I have quite a few photos of old fire alarm bells. I was initially interested in the logos and typography, and the texture of the rusty old boxes. But just recently I noticed that a lot of them have pre-1966 telephone letter exchange codes on them.
Letter codes worked such that the first 3 letters of an area were used for that exchange, as in BIS 1234 = Bishopsgate 1234. You have probably heard a someone with clipped vowels in a 1940s film saying, "Mayfair 2743".
So I posted my most recent fire alarm pic to GWL and the interest was enough to set up a group to 'collect' them. I also realised I had others, embedded in pics of old shops signs etc.
There were 263 London codes, so I doubt we'll find existing examples of them all.
If you have seen any yourself, do let me know or add them to the group.
Below are some of the one I have found myself:
Middle row: Earlham Street, Wandsworth Road, Whitfield Street, Marylebone Lane
Bottom row: Curtain Road, Weston Park, Thornhill Road, Holloway Road
I remember WHItehall 1212 being the number for Scotland Yard.ReplyDelete
I agree with you, even I remember Whitehall 1212 being the number of Scotland Yard. The telephone exchange in the early 60's had a wide variety of codes to communicate. Know more at SEO Package ReviewsDelete
Me too! Interestingly a lot of London police stations (if you can get through to them without being directed to some kind of call centre) still use 1212 along with the local exchange code.ReplyDelete
Iused to work in Bermondsey in the late 60s and the telephone exchange was HOP as the area was famous for hop merchants!ReplyDelete
I worked at avenue exchange and we took in HOP numbers. not only hop merchants but major breweries on the south side of the thames. Boxing day was a busy day as pubs were reordering supplies after christmas eve parties.Delete
HOP... that's a wonderful reason for a code!ReplyDelete
If you check the list you'll also see a few other wonderfully creative rationales
London is a great place, interesting facts like this exchange number info prove there is more to the place than meets the eye.ReplyDelete
Our local butcher used to have his number POP (etc) in gold lettering on the cashiers' booth glass but, alas, this lettering was lost (although the booth itself and the beautiful internal tiling was preserved) when the shop changed hands and was brought 'up to code' a few years ago. Great campaign and wish it success.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the feedback.ReplyDelete
I just looked that one up. I'd assumed it'd be Poplar but it's Popesgrove, Twickenham. So that'll be the grove where the Pope lives.
Alexander Pope's house was at Twickenham and there's still a road called Popes Grove. Perhaps the exchange was there?ReplyDelete
I am afraid not. It is in Garfield Road, just off the town centre.Delete
There always used to be a marble bust of Pope on the landing windowsill. Not there now; I wonder where it went?Delete
I had an auntie who lived in Acton, West london, back in the fifties and sixties. The code for her phone was ACO for Acorn. I have no idea of the history of that, but would really like to know, if anyone does ?ReplyDelete
Were there a lot of oak trees in the area, or was it a more convenient grouping than ACT for Acton ?.........David
Acton and its surrounding area was, many decades ago, famous for its oak trees, perhaps a forest. The town crest is (still)an oak tree. Old Oak Common lane is nearby. I uderstand that's where the ACO came from. My brother lives in Acton and his number (now just the last four digits) the same as my Grandparents first telephone number installed around 1960 - ACO xxxx, now 020 8992 xxxx. I understand it's still registered in my Grandfather's name!Delete
It's a long time since this question was asked - it's now april 2017. Sorry I've not looked at this most interesting site for many years, now living in Yorkshire.
Best regards to all...
I used to live in East Acton 1950 -1962 i lived in old oak road.Acton telephone numbers were Acorn ACO... I worked in Temple Bar telephone exchange Covent garden..Which is noDelete
longer there.I then worked in Monarch telephone exchange,
city of london....That was MON...Doreen
If you check that link in the post it lists all the 263 codes and why they were chosen... ACO was Acorn Gardens... tho bloody daft to not have ACT for Acton!ReplyDelete
You couldn't have ACTon because you've already got BATtersea allocated as "228".ReplyDelete
I worked in the Acorn exchange in 1962 where even a local number was through the Operator. A supervisor stood behind you all the time, checking you were being polite to callers. I must have done well as IReplyDelete
was promoted to answer 999 calls.
Those were the days
I worked in Acorn in 1961 as a Youth in Training. The young engineers loved working there as it had more than it's fair share of pretty young Operators. Never mind the Supervisors - what about the Chief!Delete
Yesterday my reminiscing father came up with a gem: My mother had the number SWI 5000. How cool is that!ReplyDelete
Which is now the Royal Free Hospital! Given how much time mother spent in that hospital that is rather fitting!Delete
I was searching (I'm designing a retro business card), came across your wonderful blog, and this..ReplyDelete
Thanks Daviz... I've already put that list my Flickr group here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/lon_tel_let/ReplyDelete
The exchange for the Poplar area was EASt, as in the East End.ReplyDelete
I understand that the old code ACO (220) for the Acton Telephone Exchange comes from the Acorns (and Oak Tree) depicted on Coat of Arms of Acton Borough Council that was, in times gone by, in the County of Middlesex. Pop on over to:-ReplyDelete
http://www.civicheraldry.co.uk/middlesex.html for an example of the arms.
Best regards, Paul.
Formaly of Acton.
That's fascinating. I wonder how many of the other not so obvious codes have interesting explanations...ReplyDelete
How about Kneller Hall Exchange in Whitton. Named after the nearby Royal Military School of Music. Fond memories of working there as an engineer.Delete
I lived in Hammersmith in the mid-60's- we were RIVerside, being right on the bank of the Thames. In the early 70's I worked in Victoria- we were ABBey, being but a few streets from Westminster Abbey! My aunt worked in Poplar/Bow - she was ADVance. My college girlfriend lived in Fulham - a RENown girl.ReplyDelete
There were other codes in Westminster; TCY (Telephone City) and SULlivan – any ideas where this derives from?ReplyDelete
Don't you just love the ADV code?! But, again, why?!
And amusing that RODney is in Camberwell... ;-)
I have just noticed that West Ken is a NOB!ReplyDelete
Hop = SouthwarkReplyDelete
I used to work for BT and some of the old names were still used in the 70s.
Some companies use acronyms even today as easy ways to remember tel numbers.ReplyDelete
In a belated reply to Jane (20/4/15), when I was a student at Queen Mary College in the Mile End Road, my phone number was ADVance 1204. I wondered where Advance came from and discovered that it was originally going to be BEThnal Green, but lots of people were too snobbish to admit that they lived near that grotty place. The Post Office found a word that would work like BET and came up with ADVance. This is unbelievable but true!ReplyDelete
David, that is so amusing and so hypocritical.ReplyDelete
The ADV phone code covered Roman Road market which is where the pic top right comes from. It's hardly a posh address ...
'ere, 'ave some jellied eels wiv your turned up nose, darlin!
I just spent a while re-reading all these comments – what a marvellous thread of info. Thanks everyone.ReplyDelete
Does anyone know when GRO was last used as the dialling code for Grovesner in London?ReplyDelete
I've just found a scrap of newspaper stuffed inside an old brass candlestick and can't date it from the adverts for Ingrams hearing Acceleratiors!!! Fascinating stuff! Many thanks, Susan
The GRO code as per all the others would have been functional up until 1966. Shame you can't date those ads... keep sleuthing...ReplyDelete
In my telephone number the digits 883 equate to the old TUDor exchange name - this covered Highgate and Muswell Hill. Does anyone know what associates that area to the name?ReplyDelete
The Tudor exchange covered East Finchley too.Delete
Funny you should mention that as I spotted a Tudor code recently and now can't the ref of it.ReplyDelete
This link gives no explanation: http://rhaworth.net/phreak/tenp_01.php
There are quite a lot of places in London starting with HIGH so I wonder if it's a reference to the style of housing that went up in the Highgate area as per Holly Lodge Estate?
I live in Sutton, and have been told by a former GPO engineer that apparently one of the Sutton exchanges was called VIGiliant because the mail coach from London to Brighton was called Vigilant at one stage, and it used to stop at the Cock Inn in Sutton to change horses and pick up/drop off passengers. ps .. I've just checked online re the name of the coach, and apparently "the last coach to run regularly [between London and Brighton] was the Vigilant from 1901 until 1905".ReplyDelete
Sorry for the ridiculously slow response – I just love that story for VIG – I wonder if TAL for the Tally Ho coach to Birmingham was used too? I just tried to check but Roger Haworth's excellent reference site, as includied in the main body of this post, is not responding at the moment. I wish I'd made a copy of that chart!Delete
Hi there, I was wondering if anyone knew of a telephone exchange still with old switchboards etc in place still? I am seeking a space like this to hire for a short film shoot. Any help or leads would be greatly appreciated. Please drop me a line if you can help firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!ReplyDelete
I hope you found somewhere – though that would have been an uphill struggle seeing as most of the old switchboards would have been removed and replaced by modern technology decades agoDelete
Your website is terribly informative and your articles are wonderful.ReplyDelete
I just found an undated letter in a box of samples from the Aluminium Development Association. Telephone. MAYFAIR 7501. I've been trying to to roughly date the box and letter. Any clues? Richard. :-)ReplyDelete
The code would cover decades – have you tried looking up info ion when the company was there?Delete
I REMEMBER WORKING AT THE MAYFAIR 629 EXCHANGE IN THE 60S WE ALSO HANDLED GROSVENOR 499 HYDE PARK 493 I STILL REMEMBER THOSE EXCHANGES NOT SURE WHY THEY PUT ME AT THAT LOCATION COMING FROM BOW MY SUPERVISOR ALWAYS USED TO TELL ME I NEEDED TO TAKE ELOCUTION LESSONS I GOT EVEN ON THE WEEKENDS USED TO RING A PHONE DOWN THE OTHER END OF THE ROOM AN D WHEN SHE FINALLY GOT THERE WOULD HANG UP USED TO MAKE HER SO MADDelete