Hungerford Post Office, along with all other post offices, was first joined to the Telegraph System in 1870. Wherever possible, the necessary wires followed the railway lines.
- The Post Office, c1905 at 14 High Street. The site of the first telephone exchange.
- The market place photographed during the visit of King George V, 1912, showing the very tall telegraph poles taking cables above the railway.
Did you know...?
The first telephone call may have been made in Boston in 1876, but it was Edinburgh-born Alexander Graham Bell who made the call.
Largely self-taught, he began to investigate the idea of transmitting sounds by electricity at a young age. He filed for his patent in 1876, two hours before a rival claim from Ohio inventor Elisha Gray.
Telephones installed locally:
Telephones started to be used in London in 1878, and were installed in reading from 1899. The first telephones were installed in Newbury in 1901 - with 23 listed subscribers.
In 1899 telephone lines were erected between Newbury and Marlborough, passing through Hungerford, but Hungerford still had no connection to the telephone system.
In 1904 local people petitioned for a connection with the Telephone Exchange. At this time, installation of telephone systems was the responsibility of the National Telephone Company Limited, under licence from the Post Master General.
The Surveyor reported that 'sixteen persons would undertake to rent apparatus, and as a trunk circuit has recently been erected between Newbury and Marlborough, a line could be led to Hungerford for £145 to include apparatus etc.'.
Minute from the Surveyor, Southern District to the PMG
"An application has been received from business firms and others at Hungerford for the establishment of a P.O. exchange there, and 16 persons have undertaken to rent exchange circuits at the message rate of subscription, Hungerford is not in any specified exchange area. The N.T. Coy are accordingly precluded by the Telegraph Act from opening an exchange there. A trunk circuit recently erected between Newbury and Marlborough passes through Hungerford and can be led into the Hungerford Post Office and fitted with exchange apparatus for £145. This line can carry the additional traffic to which the exchange at Hungerford is likely to give rise. 'The estimated financial result of the undertaking is
- Capital outlay £740
- Annual expenditure £80 5s 0d
- Annual Income £153
- Balance available for interest on capital outlay £72 15s 0d
The case seems to afford an opportunity to meet a genuine demand for telephonic facilities and if you approve the work shall be put in hand."
The sixteen subscribers were found (see numbers 1-16 below), and the exchange was fitted in the Post Office. The exact timing is a little unclear - one account states that the first manual exchange opened on 12 Oct 1904, whilst another states that the Postmaster, Joseph Mathews supervised the installation during the spring of 1905, before leaving his post in the summer to return to his native Kent at Chislehurst.
The Post Office at the time was in what is now 14 High Street, and the telephone equipment was housed in the basement.
The cost of installation related to the amount of (overhead) wiring required, and the subscriber had the choice of an annual rent or outright purchase of the installation. For an additional charge, he could be supplied with a further separate instrument. The prospectus read "for Managers who wish to speak on special matters which it is desired shall not be dealt with within the hearing of menials" adding "likewise prevents the Principal being troubled with matters to which a clerk in an outer office can attend"!
By 1907, a further six subscribers were added (numbers 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, and 23):
Telephone Directory 1907:
1 Call Office
2 Adnams J. & Son, Cornmerchants, High Street
3 Alexander Bros., Coal, Corn & Hay Mts., High Street
4 Alexander T.W., Grocer, High Street
5 Allrights, Universal Stores
6 Astley, H.D'O.W., Solicitor, Bridge Villa
7 Barker R.H.,MD, Kennet House, High Street
8 Barnard F., Fishmonger, 17 Market Place
9 Blyth A.W., Templeton
12 Bear Hotel, Posting, Livery, Stables
10 Cottrell & Co., Engineers, Eddington Iron Works
11 Gibbons H.& Son, Engineers, Kennet Iron Works
20 Hillsdon & Co,Motor Engineers, Eddington Motor Works
18 Hutchins S. & Co., Butchers, High Street
19 Platt G., The Priory
13 Police, Police Station, Park Street
14 Portal E.R. JP, Eddington House
23 Shepherd E.P., Hungerford Park
15 South Berks Brewery Co. Ltd.
16 Taylor W.G., Chemist, Bridge Street
17 Walmsley H.J. JP, Inglewood House
22 Wren G., Ironmonger
Some of today's phone numbers still have the same number as the last digit eg.
Post Office tel 1, now 682801
Dr. Barker tel. 7, Surgery now 682507
Bear Hotel tel. 12 now 682512
Police Stn. tel. 13 now 682813.
- Weekdays: 5.15am to 9.45pm
- Sundays: 5.15am–7.00am; 8.00am-10.15am;
The early instruments had been, for the most part, a box on the wall affair, and one made and received calls in a standing position.
In 1912 the Post Office itself took over the management of the telephone system, and this coincided with the introduction of the so-called "candle-stick" telephones.
In 1983 a new electronic telephone exchange was opened in Laundry Road Hungerford, with 2375 lines. It cost £500,000. All existing numbers wee changed to five figure numbers with a pre-fix of "8" (2198 became 82198). The STD code changed from "048 86" to "01488". The exchange was housed in the same building as the previous electro-mechanical exchange, which had lasted 17 years (from 1966). See "New telephone exchange opened", NWN Mar 1983.
- How the telephone came to Newbury, by Ken Shaw. NWN 28 Dec 1979