Beautifully engraved certificate from the National Telephone Company, Limited issued
in 1897. This historic document is hand signed by the Company’s Directors and Secretary and is
over 105 years old.
In 1881 the National Telephone Company was formed in March to exploit the market in Scotland, the Midlands and Ireland. Other companies were the Lancashire and Cheshire Telephonic Exchange Companies (capital £250,000) in May and the Northern District Telephone Company (capital £100,000) in December.
The National Telephone Company was formed in March to exploit the market in Scotland, the Midlands and Ireland. Other companies were the Lancashire and Cheshire Telephonic Exchange Companies (capital £250,000) in May and the Northern District Telephone Company (capital £100,000) in December.
David Sinclair, an engineer for the National Telephone Company's Glasgow District, patented the first automatic telephone switching device in this country on 7 July. It enabled a subscriber on a branch exchange to be connected to any other on the system by an operator situated at a central exchange, without manual attention at the branch exchange. . Sinclair established a working six line automatic exchange at Coatbridge near Glasgow.
In 1889, The United, the National, and the Lancashire and Cheshire Telephone Companies amalgamated on 1 May to form the National Telephone Company with a capital of £4,000,000 and providing 23,585 lines. The new company proceeded to buy up smaller concerns, Northern District Company (1,551 lines) in April 1890, South of England Telephone Company (3,255 lines) in October 1890, Western Counties and South Wales Company (4,027 lines) in January 1892
A Telegraph Act was passed in this year to enable local municipalities outside London to set up their own local telephone systems. For some years there had been increasing agitation from local authorities as a result of the inefficiency and excessive cost of the National Telephone Company's local exchange services. The Municipal Corporations Association, representing most of the English boroughs, was in favour of State control of the company's system, whereas the Scottish municipalities led by the Glasgow Corporation (who had unsuccessfully applied for a telephone licence as early as 1893) supported municipal competition with the NTC. The Telegraph Act, 1899 embodied the Government's decision (following the investigations of a House of Commons Select Committee and other official enquiries) to set up a large telephone system in London, and to leave competition with the NTC in provincial towns to local authorities to whom licences would be issued. In rural districts not previously served by the NTC, the Post Office, which mostly had telegraph routes which could carry telephone circuits, opened small exchanges. Later in the year the Post Office began laying an extensive system of telephone lines in London.
The policy of municipal telephony in provincial towns would have seemed a natural development in adding to the already wide powers of local authorities in providing gas, water, electricity, transport and other public amenities. In the event, it was to prove a failure. Of 1,334 urban local authorities that might have sought licences under the Telegraph Act, 1899, only 55 applied for information. Of these, only 13 asked for licences, all of which were granted: Glasgow, Belfast, Grantham, Huddersfield, Tunbridge Wells, Brighton, Chard, Portsmouth, Hull, Oldham, Swansea, Scarborough and West Hartlepool. And only six actually opened telephone systems: Glasgow (1901), Tunbridge Wells (1901), Swansea (1902), Portsmouth (1902), Brighton (1903) and Hull (1904). Only the service provided by Hull continues to the present day. The remaining five services were all sold to the National Telephone Company or to the Post Office by the end of 1913.
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