The Telephone comes to Harpenden

The first 100 subscribers

By Gavin Ross

Further information from Geoff Woodward added in November 2016 and February 2017

The first indication of telegraph and later telephone services in Harpenden came with the Government's intention, in 1893, "to erect telegraph or telephone posts through the village" (as reported in The Hertfordshire Illustrated Review, 1893, see Newsletter 60, p.7, February 1993).

Photo:The Cock Pond, with telegraph pole - c.1894. Not surprisingly, this pole caused outrage.

The Cock Pond, with telegraph pole - c.1894. Not surprisingly, this pole caused outrage.

LHS archives - LHS 004473

The pole route was constructed through Harpenden, much to the annoyance of residents, but poles were not allowed alongside the road across the Common: they were instead routed alongside the Midland Railway. The National Telephone Exchange and call office operated from until 1913 in a single storey building alongside The George  and was used to summon fire brigades from St Albans and Luton for the Red House fire in 1894.

Photo:The National Telephone Exchange 1890s

The National Telephone Exchange 1890s

LHS archives

In 1900 planning permission for more poles between Harpenden and Luton was given. Phone services came to Harpenden in February 1901, with the first telephone exchange at Island Cottage in Leyton Road (behind Simons Grocers in the High Street, later no.34). Users in Harpenden were first connected by Mrs Rose Haynes via St Albans, and then via Luton to the National Telephone Company around 1902-3. I

Early telephones had no dials, and the caller would wind a handle to alert the call office and give the number required. The operator would find the corresponding cable to plug into the system and send a signal to the number being called.  There was considerable investment in telegraph poles and wires stretching over the town, with more poles erected along Luton Road in 1907 - though an application to erect poles in Station Road in 1906 was initially refused.

Photo:Early wall receiver

Early wall receiver

Internet images

Harpenden subscribers were allocated numbers as they joined, and these numbers were retained until the 1920s or later, until new dialling systems required extra digits to be added to accommodate the rapidly increasing demand. Thus Rothamsted Experimental Station (The Lawes Trust) was initially Harpenden 21, but later became Harpenden 621, Harpenden 3621, Harpenden 63133. In 1989, it became 01582-763133, when 5 digit numbers had 7 added in front, and 4 digit numbers had 71 added in front. The national code was changed from 0582 to 01582 on 3 April 1995. 

Photo:The Telephone exchange was at White Heather Cottage, 10 Leyton Road from 1913 to 1928

The Telephone exchange was at White Heather Cottage, 10 Leyton Road from 1913 to 1928

Geoff Woodward

In 1912 the National Telephone Company was nationalised and taken over by the Post Office. A new exchange was opened at White Heather Cottage, 10 Leyton Road in 1913, but when the Post Office moved in 1928 to a larger new building at 9 Station Road, the telephone exchange was established on the first floor.

Photo:Harpenden Telephone exchange at 28 Station Road (on the top floor, above the Post Office) in 1963. Frances is 3rd from the right, and Mrs Ivy Clifford, the supervisor, is standing between the two men.

Harpenden Telephone exchange at 28 Station Road (on the top floor, above the Post Office) in 1963. Frances is 3rd from the right, and Mrs Ivy Clifford, the supervisor, is standing between the two men.

Frances Franklin, from Old Harpenden, Years Gone By FB page

This exchange was expanded in March 1950 to 2,800 lines. In 1961 the exchange moved to Bowers Way and in 1968 Harpenden subscribers were transferred from the London Region to Bedford. 

Kelly’s Directories began to include telephone numbers if householders or businesses supplied them, and the 1923 edition included a telephone directory.  Numbers up to 100 indicate the names of the first subscribers in Harpenden, given in the following table: 

 

Official and Commercial

4

   Herts County Police

8

   Midland Railway

11

   C Piggott, High St

13

   British Furniture Ltd, and Harpenden Building Co

14

   Field & sons, Hat Manufrs, Grove Road

19

   Robert Harding, Auctioneer, Station Road

20

   Barclays Bank

21

   Lawes Trust, Rothamsted

24

   T Dunckley, High St

25

   National Children’s Home Sanatorium

32

   Alfred Pratt  & Co, Builders, Amenbury Lane

33

   E Jarvis, Vaughan Road

38

   Abbott, Andersen & Abbott, Heathfield Works

42

   Harpenden Dairies

49

   A Saunders, Wheathampstead Rd (Southdown)

50

   Millwall Rubber Co, Grove Road

55

   Anscombe & Sons

59

   Palmer & Co, Willmotts Stores, High St

60

   J Pestell, Outfitters, High St

62

   Winter and Ward, Building Contr, High St

65

   Great Northern Station

78

   Herts Farmers Direct Supply, Station Road

79

   Harpenden District Gas Co

82

   Kennels, Herts Hunt, Kinsbourne Green

86

   Associated Rubber Mfs, Amalgam Mills

88

   Lockhart & Co, Midland Railway

89

   George Hotel

91

   Waverley Mills

93

   Brentall and Cleland, Station Appr

95

   Railway Hotel, (A Wright)

99

   T Simons & Son, High St

 

 

 

Private addresses

2

   E Hett, Wood End Farm

3

   W Sneath, Park Avenue

6

   John Kitchen, Holmfield, Milton Rd

7

   J Bridgman, Tennyson Road

9

   H Steers, Salisbury Ave

12

   R Bricker, Hatching Green

15

   T. Bonser, Longcroft Ave

16 

   L Heath, Annables

17

   W Sibley, The Grove

18

   Donald Wilkins, Tennyson Road

22

   Geoffrey Paget, East Common

23

   F Watson, The White House, High St

26

   C Latter, Melford House, Longcroft Ave

27

   Dr. F Cheese, The Elms

28

   Henry Salisbury, 1 Arden Grove

29

   Hugh Fraser, Westlands, Milton Rd

30

   Austin Reed, Shenstone Lodge, Kirkwick Ave

31

   W Smallbone, Arden Grove

34

   E Gurney, Lynwood, Ave St Nicholas

35

   H Newson Davis, Bamville Wood

36

   W Seabrook, Vaughan Road

39

   Rev Hodgson Smith, Kirkwick Ave

40

   A Merrett, Hollybush Lane

43

   C Clay, Moreton Ave

45

   T Rolt, Heath Road

46

   Mrs J. Oakeshott, Chelsfield, Rothamsted Ave

47

   H Trewman, Firdale, Rosebery Ave

48

   Archibald Blake, Craigie Lea, Milton Rd

51

   R Combe, Hollybush Corner

52

   Edwin Nott, Milton Road

56

   Arthur Garland, East Moor House

57

   C Howland, Moreton Ave

58

   Mrs Bonnett, St Mary’s, Milton Rd

61

   John Miller, St Martin’s Lodge, Salisbury Ave

63

   W Parnell, Gorselands

64

   C Warren, Tennyson Rd

66

   Dr T Kelynack, Homecot, West Common

67

   M Fairer, Townsend Road

68

   Major Baynes, Kinsbourne Green

69

   G Lowthian, Milton Road

70

   P le Mare, West Common

71

   G Washington Gray, Bencleugh, Rosebery Ave

72

   Mrs A Wootton, West Common

73

   Robert Hogg, Red Gables

74

   Arthur Taylor, Rothamsted Lodge

75

   B Laporte, The Bungalow, Southdown Rd

76

   Charles Wren, the Sycamores, Leyton Rd

77

   J Darnton, Mackerye End

80

   E. Browne, Longcroft Ave

81

   W le Maistre, Rothamsted Ave

83

   F Darby, Rothamsted Ave

84

   F Higgins, Furzedown, Milton Rd

85

   John Fouldes, Chepstow, Douglas Rd

90

   R Sampson, Church Green

92

   W Pratt, Field House, Townsend Rd

94

   Henry Peacock, Hollybush Lane

96

   A Willmott, Vaughan Road

97

   Wilfred Brown, Hillcroft, Douglas Rd

98

   H Blundell, Hestercombe, Carlton Rd

100

   F. Pearce, Upper Crabtree Lane

 

 

Photo:'Daffodil' receiver

'Daffodil' receiver

Internet images

Photo:Telegraph pole in Connaught Road

Telegraph pole in Connaught Road

Gavin Ross, 2013

Photo:Birthday card received

Birthday card received

Private collection

This page was added by Gavin Ross on 04/06/2013.

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