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BT Tower to open for first time in 29 years

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The BT Tower will open to the public next month for the first time in almost thirty years as part of an architecture festival.

The West End landmark will be the star of the Open House weekend, when buildings across the capital open their doors to visitors for free.

The 19 September open day is billed by BT as "absolutely a one-off". There were reports last year of a full reopening of the Tower's rotating observation floors and restaurant (formerly run by Butlins) in time for the 2012 Olympics, which the firm denied today.

The Tower was largely closed to the public in the early 1970s amid a growing security threat from the IRA*, but has continued to use it for corporate entertaining. The restaurant closed in 1980, finally restricting access to invitation-only.

Opened by Harold Wilson in 1965, and then known as the Post Office Tower, it was the tallest building in London until the NatWest Tower was opened in the City in 1981.

Despite its iconic status, and use as a location for TV shows such as The Avengers, its existence was for decades a bizarre Official Secret. The Tower was not recorded on Ordnance Survey maps because of its role as a vital relay station for microwave communications, including for air traffic control. Most of its microwave dishes are now defunct, but must remain in place following the decision to grant the BT Tower a Grade II listing in 2003.

Registration for the chance to go up the Tower opens here today. The views are spectacular. ®

*A bomb had been detonated in the toilets at the Top of the Tower restaurant in 1971, but the attack is today blamed on the Angry Brigade, a radical left wing group. There's more on their largely-forgotten campaign here.

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