©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: November 22, 2018
Webpage updated: November 22, 2018




The United Telephone Company was founded in Sunderland on May 13th 1880, as the result of a merger between the Edison Telephone Company of London Ltd and the Telephone Company Ltd, which held the Alexander Graham Bell patent.  Mr James Brand was its chairman.

In October 1880 Doctor Gale was appointed as the local representative of the United Telephone Company and he set to work with a Mr Lewis from the Company’s headquarters to attract subscribers to exchanges in Plymouth, Devonport and Mannamead. 

The United Telephone Company opened their exchange in July 1881, allegedly with 60 subscribers.  By October 7th that year the Company had exchanges at Bank Street Chambers, Plymouth; the Royal Hotel at Devonport; and at Mutley for Mannmead.  However, the list of subscribers was down to 33 in Plymouth and just 2 in Devonport, although there was a very long list of 66 potential subscribers who were waiting to be connected as soon as the lines could be run out.  Unfortunately, the United Telephone Company failed to secure a licence to operate and was closed on October 31st 1881.

The editor of the Western Morning News clearly objected to the Postmaster-General running the local telephone network because he suggested that the Company should offer to purchase from the Post Office the wires and plant that Mr Cox had sold to them.  Apparently, the United Company had passed a resolution that they were not going to buy off any alleged infringer of their patents, which the Messrs Cox and Williamson system was, but now that the Post Office had effectively done that for them, the press considered it would be beneficial before the eyes of Parliament for the Company to buy Cox's system.

In its end of year review of 1881, the Western Daily Mercury commented that the year had been one in which the Post Office authorities and the United Telephone Company had 'quarrelled badly' and that Messrs Cox and Williamson and the United Telephone Company 'came into serious collision'.

The United Telephone Company Ltd re-opened their exchanges at Plymouth, Devonport and Mutley on December 11th 1884, the subscription being £12 per annum.  The system covered from 1 mile west of the exchange at Devonport to 1 mile east of the Plymouth one and 1 mile north of the Mutley one.  Public Call Rooms were planned.  The principal cab rest, the hospital, the blind institution and the fire brigade were all connected free of charge.

On December 17th 1884 the Western Counties and South Wales Telephone Company Limited was formed with its head office at 16 High Street, Bristol.   It took over the United Telephone Company's system in the area for which it was licensed and this is probably the exchange which was re-opened in February 1885.