Each year since 1947, the people of Oslo have shipped over a tree to the iconic central London location as a thank you for Britain’s wartime support of Norway.
At 28m high and weighing 2.5 tonnes, this year’s tree was erected in just over half an hour during what is now a well-practised operation by the Greater London Authority’s agents and contractors.
Out of view but playing a vital supporting role is a piece of engineering which has clocked up 20 years of trouble-free service. Installed in 1989, a bespoke tree pit cover and support assembly, designed and manufactured by Jones of Oswestry, revolutionised installation of the towering but precious structure.
Camouflaged within the Square’s Yorkstone paving, the Suprabloc access system consists of four recessed covers which lift clear, together with their support beams, to reveal a six foot deep tree pit. Inside, eight heavy duty hinged clamps arranged around an inner collar bolted to the chamber wall secure the tree in an upright position, bracing it against high winds whipping across the square. The tree base is fitted with a steel capping piece which locates into a metal collar at the bottom of the pit, providing further anchorage.
The frustration of propping up household Christmas trees in tubs will be known to most, but putting up a tree fifteen times the size is a very different challenge.
The GLA’s built asset consultant, EC Harris, brought in a number of specialists to carry out the tree installation and associated preparations ready for the official switch-on which took place December 3rd. With MITIE, the GLA’s maintenance contractor, project managing operations, Sykes and Son Ltd undertook the tree installation, decoration and electrical work.
Martin Stiff, senior contracts manager for Sykes, has supervised installation of the Trafalgar Square tree for the last 12 years. He said: “We check the clamps regularly to ensure there is no movement, given the tree is only 6 foot in the ground and subject to strong winds in the open location.
“The covers and pit mechanisms have always been 100%, and never let us down. The pit installation was serviced in 2008, by stripping all the parts down and re-greasing them to ensure they remain in good working order.”
The tree is decorated with 600+ white, low voltage lights strung up and down in traditional Norwegian style, and is the focal point for Christmas carol singing and other festive events in the Square.
Jones of Oswestry
tel: 01938 555511