Webpage created: November 22, 2018
Webpage updated: November 28, 2020
POST OFFICE TELEPHONES
A Post Office Telephones Engineer's Van, GXL
As a result of the Telephone Transfer Act 1911, the Postmaster-General took over responsibility for the telephone service on January 1st 1912. This had such little impact upon Plymouth that the local newspapers only reported that telephone staff were now to become Civil Servants. The former National Telephone Company's Central Exchange in Whimple Street remained in operation. A three minute call up to 25 miles from the exchange cost 3d. For numbers of 100 miles away it was one shilling.
During 1925 the Button A/Button B pre-payment telephones were introduced at Torquay, followed in`1927 at Exeter and Topsham, but exactly when these were installed in Plymouth is not yet known.
Work started in May 1933 on Plymouth's new automatic telephone exchange. As an interim measure a new trunk call system was introduced in January 1934.
The Plymouth, Crownhill (Manadon), Plympton, and Plymstock telephone exchanges were transferred to automatic working at 2pm on Saturday July 6th 1935 and on Monday July 29th 1935 Lady Astor officially opened the new Plymouth exchange.
The practice of dialling '999' for the emergency services was started in London in 1937 and was gradually extended throughout the country.
Plymouth telephone numbers appeared in a South West Directory based on Bristol until about 1939. Also in 1939 the Crownhill Exchange was integrated with the Norley Place one and the combined one became known as Plymouth Central Exchange.
Following the severe damage inflicted on Plymouth and Devonport during the Blitz of 1941 it was decided to erect a temporary exchange in Central Park. It is not known at the moment whether this plan was ever carried out. The Second World War also held up the integration of all the smaller local exchanges into the Plymouth Central one.
The "999" emergency service was introduced on the Plymouth Exchange in 1946. Residents using the Plympton Exchange, Plymstock Exchange, Devonport Exchange and Saint Budeaux Exchange had to wait even longer.
Subscriber Trunk Dialling (STD) was introduced in to Bristol in 1958 and at Plymouth on Wednesday May 12th 1965.