Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page

Telephone


Extract from Council Meeting 27th April 1900

Telephones - Permission was granted for the erection of telephone wires from Messrs. Denton’s factory to the Lightstrung Cycle Company’s premises and also to the Machine Joinery Works.


The Rushden Echo, 9th March 1923

A Public Telephone has been installed at the Athletic Club, this progressive institution being the first of its kind in Rushden to adopt the idea.

Midland Bank
The telephone exchange was above
the Post Office
Rushden Echo & Argus, 29th January 1932

The Post Office Telephone department give notice the next book of the Telephone Directory due for publication on the 1st April 1932, will be closed for entries on the 10th February 1932. It is, therefore, essential that orders for telephone notice should be received not later than the latter date in order that the inclusion of new matter in the edition referred to may be assured.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 27th July, 1951, transcribed by Gill Hollis

How Rushden got its First Telephone
Now No. 1 Goes Out

Here is the story of Rushden One – the town’s first telephone, which will lose its identity under the new numbering system.

In the early 1870s the late Mr. John S. Clipson, of Rushden, travelled to Canada and the United States on business and used for the first time that wonderful invention of the day, the telephone. Fired with enthusiasm, he settled at Higham Ferrers on his return and at once began campaigning for its local installation.

How he succeeded has been described to us by his daughter, Miss W. M. Clipson, of Church Street, Rushden, whose phone has the coveted number, Rushden 1. Under the automatic system, which will come into operation in the autumn, the family will lose this distinction and with it, no doubt, the many amusing incidents and inquiries which have been its everyday accompaniment.

Taking up the story at the point of her father’s return to Higham Ferrers, Miss Clipson relates: “He at once began to bombard the National Telephone Company, whose headquarters were at Nottingham, but they could not bring a wire for him alone. In about two years, however, a deputation of manufacturers came over from Rushden asking my father to open a repairing shop in Rushden for the machinery they were then beginning to install in their factories.

Bought a shop

“Conditions in Rushden, as far as housing and shops were concerned, were as difficult then as now, but at an opportune moment an old bachelor died and left his shop – which had not been opened for 20 years – and my father took it at once.

“In another two years the house in Church Street, Oak Lodge – with its staircase and porch made from the oak from the Windmill mentioned in Domesdaye Book – was in the market, and father bought that and across the drive erected a retail shop with a workshop behind.

“From the house to the shop he had a telephone – absolutely the first telephone in Rushden.

“All those years he had been worrying the National Telephone Company to bring a wire to Rushden, but with no response. However, what his business needs could not achieve the magic of a title could, and when Sir Percy Vernon, Bart. – afterwards Lord Lyveden – settled at Stanwick, his application was successful.

“The wires got to Sanders Lodge at the same time as the Bailiff’s man got to Sir Percy’s house at Stanwick, and the Company, remembering the importunate Mr. Clipson, thought it best to turn down Wellingborough Road and up to Church Street.

Tiny Exchange

“My father persuaded four boot manufacturers to have telephones installed, and a tiny exchange was established in the Post Office yard with Mrs. Grant in charge.

“In those days the telephone company was a very friendly affair, and at Christmas presents were exchanged and we were linked up with theatres at Birmingham and Nottingham to “listen-in” to pantomimes.

“Business men used to ring up from London to ask father to give messages to their wives when they had missed the last trains home. Soon we shall lose this distinctive number, alas, and no longer be asked by lady friends of the Army of Occupation, “Are you Yelden Post Office?”

The next telephone exchange was in East Grove
The Telephone Exchange in East Grove was built in 1951.

When this could no longer cope, a new exchange was built behind it, fronting Victoria Road, and this then became the Employment Exchange. A new Job Centre was built in the 1990s in Rectory Road and this was then sold.

The orange sign on the wall is "East Grove House", and the white sign by the other door "The Old Employment Exchange".

It is now occupied by Rock-It Promotions, who supply personalised promotional clothing and workwear to organisations and companies. The orange hanging sign is shaped like a T shirt and advertises "T shirts printed here".


Rushden Echo & Argus, 2nd February 1951, transcribed by Kay Collins

Automatic phones for Rushden

The change-over to automatic telephone service is now expected to take place in the Rushden district in August.

The news is contained in a circular now being distributed to business houses, and changes in telephone numbers are also given.

Telephones were adjusted to the dial system several months ago, and in the letter from the telephone manager for the Coventry area it is pointed out that it is not practicable to avoid a change in telephone numbers.

The preliminary notice has been forwarded for the convenience of subscribers in ordering stationery, but it is stressed that the new numbers should not be published before the change actually takes place.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 6th July, 1951, transcribed by Gill Hollis

New ‘Phone System by Autumn
Rushden Staff move to Bedford G.P.O.

A pre-war telephone scheme for the Rushden area – a switch-over to the dialling system – is soon to be completed. After eleven idle years the building erected for an automatic exchange is being equipped and should come into operation by early October.

In course of erection when war broke out in 1939, the building in East Grove was completed but could not be equipped and put into service. Apparatus already on order was held back, and for some years the building was used only as a store-place.

Twelve months ago the G.P.O. decided that the scheme could go forward. Further equipment was made, and staff began working both underground and overhead, with the result that at the present time every subscriber’s line is connected both to the old and new exchanges.

Apparatus now being assembled at the new centre will take 1,140 lines, and the full capacity of the building is for 2,400 lines. There are 800 subscribers at present. All required new dialling phones, and most of these are now installed.

The old manual exchange over the Midland Bank in High Street has nine switchboards, taking nine operators at a time, with a supervisor and other staff. The new exchange will not need an operator. An engineer will be in attendance only during the daytime.

Move to Bedford

Most of the present Rushden staff will take up G.P.O. appointments at Bedford.

When the switch-over is made, Rushden area subscribers will be able to dial local numbers and numbers at Wellingborough, Kettering and Bedford without contacting an operator. They will get an operator direct when ‘phoning Northampton, Irthlingborough or Raunds. Other calls will be made by dialling “0” and these will be handles by operators at Kettering, who will also deal with trunks.

All Rushden area subscribers will have four-figure numbers beginning with 2 or 3, but coin boxes will have six-figure numbers. Many new numbers have been given out during the last two years, but about 600 number changes will have to be made at the time of transfer.

The new numbers have gone into the recently-issued directory and subscribers have been issued and special lists which they can consult in order to trace the numbers now in use. The actual date of transfer, when numbers given in the directory will become valid, will be announced in due course.


The Telephone Exchange building in Victoria Road
Detail of what is left of the old sign above the door (2010)

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 5th October, 1951, transcribed by Jim Hollis

’Phone Service Run by Robots - Only one man needed at new exchange
Girl G.P.O. telephone operators took off their headphones at Rushden yesterday afternoon and looked almost unbelievingly at the switchboard in front of them. In a matter of moments it had become a relic of the past and all calls were going through an automatic exchange in another part of the town.

The switch-over from the College Street manual exchange, which has served the town since 1925, to the new building which, though only recently equipped, was put up in 1939, took place smoothly at 1.30.

In place of 11 girls and four men the new exchange will be staffed by one man. When the one man is not there it will function just the same.

Most of the complicated apparatus is attached in small, easily-removed units to wide frames which are 10ft. 6in high and placed in parallel rows, the connecting wires going overhead.

The main distribution frame sorts out the individual line from the thick incoming cables, and other frames contain the gadgets that respond to the dialling and interconnect the lines – the line-finders and group-selectors which might well be described as mechanical operators.

On a further rack are 1,200 small meters, each registering every call that each subscriber makes. This is perhaps the most up-to-date feature of the exchange, for the system is one of multi-metering, the figures advancing one, two, three or four times according to the value of the call. By this means Rushden subscribers can dial direct to people at Kettering, Wellingborough and Wollaston, but without meters capable of registering the varied charges these calls would have to go through an operator.

Only one or two exchanges in the whole of the Coventry Area can offer this service.

The power board of the exchange handles the electricity to ring the bells and has a machine which produces the four distinctive tones for “dialling,” “ringing” “number engaged” and “number unobtainable.” This machine runs off the mains. If it fails an alarm bell rings and an alternative machine running off batteries comes automatically into service. Another section of the panel attends in the same robot-like way to the recharging of the batteries which are housed in a separate room. The batteries are in duplicate to facilitate maintenance.

The main distribution frame The maze of wires Batteries

The main distribution frame

The maze of wires carries your voice

Batteries

At zero hour hundreds of wedges were ripped out and the lines thus brought into circuit

All recorded
All kinds of traffic through the exchange are automatically recorded for easy reference, and it will even be possible to tell how many attempted calls have failed.

Faults in the general working are announced by alarm bells and localised by signal lights. When the exchange is unattended the alarm signals go through to engineers at Northampton who will call out someone to deal with the trouble.

There is about eight miles of wire and cable in the exchange, which has equipment for 1,140 lines and space for 2,400. At present there are 900 subscribers, who were making or receiving 5,000 calls a day through the manual exchange.

Miss Gilbert, supervisor of the discarded exchange, is transferring to Guildford. Four girls and two men transfer to Irthlingborough, Kettering and Bedford, but the other operators and the assistant supervisor (Miss Butler) are leaving the service for other jobs.

Mr. F. J. Ashton, technical officer at the new exchange, has been working there since installations began 12 months ago.


The Rushden Echo, 13th January 1967, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Rushden Change to STD Goes Without Hitch

It was a smooth and successful changeover to STD for the 2,300 telephone subscribers in Rushden on Monday, and by today all 23 call boxes bearing a Rushden number have also joined the system.

Already people have been voicing the opinion that it is a great improvement and as yet no difficulties have arisen.

Last week, from Wednesday until 5 pm on Saturday, 400 people visited an exhibition at Rushden post office to familiarise themselves with systems.

“Rushden paid a very intelligent interest in the demonstration. Most of the inquiries were completely genuine with people wanting to know just how STD worked,” said Rushden head postmaster Mr. W. H. Hewitt.

The system was introduced between 8 and 8.30 am on Monday and since then two travelling supervisors have been round to the factories giving the switchboard operators and some of the office workers advice on how the system operates.

Also since Monday three teams of two engineers have been converting the public call boxes in Rushden and other areas such as Podington and Irchester where they come under Rushden exchange.

Difference

Despite a few difficulties removing some of the old assemblies the conversion has gone smoothly.

What difference will the new scheme make to the Rushden residents? Firstly, it has brought one and a half thousand exchanges, including those in London and Birmingham, within range.

The cost of the calls, the minimum is 6d in call boxes and 2d for private subscribers, should work out on an average telephone bill a little less than before. This, however, depends on one motto, “Keep your conversations short.”

Time and distance are the two important factors. The system is basically to make phoning more economic and to make more trunk lines easily available to sub-scribers. Both these objects depend on you curtailing your conversation.

Housewives beware! Your previous half-hour chats will now cost you 2d every six minutes during the day compared with 2½d for any length of time before. However, be consoled by one thing and that is that if you run up a large telephone bill do not blame the system, blame yourselves. Remember you pay at a lower rate and only for the time you use.


News Echo, Thursday 15th January 1976, transcribed by Kay Collins

Phone numbers change in Rushden
NINE hundred telephone users in Rushden have had their numbers changed on Wednesday, January 14, as the town moves from four figure numbers to five.

The change, which will affect users with numbers from 3000 to 3999 will be changed by a straightforward addition of 5 to the existing numbers. So the new range will be 53000 to 53999.

The change had been made necessary because of the high demand for telephones in the area.

Converting the lines from four figures to five will allow the post office to make more numbers available at a future date. The change takes place at 9 am.

News Echo, Thursday 22nd January 1976, transcribed by Kay Collins

Pleased with Rushden phone changeover
EVERYTHING went as planned when nine hundred telephone users in Rushden had their numbers changed last week, as the town moved from four figure numbers to five. The change, which affected users with numbers from 3000 to 3999, was made by a straightforward addition of 5 to existing numbers. So the new range is 53000 to 53999.

The change became necessary because of the high demand for telephones in the area.

A spokesman for the GPO said:- "The change over went: very smoothly and according to plan. At present there have been no hitches and we have had no complaints.

"We are more than pleased with things."

Rushden is the second local town to have its numbers changed in the past two months. In December numbers in Wellingborough ranged from four figures six.

News Echo, Thursday January 15th 1976, transcribed by Kay Collins

Will almost double number of phone lines
Work on Rushden’s new telephone exchange which had already been going on for several months is likely to continue until the end of the year.

Following completion of the £400,000 work, equipment worth £350,000 will be installed during 1978. Some of the equipment will be transferred from the existing exchange across the street at Victoria Road a Post Office spokesman said.

The new exchange, intended to cope with Rushden area expansion into the 1990s will have 15,000 lines. The present exchange has 9,000.

Work on the site dominates the street and a major feature of the area for the next few months is likely to be the crane rising about 200 feet into the air above the site.



Click here to return to the main index of features
Click here to return to the History index
Click here to e-mail us