said that, it's tall and thin, it does not occupy a lot of ground area.

      Realistically it's going to be a liability over time, maintaining a listed building is always expensive and one as unique as this will have unique and expensive problems.

  9. t245t Silver badge
    Boffin

    Running internal applications and services in the cloud

    Is this wise as all it'll take to crash is a power-cut or someone cutting a fiber cable with a JCB (backhoe).

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Running internal applications and services in the cloud

      Most data centres have multiple network and power connections, specifically picked to run nowhere near each other to reduce the chances of one JCB taking out multiple connections.

      Of course, you can run applications internally, but most offices don't have redundant power or networking, so all it takes is one JCB to bring everything scratching to a halt.

      1. blackcat Silver badge

        Re: Running internal applications and services in the cloud

        "specifically picked to run nowhere near each other"

        In reality they tend to run close enough for a determined JCB operator to still break enough to cause downtime.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Running internal applications and services in the cloud

          In reality they tend to run close enough for a determined JCB operator to still break enough to cause downtime.

          The Tower was pretty good, partly because it was a BT building, and partly because it was a TV broadcast hub for lots of big events in and around London. So no dead air. But then there were a bunch of other broadcast and playout centres in the same area, all wanting fibre so all the roads around the Tower were frequently being dug up. Navigation by duct, duct cover and fresh tarmac is one of the ways we telco types learn to find those kinds of customers though, along with who might already have fibre into the buildings.

  10. NXM Silver badge

    "BT" Tower

    I hope they revert it's name back to the GPO Tower, it's not BT that built it.

    I read the central concrete pillar holding it up is strong enough to survive a nuclear blast, as it was absolutely necessary for comms during a possible war.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "BT" Tower

      I'm not sure that the new owners would want to be associated with the Post Office. Would you?

      1. NXM Silver badge

        Re: "BT" Tower

        Well you can see the Horizon from the top!

        I see the Post Office as a redoubtable institution unfortunately brought low by a bunch of scheming liars in its own management and contractors. It could come back into it's own, I think, if handed over to the postmasters leaving Fujitsu and the top brass with the bill and a view of a brick wall from their cells.

  11. Mr Dogshit

    Paid for by the taxpayer, it should never have been given to BT.

    1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      TBF It wasn't given, I think they paid £1 for all the GPO infrastructure... or was that Network Rail? British Gas? The CEGB? or CoVID Ferries? whatever - it was the Govt. of the time scratching the backs of their backers.

  12. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    OK, if they open the revolving restaurant as well then I think a holiday in London may be on the cards for me.

    1. Antony Shepherd

      revolting restaurant more like

      So long as they don't get Butlins in again to run the restaurant like they did originally.

      1. James R Grinter

        Re: revolting restaurant more like

        When I visited (2015? It was some anniversary or other, and there was a ballot to get the opportunity to visit and dine there), it was being run by Searcy.

        Had a nice lunch, as we were slowly rotated.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "used for corporate hospitality events for some years afterwards."

    Also to celebrate allegedly successful sales projects - but only if you were on the manglement side. If you had to make it work when told about it the morning it was going live you were too late, the places had already been booked.

  14. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The cloud

    How will BT access The Cloud if they sell their tallest tower?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GPO Tower Bedazzled..

    Remember once years ago watching the film Bedazzled on the telly. The good one. The one with Pete and Dud. There is a scene shot with Pete and Dud on top of the GPO Tower. Looks like one of the microwave horn galleries. About two thirds of the way up. Although it could be the level on top of the restaurant. It was my dad who was also watching who said "That's the GPO Tower" and casually added "looks like its was n't a windy day. It was usually very windy up there. Outside...". Turned out he had been up on the roof of the GPO Tower a few times. Would have around 1965/1966. As a GPO Engineer. Most of the microwave / telephone gear was on lower levels but there was plenty of gear on levels near the top and on the roof. Often on the outside. And as the most junior guy guess who did most of the leg work. And climbing. And hanging on.

  16. Paul Herber Silver badge

    I can't wait for Mrs Richards to go and stay ...

    1. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Bad form to be responding to my own comment, but from there you probably have quite a good view of London Zoo so a good number of wildebeest may be visible! But not the sea.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Bad form to be responding to my own comment

        Why not?

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: Bad form to be responding to my own comment

          Eh?

  17. shazapont
    FAIL

    London Has Fallen…

    Unlike The Goodies, London Has Fallen decided to remove the BT Tower and replace it with the Torre de Collserola from Barcelona, then blow it up…

    https://www.instagram.com/p/C3nygSLtm_w/

    Who knew?!

  18. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    The Wi-Fi is down. Hello?

    The cursor keeps whirring round and round.

    Hang on, the whole building's moving.

  19. D Moss Esq

    Everyone is too young

    I don't expect anyone to remember that I was taken to dinner with a young lady in my class at the Lycée at the Post Office Tower revolving restaurant in the mid- to late-60s.

    But someone might remember that the tower was attacked by the IRA: "The blast occurred at 0430GMT on the 33rd floor of the tower and shortly after police received a call from a man claiming that the 'Kilburn Battalion' of the IRA was behind the attack", http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/31/newsid_2464000/2464143.stm

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An icon of 90s TV telethons

    I remember many times a call centre being used at the top of the tower and presenters throwing over to a live feed during such shows.

  21. Ivan Headache

    Dont know how to use the wayback macine but...

    If anyone can make this work it would be brilliant.

    http://btlondon2012.co.uk/pano.html

    Back in 2012 when we had an Olympic dooda, BT but up the most fantastic Panorama taken from the tower. It was the complete 360 but with the added bonus of being fully zoomable. i.e, you could look through office windows (and kitchen and other windows). I seem to remember that you could read the makes of bicycvles parked in the street and seeing a Lidl plastic bag covering the seat on one of them They ran a competition to find hidden Busbys hidden in the image (created apparently from thousands of images carefully stitched in varying resolutions)

    I spent hours timewaisting wodering around this and looking for specific buildings in the City and as far away as Harrow and Greenwich.

    It was a staggering piece of work and it really ought to sdtill be on the web.

    1. Russ T

      Re: Dont know how to use the wayback macine but...

      https://360gigapixels.com/london-320-gigapixel-panorama/

      Or better:

      https://www.360cities.net/image/bt-tower-test-gigapixel-panorama-london/vr

  22. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Went there for a "training day"* a couple of years back. It was a good day. We had a decent lunch in what was the revolving restaurant. Sadly, it wasn't revolving, although the organiser assured us the mechanism still worked, it just was not switched on. I got some amazing photos of the surrounding area. The lifts were originally designed to carry tall equipment to the top of the tower, so, unusually, were nearly 15 feet tall, and bloody fast.

    *They called it a training day. While we did get some instruction in how to introduce Macs and iPads to enterprises, it was basically intended to sell us services and products offered by BT. In this case, BT were trying to both sell us extra iPads, and a service whereby they would manage our existing fleet of Macs and any iDevices we had..

  23. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Pirate

    They Will Sell Any Heritage For A Mess Of Pattage

    And back in 2016 the handsome old War Office, the baroque building, was sold to an Indian firm as an hotel + apartments, for a £350 million lease.

    .

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Office

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