THIS story begins in Scotland.

In the summer of 1928, the very first electricity pylon constructed in the UK was built at Bonnyfield, near Bonnybridge. It took another five years and 26,000 pylons for the Central Electricity Board’s transmission grid to begin operating as a series of regional grids. It would take 10 years from the construction of that first pylon in Scotland for the UK’s National Grid to finally come online.

Nearly a century on, pylons are an everyday feature of both the urban and rural landscape; lines of skittery metal colossi arranged in regimented lines crisscrossing the country. Over hill, over dale …

Both loved and loathed, they are a symbol of modernity. They have also provided inspiration for poetry and song (“I am a lineman for the county …”).

The word pylon comes from the Greek and was used to describe the gateway to Ancient Egyptian temples (the obsession with Egyptology reaching its peak in the 1920s after the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922). A competition was launched to choose the pylon design we are now familiar with. The winning design, chosen by Sir Reginald Blomfield, the architect behind the Menin Gate war memorial in Ypres, was the work of the Milliken brothers, an American engineering company.

From the beginning pylons were controversial. Rudyard Kipling and John Maynard Keynes were among the signatories of a letter to the Times in 1929 decrying “the permanent disfigurement” of the landscape of the Sussex Downs.

Others were more welcoming. Sculptor Barbara Hepworth thrilled to the view of them from a train window, “pylons in lovely juxtaposition with spring turf and trees of every stature. It is the relationship of these things,” she observed, “that makes such loveliness.”

The controversy that marked the construction of the power line between Beauly and Denny, which came online in 2015 and traverses more than 130 miles of some of Scotland’s most inaccessible terrain, suggests there are many who still don’t share Hepworth’s definition of loveliness.

But there are some 90,000 pylons in the UK today. Last autumn the National Grid built a T-Pylon in Somerset, the first new design, courtesy of Danish firm Bystrup, since the Milliken brothers’ original.

Whether old or new, the pylon is a marker of scientific and electronic expertise. They have not only transformed the landscape over the last century, but also helped transform the landscape of our daily lives.

And so to stand beneath a pylon and feel the hum of electricity – a phenomenon called corona discharge, the result of the air surrounding the power lines becoming ionised – can feel like being plugged into the world.