Monday, November 21, 2011
Telephones in Wolverton
Telephone exchanges were once very local. Up to 1945, the exchange was not automated and the numbers were very simple. A S Byatt, the grocer on Cambridge Street had the telephone number Wolverton 2. The Co-op was Wolverton 10. One of my grandfather's had the number Wolverton 4. When the automated exchange came in it became 3104.
As improvements came in technology the numbers got longer. Byatt's telephone number of 2, became 3102, then 313102. Now of course it is an 11 digit number.
The Bedford area telephone directory which appeared in our house in the early 1950s was a slim blue volume which covered a large territory - Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, North Bucks and part of Hertfordshire. I have reproduced part of it here.
For most people the telephone was quite new and the directory was full of advice on telephone etiquette. Generally people answered the phone with, for example, the number "Hello, Wolverton Double two, seven, eight!" It seems very quaint today.
Telephones back then used dials. Push button technology was at least 20 years into the future. Dialling was a very slow affair, particularly if you had to wait for an 8 or 9 to click round.
We were all slow to adopt the telephone. There was a gap of between 40 and 60 years between the availability of the telephone and its use in the home. Most were satisfied with the call box - and there were few enough of those. There was one by the station, another by the Post Office on Church Street, one on the Square and there may have been another on Anson Road - I am not sure.
The MK Museum has an excellent exhibit at Stacey Hill of the development of Wolverton telephones and is worth a visit. 60 years ago the telephone engineers came to our house in Windsor Street to install the house's first telephone. The phone itself was quite heavy and the flex connecting the handset to the phone was quite thick. The bakelite box bolted to the wall contained various solenoids and a bell, similar to those on old alarm clocks.