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Sunday 13 July 2014

Fact 26. The only Corporation owned telephone system in the UK.

After the invention of the telephone the building of systems in the UK was piecemeal. United Telephones (a company owned by Bell and Edison Companies of UK) took over a lot of systems by taking them to court when they used their patents illegally. In 1880 tested the legality of their rights and took over the company and handed the regulation to the Post Office. The PO took 10% of the money taken.

By 1889 the National Telephone Company (NTC) had a near monopoly. By 1898 the Government Select Committee looked into the business and recommended that competition be brought in by offering Local Governments Authorities be able to use rates and borrow money to set up their own systems b y obtaining a licence from the Post Master General. 13 Authorities applied for a licence but only 6 actually set up a telephone system. Brighton, Glasgow, Hull, Portsmouth, Tunbridge Wells, and Swansea. Tunbridge and Swansea sold to NTC by 1907. Glasgow and Brighton were bought by the GPO and Portsmouth sold in 1913 leaving only Hull.

Stowager telephone used in Hull after 1934.

Hull's first licence was granted in 1902 and the first exchange was opened in November in 1904. An offer was made by NTC to buy out Hull's business in 1906 and was only declined by the casting vote of the Chairman. The first exchange was at the former Trippett Street baths.

Photo of plaque
The Second Hull telephone exchange.

By 1914 the second licence was negotiated and part of the approval was that Hull Corporation had to by the equipment for £193,000. That would be about £15 million in today's money.

The first automatic exchange opened in 1922 and the first telephone directory was printed in 1947 and in 1952 they started the first information service (other than the speaking clock) in the UK when they started a Christmas Story for children on dialing a certain number and it is still going strong today. As 1954 was the Golden Jubilee of the first licence the company printed the classified pages on Golden paper that was the fore runner of 'Yellow Pages' today. Hull had the first all digital exchange in the UK in 1989 and in 1999 the Hull City Council 'floated' the company on the Stock Exchange and retained a 44.9% stake in the new company. They sold shares at reduced cost to customers and many made a lot of money as the price rose with the dotcom bubble before it burst.

The cream and green telephone boxes are unique to the city, although they are all cream now. I can not find why that colour was chosen.

The K6 telephone boxes that were designed to commemorate the Silver jubilee of King George V and they went into production 1936.

The modern KX100 near Queens Gardens.


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