Telephone Exchange

As early as 1921, the firm has their own private branch telephone exchange installed, connected to the Loughborough public exchange, consisting of two external lines (Loughborough 691 and 692) and five internal lines. This was long before deregulation, which meant that the Post Office Telegrams Contracts Department at No. 150, London Road Leicester were responsible for approving installation but were also responsible for installing all the internal wiring. The annual rental, payable quarterly, for these two external lines amounted £14; whilst the annual rental of five internal lines should have £15 (£11 5s. for the extensions and £3 15s. for the additional wiring), although the firm were only charged £12. Interestingly it was not one of the firm’s directors who signed the contract but John Henry Frederick Cunningham, the firm’s costing clerk (See Chapter 6).

The firm first had a single external telephone line (Telephone No: Loughborough 6) installed around 1896; by 1912, this number had changed to Loughborough 596. Despite having a telephone for over twenty years the firm rarely, if ever, used it in advertising material, preferring to be contacted by post. However, when the exchange was installed they starting incorporating the two numbers in to their adverts. By the early 1930s they were only advertising one number – 691.

Post Office Telephones Letter regarding new exchange

In September 1935, Post Office Telephones wrote to the firm informing them of the preparations that were underway regarding the new automated telephone exchange being installed in the town[1]. The letter also confirmed that they would replace the firms’ existing telephone installation with one that was compatible with the new exchange. The implementation of the new automated exchange meant adopting a four-figure numbering system, changing the firm’s number from 691 to 2691. These new numbers were made available well in advance of cutting over to the new exchange, by programming all those exchanges with direct links with the existing Loughborough exchange, to be able to transfer the old three-digit number to the new number[2]. The new exchange also allowed hunting groups to be set-up, for those with two or more lines. One of the major advantages of the new system was that all local calls could be dialled directly by entering a two-digit prefix, instead of having to go through the operator, e.g. 55 for Quorn; 64 for Hathern; 54 for Ashbourne, Castle Donington, Derby, Matlock, Melbourne and Mickleover. Such was the planning by the Post Office, that not only did they visit every subscriber to explain the new system; they installed a miniature model of the new exchange in the Post Office. This was made available to the public daily, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., showing a step by step explanation of how to make calls with the new system, including understanding the meaning of the new tones, etc.[3]. The switchover took place without incident on 6th June 1936, taking only a couple of minutes to complete. At the time, Loughborough had about 800 telephone lines, making about 5,000 calls per day and was one of the first towns (as opposed to cities) in the country to install the new exchange[4].

It is difficult to understand how important the telephone was to the firm at the time. Their accounts[5] for the period, which combined postage, telegrams and telephone into a single figure, shows a steady year on year increase from 1931 (£139 6s. 3d.) to a peak in 1936 (£189 9s. 5d.) before declining upto 1939 (£142 2s. 1d.).


References:

  1. Private Records.
  2. The Loughborough Echo, 6th December 1935.
  3. The Loughborough Echo, 15th May 1935.
  4. The Loughborough Echo, 12th June 1935.
  5. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/08.