In the late 19th century the initial formation of a telephone company in Britain was usually based on the ownership of rights in some patent for a new design of transmitter of receiver which was not thought to infringe the Bell patents.  Many companies failed and were subsequently absorbed by the Bell companies as a result of litigation over these patents.

In 1880 the British Government took legal action against the United Telephone Company which had just been formed by the amalgamation of the Bell and Edison companies. The Government's contention was that the telephone was a telegraph within the meaning of the Telegraph Act 1869.  This view was upheld by the court and the Post Office, therefore, acquired control over all telephone activity in Britain.  Under its new status the Post Office granted licences to telephone companies in return for a 10% royalty on their business in the UK.

New companies were formed and old companies amalgamated or reorganised, but by 1889 the National Telephone Company (NTC) had almost a monopoly of private company local telephone business.  It was in this light that Hull City Council's undertaking was formed.

In 1898 a Select Committee of the House of Commons was formed as a result of agitation by the Corporation of Glasgow for municipal authorities to be licensed to set up telephone undertakings.  The Committee reported in favour of local telephone systems being operated by municipalities in competition with the NTC.  The Committee's recommendation was accepted, and the Telegraph Act 1899 was passed which empowered municipalities to use rates and to borrow for the establishment of local telephone systems under licence from the Postmaster General.

Out of thirteen bodies who took out a licence only six - Brighton, Glasgow, Hull, Portsmouth, Tunbridge Wells and Swansea - actually set up telephone services.  Tunbridge Wells sold out to the NTC and was followed by Swansea in 1907.  Glasgow and Brighton were both bought by the Post Office and Portsmouth eventually sold out in 1913.  This left Hull as the only survivor.

Hull City Council, in 1899, was pressed into applying for a licence by the Hull Chamber of Trade.  A special committee was formed to deal with the matter and eventually a licence to operate a service for 10 years was granted in 1902.

In 1906 an offer was received by the City Council from the NTC to buy the Council system.  The Telephones Committee, conscious of the fluctuating fortunes of other municipal telephone undertakings reluctantly recommended that the Council accept the offer.  However, at a special meeting of the same year the Council referred back to the Committee's resolution and it was the chairman's casting vote which eventually decided the future of the Hull Telephone Department.

At the time of the Government's take over of private companies Hull's licence was under review.  The Post Office offered a renewal which was conditional upon the Council buying all the ex-NTC plant in the area for a sum of 192,423.  The Council voted in favour of the offer and so the Corporation became the sole controlling telephone authority in the district.

The years between 1902 and 1978 saw the Department successfully negotiate five licences to operate a telephone service under the Telegraph Act 1899.  The last licence issued under this Act was in 1978 and covers a term of 18 years.  However, as a result of the introduction of the Telecommunications Act 1984, and almost a year of negotiations, the Secretary of State granted the Hull City Council a licence to cover a period of 25 years, expiring in 2010.



* Hull's first exchange was opened on 28 November 1904.

* The first automatic exchange was opened in 1922.

* Step-by-step switching was introduced in 1934 and eventually installed throughout the area.

* Recorded information services, with the exception of the speaking clock, were first introduced to the UK in Hull in 1952 when they had Santa Claus on the telephone.  In 1985 they were running 14 services, including a job line and 2 local radio lines.

* In 1975 the old Western Electric Rotary equipment was phased out, and because it was the last of its kind in the UK, it was handed to the Science Museum in Kensington, London.

* Central line-testing equipment was introduced in 1982.

* The hand-over of the first System X exchange took place on 28 November 1984, exactly 80 years, to the minute, after the opening of the very first exchange in Hull.

* During 1985 a 1,000-port telex exchange with Single Channel Voice Frequency and a new Operations & Maintenance Centre for System X became operational.  Also during 1985 a packet switching exchange was installed to handle data transmissions in conjunction with the rapidly expanding optical fibre network.

*By the end of 1988 all the Strowger equipment will have been replaced, the TXE2 mobiles will have been retired leaving only two Crossbar exchanges to be replaced in the future.

* As part of the introduction of System X in 1984, one of the most significant effects to Hull's customers since, has been the elimination of party line sharing.

If you need more detailed information it may be worth contacting the Kingston-Upon-Hull City Records Office on (01482) 222015.

[This article was kindly contributed by the BT Archives and Historical Information Centre]



1882 A vote by the city's businessmen showed only 28 out of its 600 members supported the installation of a telephone service.
1900s Local authorities were asked to bid for telephone licences. 55 out of 1334 expressed an interest.
1902 Hull Corporation, part of the City Council was granted its first licence to operate telephone services in the Kingston upon Hull Area.
1903 The Telephone Committee appointed its first manager to look after the network, Mr T Holme. He had experience of telephone networks as he was financial controller of the Portsmouth Telephone Department.
1904 The Hull Telephone Department opens its first exchange at the former Trippett Street Baths.
1911 Across the UK, the Postmaster General had secured a monopoly by buying out the National Telephone network. Many of the other local authority services had disappeared following bad planning or commercial failure.
1914 On renewal of their telephone licence, Hull's bid was conditional on the purchase of National Telephone networks infrastructure at a cost of 192,423. The council approved the purchase and the sole municipally owned corporation survived and prospered.
1947 The first combined classified and alphabetical listing listing was produced . Directory information was transferred from works orders and transposed onto a master copy. Once the annual edition had be sent to print, the department immediately began updating the next copy.
1952 This year saw the launch of Information Services following a request from Cllr. J.M.Stamper. On a visit to Vienna, he can across a recorded children's story service. The Hull Corporation introduced a Christmas Story line with over 18,000 calls from children who could listen to the sound of sleigh bells and a Christmas message from Santa Claus. This service still continues today and has expanded to include recipes, the speaking clock and a guide to local attractions.
1954 To celebrate the Hull Corporation Golden Jubilee in 1954, the Golden Pages, a forerunner to the Yellow Pages, was distributed with the classified section printed on gold paper.
1961 With an ever growing business, the company began the building of Telephone House. Its new headquarters for administrative staff.
1964 The new head office opened its doors for the first time. Facilities included a shop for people to pay their telephone bills.
1987 The Hull City Telephone Department became Kingston Communications (HULL) PLC, a company in its own right. The council still retained its 100% share holding in the company.
1989 The company completed its network conversion to create the first all digital network in the UK.
1999 The Kingston Communications Group makes its debut on the Stock Exchange with a partial flotation. The City Council retains a 44.9 per cent stake in the company.

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