The History of the Local Telephone Service in the Redhill and Reigate Area
A Brief Description of Victorian Pre-Exchange Communication Systems
     Previous to the invention of the telephone, communication between family members and servants in different parts of a large house had been by one of two methods. The first, familiar to watchers of old films or TV series such as 'Upstairs Downstairs', involved ranks of mechanically operated bells in the servants' quarters that were operated from a pulley in a family room to call for attention. The drawback with this was that the servant had to make two trips, one to inquire what was required, and another to comply with that requirement.
     The second, less familiar method was a system of tubes, sealed with a bung at the family end and by a whistle at the servants' end.  The hollow tubes could carry the sound of the voice from one part of the house to another.  Pulling the upstairs bung and blowing down the tube sounded the whistle to alert the servants. They removed the whistle and announced their presence, thereafter a two-way conversation could take place and the instruction be given, cutting out the first journey and saving time and energy all round. This system was no doubt installed many large houses.  At 4, Upper Bridge Road, Redhill, (now number 10) for example, it still existed in perfect working order in the early 1940s. The terminating points were subsequently done away with during redecoration, but no doubt the tubes are still buried in the walls.
     The telegraph, unlike the telephone, was not designed to reproduce speech nor for use inside houses, and like the in-house communication system there was more than one type. The British system relied on the transmission of electrical signals from one end of a wire to move a pointer to the letters of the alphabet at the other end,    thereby allowing messages to be spelt out.  It was first used in 1837. The American system used Morse code, and came into service in 1844.

The First Telephones
     The first patent for the development of a device to transmit speech over electric wires was granted to Alexander Graham Bell in March 1876. The ensuing years saw the telephone service begin and grow quickly, both in America and Europe.  In England the first use for telephones was to replace the internal communications systems in large houses.  Such installations at first had no connections to the outside world. Family members could summon services from servants by use of the new instruments and be seen to be up with the very latest trends and scientific advances. These first telephones had separately mounted transmitters and receivers. The first instrument to combine these in what we now call the handset, appeared in America in 1884. Early telephones also had separate bells, the first telephone with an internal bell in Great Britain was the 300 type in 1937.

The First Exchanges
     It was not long after the American invention of the telephone that the first British telephone exchange was opened by 'The Telephone Company' in London in 1879 with 10 customers, or 'subscribers' as they were then called.  The market for the new instrument was there, as by 1887 there were 26,000 subscribers nationwide.
     The telephone service was provided mainly by private companies.  At first there were a number of these, but they amalgamated in 1896 to become the National Telephone company. This Company provided by far the majority of Britain's telephones and exchanges under a 31 year licence that had been granted by the government in 1880. Its trunk system was taken into state control in 1896 as the government tried to control its monopoly. Also at this time 5m of public money was invested and the Post Office began to open exchanges. The National Telephone Company was told in 1905 that the remainder of the system would also be taken over when its licence expired. In 1912 it was duly nationalised and the running of it taken over by the Post Office. The only exceptions were telephone systems run by local authorities at Hull and Portsmouth. Today only Hull's service remains independent, Portsmouth's was sold to the Post Office in 1913.  The telephone operation of the General Post Office  (GPO)  was finally privatised on October 1st 1981, and thereafter run by its successor, British Telecom (BT).

The First Redhill Telephone
From the Surrey Mirror, April 21st 1883: - NOTICE: Mssrs TS Marriage and Co., Agricultural and Domestic Engineers, have connected their branches at Redhill and Reigate with the telephone, and the convenience of communication cannot be over estimated.
Was this the first use of the telephone in Redhill? Quite possibly, although someone, somewhere, might know better.  Certainly it is the earliest example discovered in this author's research. Presumably the wires were strung on poles set at intervals for the whole of the two miles between the shops.  The installation superseded the earliest Local Telephone Exchange by nine years.
     Of course, it served only the two shops and was not connected to any public system, the nearest of which was in London. The first Redhill telephone that was so connected belonged to Hall & Co. They already had the telephone at Coulsdon and wanted it at their Redhill depot as well. The Coulsdon one was connected to the London network but to run an extension to Redhill was too expensive because of all the roads that had to be crossed. Hall & Co. solved the problem in 1891 by running, with the Railway Company's permission, an extension line alongside the railway track and for a year had the only telephone in Redhill from which calls to London could be made. Their customers were allowed to use it at 1/- a time.

The First Redhill Telephone Exchange
    The first telephone exchange at Redhill was brought into service in 1892 by the National Telephone Company and was located at
Mr Leonard P. Rees company's office in Station Road.   The first exchange was a switchboard and may not at first have had a dedicated operator, possibly being operated by Rees staff, as with only a small number of connections the wok load would not have been great.

The offices of Mr Leonard P. Rees, pictured here in 1908, stood on the corner of Station Road and Warwick Road. Note the high pole at the rear of the premises.  Although unable to be read in this reproduction of the picture the words 'National Telephone Co.' appear over the window to the right of the entrance.

People who Used the Redhill Exchange
      By April 1893 Redhill exchange had 14 subscribers, 3 of whom had been connected that year, and 2 of which were public call offices situated at Arthur Woods' shop in Station Road, Redhill, and at Rickett, Smith and Co. at Reigate Station respectively. Redhill was a part of the National Telephone Company's Metropolitan area, and was listed in its directories with the Londonexchanges. There was probably no separate local directory published.  No directory at all is known to exist for 1892, Redhill's first year of existence (even BT archives do not possess a copy) but the directory for 1893 reveals the following: - Redhill numbers began at 1 and worked forward in natural progression, but the 1893 directory shows them all with 98 in front.  It seems that as exchanges were provided this prefix also grew, the prefix for the exchange provided before Redhill (Wimbledon) being 97. It would therefore seem likely that Redhill was the 98th telephone exchange installed by the National Telephone Company exchange.

An alphabetical extraction of the Redhill listings in the 1893 directory:
9812 Adams, Richard, 32 Station Road, Redhill
9811 Adams, Richard, Church Street, Reigate
9803 Hall & Co., Redhill, Surrey
9801 Redhill & Reigate Borough Police, Police Station, Redhill
9804 Rees A & L, Station Road, Redhill
9813 Rennie, George B, Horley Lodge, Redhill, Surrey
9809 Rickett, Smith & Co., 12 Station Road, Redhill
9808    "       "    "     Reigate Station
9807 Roberts, T.H., 'Covertside', Earlswood, Redhill
9805 Searle, James, Eversfield, Reigate
9802 Wood, Arthur, 45 Station Road, Redhill
Call Rooms were
9802 Arthur Wood, 45 Station Road, Redhill
9808 Rickett, Smith & Co., Reigate Station

Following the main directory listings were three new subscribers:
9814 Duncan, J.Hill, 'Hollycroft', Redstone Hill, Redhill
9816 Weston J., Station Road, Redhill
9810 Wyman & Sons, Athanaeum Works, Brighton Rd, Redhill

 A numerical listing of the entries in the 1893 directory:
9801 Redhill & Reigate Borough Police
9802 Wood, Arthur (Call Room)
9803 Hall & Co.
9804 Rees A & L
9805 Searle, James
9807 Roberts, T.H.
9808 Rickett, Smith & Co Ltd
9809 Rickett, Smith & Co Ltd
9810 Wyman and Sons
9811 Adams, Richard (Call Room)
9812 Adams, Richard (Local)
9813 Rennie G.B.
9814 Duncan J Hill
9816 Weston J
9821etc. to 9831
From the above it would seem that the exchange had a capacity of at least 31 numbers when first installed, and probably a total of 50, this being the maximum number of lines one switchboard of the early types were equipped for. These were the pioneering few who were the forerunners of today's telephone list of thousands.  In its first years the exchange covered a much greater area than it does today, as Reigate, Merstham etc. have since acquired their own exchanges. It is interesting that although Mssrs Rees seemed influential in the service in these early days they still did not have the first number of 9801.
The National Telephone Company's Redhill directory three years later, in 1896/1897, when extracted from the London directory, looked like this;

Public call offices
2   Arthur Wood, 45 Station Rd, Redhill
8   Rickett, Smith & Co., Reigate Station
11  Richard Adams, Church St., Reigate

Other Subscribers in Alphabetical Order
12  Adams, Richard, 31 Station Rd, Redhill
19  Barton & Co, Wholesale wine merchants, 3 & 5 London Rd
14  Duncan, J.Hill, Hollycroft, Redstone Hill, Redhill
20  Eumorfopoulos G, Meadvale, Redhill
21  Garle John A., Pirbright, Chipstead
  3  Hall & Co. Coal, gravel, cement, Brighton Rd, Redhill
6   Hull E.C.P., The Mount, Redhill
10  Malcomson & Co. Ltd, Brighton Rd, Redhill
1   Metcalfe, James Chief Constable, Police Station, Redhill
17  Pollen, Captain F.H., Farley, Reigate
4   Rees, Leonard P., Auctioneer and Surveyor, 53 Stn Rd
13  Rennie, George B, Horley Lodge, Redhill
18  Richards, J Topham, Hilton Lodge, Reigate
9   Rickett Smith & Co. Ltd, Coal Mchts, 12 Station Rd, Redhill
7   Roberts T.H., Covertside, Earlswood
5   Schlesinger LB, Beechmount, Linkfield Lane, Redhill
15  Somerset, Isobel (Lady Henry Somerset) Priory, Reigate
22  Surrey Mirror, 65 Brighton Rd, Redhill
16  Weston J, Station Rd, Redhill
This is a total of 22 entries, including the 3 public call offices, and shows that every number from 1 to 22 is in use, so from 1893 to 1896 the number of connected numbers had grown from 14 to 22. The shortest lines were those in Station Road, the longest the one at Chipstead.

Early Manual Switchboards
     Redhill's early switchboard had double ended cords to effect connections between calling and called subscribers.  Telephones were installed in private houses with their own batteries for power.  A handle on the
telephone needed to be cranked to generate a varying DC current to drop an indicator on the switchboard with that telephone's number on it.  The caller would then pick up his separate earpiece and mouthpiece and wait for the operator to come on the line.  At the exchange switchboard the dropped indicator would set off  a buzzer to alert the operator to the fact that there was a call.  She, or he,  would restore the indicator by hand, noting the number.  With end of the double ended cord (the answer cord) the  operator would plug into the jack (plug socket) associated with that number, connect her headset to the circuit by the operation of a key (switch) and ask for the number required.
     The caller passed over the number and the operator would then plug the other end of the double ended cord (the calling cord) into the jack associated with the required number, restore the key with which she had connected her headset to the circuit to and operate it, or another key, to connect her ringer to the circuit.  To actually ring the distant bell of the called line she would have to turn a handle on her board to generate the necessary ringing current, in the same way as the calling subscriber had needed to do to call the switchboard.
     Later switchboards had supervisory systems which allowed the operator to visually monitor the progress of the call without intruding further on the line.  The early boards did not have this facility so the operator would have to reconnect her headset to the circuit to make sure the called subscriber answered and the call progressed satisfactorily.
     There were several sets of cords and keys on each switchboard to enable the operator to cope with more than one call at a time.
     Because of this lack of supervisory system it was up to the caller to advise the operator when the call had finished.  He did this by replacing his handset and once more cranking the handle of his generator.  This once again dropped his indicator at the switchboard, previously restored when the operator had answered.  The operator, seeing the indicator down, this time with a cord inserted in that subscriber's jack, would then know that the connection could be disconnected.  She would restore the indicator by hand and remove both her cords.
No picture of the Redhill switchboard at Rees offices is known but above left is a picture of a similar installation at Purley (courtesy BT archives)
Above right is a picture of a magneto switchboard taken at the BT museum, London.

A New Site for the Exchange
     Mr Rees' influence of the exchange sites continued for at some early stage the exchange moved from his Station Road premises to a house, apparently his property, called 'Hillside Villa', at 21 Chapel Road, Redhill. The exact year of this move is unconfirmed, but there are multiple choices.
1) 1896 or 1897 - In the 1897 directory there is listed a call office for use by the public at 'The National Telephone Company', 21 Chapel Road, Redhill.  As this call office was not shown in the 1896 directory it looks as though the National Telephone Company had presence at the property by 1897. Whether or not the exchange moved at this time is not certain.
2)   A brief history of exchanges at the BT Archives confirms the above, stating: 'A magneto exchange of the hand  restoring type opened in 1902 at 21 Chapel St (road?) Redhill.'  This is stronger, the word 'opened' more positively suggesting that possibly no exchange had been there before.  I
     The exchange is only fully listed in one document in the BT archives, a National Telephone Company publication; 'Sites and Buildings - 1908'. This contains a list of exchanges and details of buildings.  Against their Redhill exchange, in the address column is: "21 Chapel Rd." In a separate column headed 'Conditions of Tenure' is the statement: '14 years from 25th December 1896. 6 months notice at end of 14th or any subsequent year.' Even this does not place the exchange in the building from 1896, only NTC presence, probably with a call office.
     The 1898-9 Kelly's directory for Redhill lists the following: - 'National Telephone Company (Call Rooms) Chapel Road (for London & Provinces day & night) & 45 Station Road.'
     It would seem that at the early eachanges no night service was offered and the exchange closed down at 7pm each day.'  This means that if the Chapel Road Call Room offered day and night service it was certainly not connected to the Redhill switchboard at Rees' offices, at least, not at night.  It was either permanently connected to, or switched via a junction after 7pm, to another exchange that did offer night service.
     The date of the move from Rees offices to Chapel road is still not firmly established.  If 1902 is indeed the date, which does seem likely, then it was in Rees offices for 10 years.  The 1908 NTC document, previously referred to, also notes that the annual rent payable in that year on 21 Chapel road was 33-10-0.

The Problems of Moving an Exchange
     The method of connection from telephone to exchange at the time of the move may have been completely by overhead wires, so when the transfer was made to Chapel road it would have been not too difficult to divert those connections from close to the centre of the town to not too far south of it, and better to do it before the number of lines increased significantly. The single switchboard may have been disconnected, transported from the old site to the new and reconnected, interrupting service for however long that took. More likely a new switchboard (probably a number of switchboards) could have been provided, the overhead wires teed at a suitable point, and the change-over completed in a much shorter time with little or no interruption, the original board then being re-used elsewhere. With only 22 lines the amount of calls delayed or lost by the slowest method would have been small. Certainly overhead wires were very common for many years, but eventually the Chapel Road exchange would be served by underground cables.

The Type of Switchboard    
    As previously stated, the history of exchanges at the BT Archives included the following entry;   'A magneto exchange of the hand restoring indicator type opened in 1902 at 21 Chapel St., Redhill.'' (For 'St' we should safely be able to substitute Rd.) This would have been the first modernisation of the Redhill equipment, in this case the switchboard. The move of the exchange when there were only 22 lines had been a wise one, for by 1st January 1904 there were 211 lines connected; growth had been rapid. That growth continued, although possibly slowed by the advent of the first World War.
Redhill Exchange 1912 - 1930
    By 1920 the number of lines connected to Redhill exceeded 500, but well before then additional exchanges had opened at Betchworth in 1908, Reigate n 1909, Merstham and Burgh Heath in 1910, and Headley in 1912. These new installations relieved Redhill of some of its load and considerably reduced the length of some of the lines. In 1920 the number of Merstham lines approached 100, whilst Reigate's total already exceeded 300, altogether around 400 lines that Redhill no longer had to cater for.  A brief history of some of the surrounding area exchanges appears in later pages.
     In 1921 the equipment in the exchange was updated.  The equipment type - magneto - remained unchanged, but the old National Telephone Company equipment was replaced by the London Telephone Service with an up-to-date type. The operation meant that the exchange had to be closed for five minutes, and an announcement was made to the effect that on the afternoon of 12th March, 1921, between 2.25 and 2.30, callers to the Redhill exchange would get no reply whilst the change-over was made. This was part of an improvement being made to almost all of the outer London exchanges in these years in order to modernise and to get the capacity for the connection of thousands of more lines. By the end of 1929 there were over 750 lines working and the number of operators had also increased. In 1928-29 there were around seven or eight operators, including a supervisor.  A list of those employed there during this period follows:

Supervisor - Nell Kenwood.
Operators - Dora Wadey, Mabel Thompson, Sybil Mallinson, Mabel McGregor, Evelyn Hilton, Mabel Arlett, Gladys Saywell, Mary Bugg, Enid Aldridge (Mabel Thompson, Cissie to her friends, lived adjacent to the exchange at the next house down the hill, lateness excuses must have taxed her imagination, were they ever necessary)
Engineers - Bernard Driver, Bert Harvey, E.W.Shipton. There was also a Ron Vine who spent time at the exchange but he may have worked at the Post Office, not the exchange.
Cleaner - Mr Marsh (Johnny?) Cook - Mrs Illman

The switchroom was on the ground floor front room of the house and the engineers' room was on the same floor at the rear. The closeness with which the operators and engineers worked is evident by the fact that Dora Wadey married Bert Harvey and the Supervisor, Nell Kenwood, married Ron Vine, mentioned above.

Staff from the Chapel Road Exchange pictured in 1928/29 on an outing

Back Row: Nel Kenward, Sybil Mallinson, Bernard Driver. Front Row: Mary Bugg, Enid Aldridge.Dora Wadey and Gladys SaywellFront row: 4th from right: Enid Aldridge, far right Sybil Mallinson and Mr Marsh..
In the early 1920s at Reigate manual exchange there had been five operators looking after the 300-odd lines in that town, and Mabel McGregor, pictured centre in the lefthand picture in Reigate Exchange, had been one of them. Unfortunately little can be seen of the switchroom which was situated over the Post Office in Bell Street. Her niece, who supplied this photo, said that Mabel had a fiancee who was killed in the first World War, and subsequently she never married.  She remained in the telephone service all her career, becoming a training supervisor at local exchanges. Mabel is seen again in the centre of the righthand picture taken at the rear of the Reigate Exchange. When this picture was taken it is wondered who was looking after the exchange.

Chapel Rd - a family house again
     The strain on the space available at Chapel Road must have indicated that larger premises were required, and in February of 1930 Redhill exchange moved once again.  Although the exchange was no longer at Chapel Road after 1930, a little of the continuing history of the house it had been situated in can be noted here. It was sold and, if it had been a family residence before it had been a telephone exchange, then it became one again, bought by a family named Sexton.
     Mr Bert Sexton was a bus driver at Reigate. Mrs Ethel Sexton, his wife, was a daughter of the Chandlers, who had a fish and grocery shop in the High Street.  (That shop was situated next to the alley that ran across the brook to the railway station, emerging between the station and the Lakers Hotel.  It was the shop that gave its name to Chandlers alley.)  Mrs Sexton also owned other property in Redhill. There were three children, Ron, Clarice and Doris.It was Doris who, in about 1936, married a young telephone engineer, Mr E.W.Shipton, who had been employed by the Post Office at the Chapel Road exchange since he had left school in 1925. The Sextons left the house shortly after the war and in 1947/8 the house was bought by The Gegg family who lived there into the early 1960s. Mr Gegg was editor of the Surrey Mirror for many years.
     The house had three floors plus cellars, and in the 1940s there was racking around the cellar walls - possibly cable supports left over from the old exchange days - and there was a steep ramp up from the cellar into the back garden that the other houses did not have. This could possibly have been a cable inlet, as when the house was demolished underground cables were dug up in the back garden. Also there was a small brick shed in the back garden, another feature not shared by the other houses. The rear garden sloped away to Lower Bridge Road, and a garage that had its entrance in that road had a roof only 18" higher than the garden level.  Also in the 1940s the hallway still had original black Victorian wallpaper on the walls, and several lots of wires were found during redecoration. 21 Chapel Road was demolished in the 1980s. 

     A note about the term 'Subscribers', is appropriate. The word was used instead of 'Customers' because people did actually subscribe to the telephone system in the early days, paying a subscription to belong to the service and using it accordingly. This worked fine for frequent users but was not so fair for infrequent users and the idea of a pay-by-call basis of charging was first introduced in 1884.
     Call offices were available to subscribers and non-subscribers alike, the difference being that the latter would use them on a pay-by-call basis, whereas the former used them free on production of proof of their subscriber status.
     The term 'subscribers' to describe customers outlived the subscription system by many years and was shortened to 'subs' within the communication industry.It was still in common use in BT jargon as late as the 1980s, when a BT campaign to officially substitute the word 'customer' was launched to assist the service out of the old electro-magnetic age and into the new electronic era. 

Redhill Exchange 1930 - 1967
       In 1929 or 1930* the exchange moved to a new location in Clarendon Road  This new exchange building was an extension of an existing house known as 'The Moorings' situated directly behind the Post Office and adjacent to the Methodist Hall, itself built on the site of the old bowling club. The exchange was converted at the same time from magneto to a CB1. The CB stood for Central Battery and an explanation of this term may be appropriate. Previously it had been necessary for the power to energise the telephone transmitters, and thereby to cause the resulting speech currents to flow in the lines, to be provided from batteries situated in the customers' premises. The installation of the Central Battery type of exchange meant that ordinary telephones could be powered from a large, central, battery at the exchange via the two wires that connected them to the exchange. More will be said about this power source later. Some other installations, e.g., private switchboards situated in business premises, still required some local power for other functions, and still do today.
From the Surrey Mirror of July 8 1932 - The telephone exchange in Clarendon Rd has 820 lines and handles 16,000 calls per week. There are 1025 lines at Reigate. Redhill exchange opened in Clarendon Road in January1929 with Miss Kenward as supervisor and Mr Marsh the engineer. *The quoted date of opening of 1929 is in variance with other sources which state 1930.

The House
       A plan of the house, 'The Moorings', without the telephone exchange shown built on to it, and headed 'Redhill Telephone Exchange', is shown here
and would make it look as though the exchange did exist for a while in the house before the extension was built.  This is not so, however, as the completed new building was ready for occupation in 1929 or 1930 and the operators from the old Chapel Road exchange were able to transfer directly to the new premises.
       The house with its land was sold to the GPO by the Monson estate in 1928. This information came from an examination of the deeds by the 1994 owners of the then empty exchange building - see correspondence with Canadian and Portland Estates.  Ex-engineer, Peter Crawley, said that he heard that the original builder of the new exchange went broke because of problems with the foundations in the sand that exists there, and another builder had to complete the job.  More information about the house and its earlier  owners is contained in 'Postscript' on page 110 of this history.
       After the extension was built the rooms of the old house continued to be used for various purposes.  Downstairs there were the exchange engineer's tea room and a recreation room (with a table tennis table in it at least from 1946), and upstairs was the dining room, providing dinners for resident operators and engineers, as well as outside engineers employed on underground and overhead plant, and customers' apparatus maintenance and repair.
  The operators making the move were the same ones who had been employed at Chapel Road, with the exception of Mary Bugg, who had died young, and Mabel Arlett, who had left to get married.  There were also some relief operators from elsewhere as the first day was also an open day at the new exchange. Strangely, these operators were at last at an exchange incorporating the type of equipment for which they had been trained.  Initial operator training was carried out at Clerkenwell, in London, with 'live' experience of working London exchanges.  This training was on the modern switchboard types, not magneto, which was obsolescent by this time, so had to adapt and learn anew at Chapel Road.  When moving to Clarendon Road they at last found equipment similar to that of their Clerkenwell days.

A 1933 Redhill map - Clarendon Road is in red, the new exchange in yellow

       To remain with the subject of training it is interesting that when Enid Bell first went into a London exchange for experience she was amazed at the size of the switchroom and the noise generated by the operators voices as they asked for connection information and passed it on to called parties or operators in distant exchanges, and she wondered if she would be able to stand it.  Fortunately both Redhill exchanges were far smaller and quieter. Redhill boards did not have so far to reach to the higher connection points as the London boards.  Because an operator might have to stand to reach the uppermost working parts of the switchboard there was a minimum height requirement for operators of five feet.  One of the operators at Chapel Road had been five feet and a quarter of an inch, just fulfilling this standard.

The Switchroom in 1930
       The switchroom was a large place, built to take the expected expansion of the coming decades, but in 1930 there were just a few switchboard positions at the west end.  The exact number originally installed is unknown, but probably numbered up to position 11 or 13 only  (no even numbers were used).  The supervisor's desk was in the centre of the room, which must have been very light then, as later switchboards blocked out the light from the windows, and war time black-out restrictions caused the roof-light windows to be painted dark green.  The room must have sounded a little hollow, too, with all the empty space that there was.
       Nell Vine (nee Kenwood) continued to be the supervisor, with Mabel McGregor as her deputy.  Female operators worked shifts to cover 8am-8pm, with male operators working the night shifts.  Enid Bell, who had started as an operator at Chapel Road in 1928, left in 1936 on a wage of 2-12-6 a week.

The Switchroom in Later Years
      The extension was a red brick, flat roofed building which dwarfed the old house it was attached to, and the manual board was to eventually occupy almost all of its first floor.  The original entrance to the manual room was at its West end (nearest to the house to which it was joined). The supervisor's desk was on the left with the clerical desk alongside but separated from it by a partition.  In front of the clerical desk was the two-position enquiry board, or Information Desk (ID).  Around the west, north and east sides of the room were (eventually) about sixty operator positions.

The Information Desk
       The Information Desk was the equivalent of today's directory enquiries, with the difference that it was a much more personal and friendly local service. It was nothing for a subscriber to ask for a number without knowing any of the personal names involved, (and sometimes not the street names either) and a conversation between an enquirer and the operator might be something like this:
Customer:   "Would you give me the number of that butcher's shop that always has the large pork joints in the window, please?"
Operator:     "Is it in Redhill, Madam?"
Customer:    "Oh, yes."
Operator:      "Do you know the name of the butcher's, Madam?"
Customer:     "I've forgotten, I'm afraid."
Operator:      "Which road is it in?"
Customer:     "I'm sorry, I don't know that either, but it's next door to the leather shop."
Operator:      "There are two leather shops in Redhill, madam. Do you know which one"
Customer      "Yes, I do know that; it's the one on the same side as the paper shop."
       This lack of information from the telephone enquirer would get them absolutely nowhere today, the conversation not progressing this far, even.  But during the 31 years the enquiries desk was functioning at Redhill the operators were mostly local girls, familiar with the town and the names of most of the shops. Working in the exchange as they did they learned many of the more frequently requested shop numbers by heart, and unless the operator was a new girl (an unusual situation as usually only experienced operators worked on the information desk) it was more likely than not that she knew the number and would be able to supply it straight away. If she did not know the number she would start the finding out process. The first step was to ask the girl next to her, if she did not know then she might call across to one of the girls on the
clerical desk.  If this failed an enquiry might be made of the nearest of the supervisors. By this time the number had usually been produced from local knowledge.  If it had not then the next step was to look up shop names in Kelly's street directories. When the names were found a look in the local telephone directory would reveal the number. If there were still problems, such as when shops had recently changed hands, with an associated change of name and telephone number, the solution was to ring a known shop, either next door or opposite to the requested location, and ask them the new name.  The number could then be looked up in the list of recently changed and new numbers kept on the information desk.  It was not unknown for one shopkeeper to nip next door to get the new owner's number while the girl held on.  While this was going on the customer could either hang on or be rung back with the information. Compare all this with today's directory enquiries.  Efficient and computer controlled as it is, a failure to locate a number fairly quickly is terminal.  With the technical strides that have been made in recent years the enquiries bureau operator might be nowhere near the area under enquiry, with no local knowledge of it.  She makes the search on a data base and if she does not find the name of the customer requested then that's the end of the matter, and if she does, a synthesised voice impersonally passes it to the enquirer.

Above photo - Two operators busily dispensing information from the Redhill Exchange
information desk in the late 1950s/early 60s.  The information desk
was only a two-position board and could be accessed from any of the
main switchboard positions around the manual switchroom.

The Manual Boards
        The manual boards at the new Redhill exchange were numbered but with one exception only odd numbers were used.  Their layout was as follows;
Position 1 - Spare
Positions 2-3 - SFJ Positions
      These were jack ended junction positions; that's to say they were equipped with incoming junctions from other exchanges that terminated on cords and plugs. The jacks referred to were sockets into which the plugs could be inserted, and were the Redhill end of outgoing junctions to other exchanges.
       These two positions were the onward switching part of the manual exchange, via which connections for trunk calls could be made.  An operator in Tunbridge Wells, for example, might not have a direct junction to Reading and so have to set up a call between the two towns via a Tunbridge Wells-Redhill junction and a Redhill-Reading junction, the two junctions being connected together by the SFJ operator at Redhill.  By this method, and with main (manual) switching exchanges being located at strategic positions around the country, trunk calls originating in any town could be onward connected to any telephone in any other town anywhere in the country, often being connected via more than one main switching point.
       On these SFJ positions (SFJ stood for Straight Forward Junction) the operator had the incoming call appear in her headset, so she had to be alert, and had little control over the rate at which she had to work.
The Multiple
       Next to the SFJ positions the 'multiple' started. This was the name for the jacks with the Redhill telephone numbers associated with them, and to which all Redhill telephones were connected.  The name was derived from the fact that all the Redhill numbers were multipled, or repeated, at regular spacings all the way around the rest of the operator positions in the room, so that every number was within the reach of every operator.
       The multiple contained all the numbers from 1 up to 2000, later to 3000 and 4000 as Redhill grew, the rows of jacks expanding vertically on the front face of the switchboard.  It was available to all positions in the switchroom other than the SFJ.
Positions 5-7 - Incoming junctions from other (local) exchanges
        After the two SFJ positions at Redhill were 3 positions which had incoming junctions from other local exchanges associated with them. These junctions were used for calls from other exchanges to Redhill numbers, and each one had a light associated with it to show when an incoming call was present. The operator would plug into the incoming junction, find out which Redhill number was required and make the connection via the 'multiple'. By this means any other exchange could call any Redhill number.
Position 9 - Spare
Position 11-15 - Incoming from Betchworth, Dawes Green, and Bletchingley
                   As for any other incoming position, the facilities offered were onward connection to Redhill or other exchange numbers.

A view of part of the manual switchroom at Redhill manual exchange in the late 1950s or early 60s. Incoming calls appeared on the lower part of each board's facia, and outgoing calls to other exchanges were connected via junctions on the mid part of the facia.  The multiple of all Redhill numbers can be seen above these with plenty of room to grow vertically.  Every subscriber's number was repeated each two and a half positions, so the whole number range was in reach of every operator. The stool in the foreground and the table and chair on the left were for use of the section supervisors.  The photo was taken by a professional photographer; the case on the floor was probably his.

Position 17 - Post Office board 
      The Post Office now has its own switching system installed, but originally the service was provided from the exchange, all the extensions from the post office and the sorting office being connected to position 17.  Any postal employee wanting another extension would lift their receiver and ask the operator on that position for the required extension number, just as though the board was their own private switchboard.  The Post office letters and Telephone companies in those day were one and the same business.  The Post Office extensions connected to the board were in addition to the multiple of Redhill ordinary numbers, so calls could be made from extensions to outside lines.
       Similarly calls could be made from Redhill numbers, or from incoming junctions from other exchanges, to any Post Office extension. These were more than likely answered from operators on other positions around the switchroom, so circuits were provided from all points to position 17 where they would be picked up and connected to the required extension.
Position 19-41 - Redhill
       Eleven boards were provided exclusively for calls from and to Redhill numbers.  If a Redhill number wanted a something other than another Redhill number they would be connected accordingly;  that is to say, for enquiries to the information desk; for the Post Office to the PO board as previously described; and for other parts of the country to the relative outgoing board; and so on.
       The method of calling this modern exchange was for the customer to simply lift the telephone receiver. Equipment at the exchange would be activated by current from the central battery flowing around the customer's 'loop' (the condition provided by contacts in the telephone when the handset was lifted) and light that subscriber's unique calling lamp on its appearance on each of the switchboards dedicated to Redhill traffic.  ('Traffic' was, and still is, the technical, or jargon, term for calls in progress or in the process of being set up)
Position 43-47 Incoming Local
        More incoming junctions from other exchanges provided as the network grew.
Position 49-53 Reigate
        Reigate exchange had grown in respect of numbers of lines connected to the point where it eventually outstripped Redhill - at least for a time.  It was not until the 1980s that Redhill town expansion created the demand for extra lines that would take it past Reigate as the largest exchange once more.  Reigate's size, therefore, created the requirement for three boards to cater for its traffic to Redhill numbers alone.  Reigate became an automatic exchange in 1937, with direct access to other local auto exchanges, and also to the whole of the London area.
Position 55-59 - Spare
      Although spare, these boards were fully equipped and functional. They were used for some training purposes, or were available if unusually heavy traffic occurred, as long as operators were available to fill them.
      Unusually heavy traffic was a phenomenon that occurred with rare events. Local ones could be associated with extremes of weather, such as sudden snow, when everyone would ring everyone else to say why they were not at work, or at what-ever other destination they had intended to journey to that day.  An example of such a National event is the death of King George VI in 1952, when thousands of calls were made by people enquiring if friends or relatives had heard the news.
Position 61 - Test
        On the ground floor was a fully equipped 'test' desk, a facility  manned by engineers from which comprehensive tests of faulty lines could be carried out.  When a line was reported out of order, however, the initial report would be taken on the information desk.  A docket would be made out for that number and preliminary tests on the line could be made from the test position.

       The day operators and supervisors were almost always female, just as in the old Redhill exchange in Chapel Road, but the night operators were often male, although not exclusively.
       Naturally, the phrase most frequently uttered by an operator was, 'Number, please?" and one which could become almost compulsive.  It has been known for a tired operator, on a bus on her way home on a busy day, to offer her fare to the conductor, and instead of saying where she wanted to go, say, "Number, please?"
       As already stated, operators became familiar with certain numbers, knowing frequently used ones off by heart.  This was also the case with certain subscribers associated with those numbers, the operator growing to recognise their voices and be aware of which other numbers they called the most.  As a result operators became able to anticipate some requests.  For example, a business customer might frequently ask for a certain other Redhill number, and if that was engaged always request the same alternative number.  The seasoned operator might pre-empt that request by saying; "The number you're calling is engaged, shall I try .....?" quoting the alternative that she knew he always requested.  Or if a requested number was engaged she might offer to try another that a customer was unaware belonged to the same called company.
     This kind of service tended to become conversational and put customers at ease with the operators, and some were sometimes inclined to chat to girls whose voices they liked, and would sometimes ask if a certain girl might be 'the same one I was talking to the other day.'  One man, who in the very early nineteen-sixties rang his bookie daily, was just such a chatty individual, and one day one of the operators responded to his cheerfulness, dallying on the line long enough to engage in a little frivolity before connecting him.  He liked the sound of her voice and asked her name.  She told him and he said he had been going to put eighty pounds on a horse, but now he would make it eighty-five, the odd five for her.  The horse won at 8-1 and an envelope containing 40, several weeks wages for an operator, duly arrived at the exchange with her name on it.
       This was all very nice for the young operator, but there were section supervisors, women whose functions were to see that the part of the manual board they had charge of was adequately staffed and functioned properly.  Now functioning properly meant that the operators dealt with all calls quickly and efficiently, and chatting to the customers was frowned upon.  In the case quoted above the operator's little diversion went unnoticed, but there were other occasions when the frowns were associated with chastisements.
     Once such case, again in the early sixties, involved G.J.Wrights, the frozen food merchants at Earlswood.  They had dispensed with the services of a great number of their reps, deciding instead to telephone their customers to collect their orders. Consequently they sent to the exchange a list of all the numbers their sales people had to speak to, arranging that these numbers should be called between 9.30 and 11.30 on a Monday morning and connected to their number at Earlswood.
      This task, known as group booking, would occupy two operators exclusively for all of the two hours as they worked through the list, marking off successful calls made and connected, and returning to engaged numbers later.
       Naturally, it was a service that G.J.Wrights paid for via their bill, but at Christmas they showed their personal appreciation in the form of a basket of fruit sent to the exchange for the operators who had dealt with their group bookings during the year. The gift was taken in and duly enjoyed, but everyone knew that the situation fell well within the frowned upon category where the supervisory staff were concerned.  The girls were supposed to do their jobs well and expect no reward other than that supplied in their pay packets by the Post Office.
      If fruit, chats to the customers and bets were distractions from efficiency, then fraternisation with the male staff in the building (the engineers who maintained the boards and associated equipment in the exchange) were doubly so.  As in most jobs where male and female mix, associations formed, engineers and operators married, as they did at the Chapel Road exchange, but when such an association was in full bloom in an exchange it could sometimes lead, in the interests of 'good working practices', to the transfer away from that building of one or the other of the persons involved.
        The writer knows of no occasions where operators good relations with the telephone using public, made while she was at work, led to dates or marriage, but that is not at all beyond the bounds of possibility.
         The writer does, however, know of a Redhill engineer whose girlfriend worked in a TV hire shop at Purley.  In order that they could meet at lunch-times he put in for a transfer to Uplands exchange at Purley.  He had to wait a considerable time, upwards of a year, for his transfer to come through, and the same week as he was moved to Purley she was suddenly and unexpectedly permanently moved to the shop's Redhill branch.  They gave up the unequal struggle and got married, moving away to the Gloucester area.

The Manual Equipment
       Considerable amounts of line termination and distribution equipment, as well as power plant and a test and fault handling desk, was necessary for the successful working of the manual exchange.  This was situated on the ground floor and was looked after by a team of engineers of about 6 in number.  As the exchange grew there were also often a number of construction engineers on site.  With one or two cleaning staff they added 10 or 15 to the 60 operators, making a resident total of around 75 persons in the 1950s and 60s.                   The manager of Redhill exchange in the later manual days was also manager of the eight dependant exchanges, and had his office at Reigate, on the 2nd floor there. He would visit Redhill from time to time, but at least once a week.
        In his absence, the officer in charge during the 1930s and 40s was the SW1.  As an manifestation of his authority, and in the tradition handed down from even earlier years, the SW1 wore a bowler hat and always sat in the same seat during tea and lunch breaks.  This rank was done away with in the late 1940s and replaced by the T1 (the T standing for Technician).  Subordinate technician ranks were T2As, T2Bs and YITs (Youths in Training - the GPO's version of apprentices who served a 2 year training period).  There were also TOs (Technical Officers) whose main place of work was automatic exchanges, but who occasionally found their way into certain positions on the manual test desks, controlling the external repair staff, and other posts.

The Change to Automatic Working
      Automatic exchange equipment had been invented as early as 1888 by an American named Strowger.  His name was given to the basic 'step by step' automatic system which worked on the electromagnetic principle.  The first automatic telephone exchange in Great Britain opened at Epsom in 1912, and the British version of Strowger automatic working was generally adopted in 1922.  Even so, the last wholly manual exchanges did not go out of service until the second half of the 20thC, Redhill among them.  The very last manual exchange in the UK closed in 1976.
      The problem with manual exchanges was that they were labour intensive. The engineers looking after them could be trained to look after automatic exchanges, and the operators and supervisors could be dispensed with, or moved to other jobs within the company, at a great saving in wages.  Automatic equipment had been installed and had been working at other exchanges for many years yet was still being developed, with new, more adaptable and efficient equipment and systems replacing some of the older ones, so automatic working was the way forward for the older manual installations, Redhill included.
       Today the supervision of calls on automatic exchanges is done by a mixture of tones and announcements; whereas in the automatic exchanges before the mid 1980s tones only were almost exclusively used.  In the manual days supervision of calls was carried out by the operator.  A comparison of the oral (manual exchange) and tone only (automatic exchange) methods is made here:
On lifting the receiver
Manual            A voice requesting "Number, please?"
Automatic       Dialling tone
The called number is engaged
Manual            "I'm sorry, the number is engaged, would you try again later?"
Automatic       Engaged tone
An alternative number is also engaged
Manual       "I'm sorry, all the numbers are busy, please try again later.
Automatic       more engaged tone
The number is free:
Manual            "The number is ringing for you."
Automatic       Ringing tone
The number does not reply
Manual            "I'm sorry, there's no reply, would you like me to keep trying? - or - "I'm sorry, there's still no reply, would you like another number?"
Automatic       Time-out of the call after a set time period.
The number does not exist or is out of order
Manual            "I'm sorry, this number has been ceased, I'll find out if there is an alternative number;" - or - "I'm sorry, the number seems to be out of order,                               I'll connect you to enquiries, they may be able to help you."
Automatic       Number unobtainable tone

      Customers were familiar and at ease with the operator service, they had only to lift the receiver and either talk or listen all the way through their call.  This led to a few being apprehensive about the change.  In 1967 the owner of The Chocolate Box, a sweet shop on the East side of London Road, situated roughly where the entrance to Sainsbury's now is, on finding out that Redhill was going to be converted to automatic working, commented;  "I pick up the 'phone, the girl asks me for the number and gets it for me; that's automatic! This new way I'll have a dial and have to do it all myself. What's automatic about that? What do I want it for?"
       The answer, hard to find when an unsuspecting local telephone engineer (me) had only gone in for a quarter of boiled sweets, was that automatic working was well established in many areas, contained technical innovation and compatability, was less labour intensive, and its arrival at Redhill was inevitable. It was not an easy task to tell him that, but deep down he already knew it to be true.

Few pictures of the inside or outside of the old house, 'The Moorings' exist.  This photograph was taken in the exchange dining room, which was on the first floor of the house until it was rebuilt at the rear of the building in the mid 1960s.  A group of operators, engineers, catering and cleaning staff sit down to the 1956 Redhill Exchange Christmas dinner.

The End of Manual Working at Redhill
       The change from manual to automatic working came on the 13th of December 1967, and the Surrey Mirror of Thursday 15th December reported it thus: 'On the dot of 1.30 on Wednesday, engineers blacked out the old Manual exchange and switched the town's 4,000 subscribers to the automatic Subscriber Trunk Dialling system (STD). There were no problems as the last exchange in the district went smoothly automatic.  Everything in the switchroom on the first floor of the building in Clarendon road went oddly quiet, and 60 operators found themselves suddenly without work.  For some it was a sad moment, but for GPO authorities it meant that, after many delays, Redhill had been brought up to date. Redhill subscribers had been asked not to make any calls after 1.15, and operators would not connect any calls after 1.25. After engineers had disconnected the manual circuits, subscribers could start direct dialling to numbers throughout the country.  Dialling '100' now means connection to operators at the local central exchange at Uplands (Purley) But there will be no actual redundancies among Redhill staff. Other jobs have been found for all the operators who wanted them.  Seven full time operators and 14 part timers retired upon the closure of the exchange. Among those to be transferred is the Chief Supervisor, Miss E. Earl. She is going to London's Museum exchange. The operator who has been the longest in continual service is Miss P.E.Mann, who lives at Reigate and has been at Redhill since 1944.  She now goes to Croydon. As her colleagues prepared a farewell party, Miss Mann said that although there was some sadness, there was a feeling of relief that a recent trying time was over.  "The girls have had to work so desperately hard this year", she said.  "They couldn't always give the sort of service they wanted to. They're a marvellous lot of girls, I think they've earned this party." The
Southern Telephone area Manager, Mr G.Bolster said; "We're very grateful for the co-operation we've received from the public, and their forbearance over the past few weeks. It's been a tremendous achievement keeping Redhill afloat." "Forty engineers were on hand as the actual change-over took place," said Clerk of Works, Mr Reginald Vincent. "The old manual equipment will be removed and the operators' switchroom will be demolished and replaced by more STD equipment." The change has had immediate benefit for 350 people who have been waiting 'to go on the 'phone.  After the STD link up their already installed lines will become operational.  Altogether, the new set up will mean an extra 1,500 lines on Redhill straight away. The new installation has cost a total of 404,783. Redhill's first exchange was opened in 1892. In 1902 a 200 line exchange in Chapel road was brought into operation. The present building was opened in 1930.'
      The problems that the operators had had to face, referred to by Miss Mann, were probably mostly concerned with the building work and resultant noise and dirt, that had occurred through the enlargement of the building. The rear of the building, the East end, nearest the Post Office in London Road, had already been substantially enlarged to allow for the provision of a new linesman's' and dining rooms. These facilities had previously been in the old house, which was subsequently demolished so that the West end could also be enlarged and room made for new equipment to be installed alongside the old. All this work had occurred over two or more years. The forbearance of the public, praised by Mr Bolster, was no doubt connected with the suspension of the provision of new lines while the conversion from manual to auto took place over a period of months.
The picture above was taken on the day of the change-over from manual to automatic working. Alll calls to the manual board ceased and was the signal for a party. One of the operators is actually sitting on the switchboard that until a short time before she had been working on.

An Automatic Exchange
            The conversion of Redhill manual exchange to an automatic one in December 1967 was the start of a new era, with all of the operating staff gone and most of the engineers who had looked after the manual equipment replaced by others trained on the automatic equipment.  Even they had to learn their way around some of the newer, STD, equipment, which was of the latest design, and no-one, at the beginning,  had had the training courses on it. STD stood for Subscriber Trunk Dialling, and was the system that enabled customers to make many of their own calls to various parts of the country without going through an operator.  For those calls that still needed operator assistance, dialling 100 gave access to the manual board at Purley.
       This was the pre-electronic age.  Transistors were in use but the auto equipment was overwhelmingly of the electro-magnetic type.  When a telephone's receiver was lifted the first part of the call was initiated, with a set of movable contacts being set in motion, sweeping over a set of fixed contacts, either to find the calling line and connect it to the subsequent stage equipment, or to find the next stage directly.  When this had been achieved the impulses from the telephone's dial stepped more movable contacts on equipment called 'selectors' to levels of other banks of fixed contacts over which they would then hunt for the next stage in the selection of a path through the exchange to the number required.  The second dialled digit similarly activated the next stage of equipment, and the last two digits both activated the last stage equipment.
            All of this equipment worked by the operation of electro-magnets.  Some of the magnets were under the control of the telephone user's dial. They were initially operated then released and re-operated by one pulse from a the dial - the digit 1 being dialled - and released and re-operated ten times by ten pulses - the digit 0 being dialled.  These pulses were generated by the dial at a rate of at 10 pulses per second.  The magnets operated armatures with pawls attached to engage ratchets to step the equipment.  As there were four digits in the numbers at that time this meant there were four sets of dial controlled positioning operations to enable the customer, via his dial, to select a path through the exchange to the number he wanted.
The diagram is the one of the Moorings shown previously but modified to show how the new building was extended to accomodate the automatic exchange. The yellow hatching shows the original extension onto the old house built to accomodate the manual exchange. The red hatching shows how extra extensions were added, one being built where the house once stood. The enlongated orange hatching is where a new battery room went and the almost square hatching behind it was the standby generator room.
The enlarged building. The original 1929/30s building can be seen in darker brick. The 1960s extensions back and front show up in lighter brick. Two other features of 'The Moorings' building are worthy of note.  One is the lifting beam on the roof (top left) to which lifting tackle could be attached to hoist heavy racks and other equipment up to the 1st floor where there was access via double doors.  The second is the nearer of the two built up appendages on the roof - the white walled one that runs the length of the old part of the building.  This was originally a roof light for the manual board.  It had windows all around it but provided light until 1939 only, as owing to wartime restrictions its glass was painted over so no light would show to enemy aircraft.  This paint remained for 28 years - until 1967.- when the windows were removed and the gaps bricked in. The small bricked area in the centre of the roof is the capped off chimney of the original boiler.  This was replaced by a new oil-fired boiler provided at the far end of the building in the 1960s.  Its chimney can be seen alongside the new water tank room from where access to the roof was gained.  Note also that whereas most of the building consists of two floors only where the apparatus rooms were, the front of the building has three floors for a stairway and some office accommodation.  On the corner of this front part of the building can be seen the number 25 and the nameplate 'The Moorings'.  There was another stairway at the east end
        As there were several thousand telephones connected to the exchange only the night-time was reasonably quiet.  During the busy periods of the day, with simultaneous calls in the course of being set up or clearing down, and others constantly following on, the exchange's apparatus rooms were noisy places.  Around some of the noisier STD equipment ear defenders were used.  It got worse when numbers were changed from four to five digits, and eventually to six digits, with the consequent additional equipment being installed.
         Two other features of 'The Moorings' building are worthy of note.  One is the lifting beam on the roof to which lifting tackle could be attached to hoist heavy racks and other equipment up to the 1st floor where there was access via double doors.  The second is the nearer of the two built up appendages on the roof - the white walled one that runs the length of the old part of the building.  This was originally a roof light for the manual board.  It had windows all around it but provided light until 1939 only, as owing to wartime restrictions its glass was painted over so no light would show to enemy aircraft.  This paint remained for 28 years - until 1967.- when the windows were removed and the gaps bricked in.
         The small bricked area in the centre of the roof is the capped off chimney of the original boiler.  This was replaced by a new oil-fired boiler provided at the far end of the building in the 1960s.  Its chimney can be seen alongside the new water tank room from where access to the roof was gained.  Note also that whereas most of the building consists of two floors only where the apparatus rooms were, the front of the building has three floors for a stairway and some office accommodation.  On the corner of this front part of the building can be seen the number 25 and the nameplate 'The Moorings'.  There was another stairway at the east end.     
The Equipment
      Each rack of equipment was 6' wide and 10' high, with varying numbers of 'shelves' of apparatus, so travelling ladders were positioned along each row to give access to the upper reaches.  Every single piece of apparatus was connected to the network with many wires, in some cases hundreds of wires each.  These were run overhead in cables, the smallest contained 1 wire only, the largest carrying 200 wires inside its protective sheath.  The cables were laid on grids, and were up to a foot deep over most of the racks, their numbers were so many.
      The amount of equipment, with its vast quantity of wiring and cabling, made the apparatus floors look very technically complex places, which they were to a great extent, but many of the wiring carried similar circuits multiplied a number of times to cope with the
maximum traffic at the busiest time,  so were repeats of each other.  Set against this was the fact that, due to the varying destinations of the calls, and the differing conditions met on different routes, there were a great many types of equipment.
      All of these types had to be understood by all of the engineers working there.  Each had a section of the exchange to maintain, and rotated sections on a six monthly basis.  Engineers' duties included regular, routine cleaning of the banks of fixed contacts, plus cleaning and oiling of the mechanisms.  Also there were worn parts to be changed and the regular functional testing of those selectors to be carried out.  Faulty equipment was removed from service until the fault was rectified.
     Reports of service difficulties emanated from two sources.  One source was customers who had experienced trouble dialling through the exchange and had reported the fact to an operator.  The operators would pass the complaints on for investigation.  The other source was engineers in distant exchanges.  They ran daily test calls through all the other exchanges to which they had routes, analysed the results and reported problems to the distant exchanges concerned.  By these methods most system faults were nipped in the bud at an early stage of their development.

The picture shows a part of the apparatus room on the upper floor of Redhill Exchange. The part of the apparatus room in the foreground was once part of the manual switchroom. That in the distance is part of the west end extension.

Beyond These Walls
      Manual exchanges all over the country were being converted to auto, and STD equipment being provided as part of a comprehensive programme to make the UK  one big network, with every customer able to dial every other customer without the need for an operator.  n Redhill, the expansion of the basic telephone system, plus this STD programme resulted, in 1974, in the provision of a second building in Clarendon Road, just across the road from the first. Its need represented the growing demand for the new automatic STD service.  It was required to house not just more equipment but a new, modern switchroom for operator assistance.  Even though operators were required less and less for generally connecting calls they were still required for other services, such as 999, some call office connections, and assistance and queries in cases of customer difficulties.
    This new building was known at first as Redhill GSC.  The letters GSC stood for Group Switching Centre, this name referring to service given to surrounding exchanges in a common charging group in provision of access to and from other exchanges and other services, such as speaking clock, etc. This was a slight misnomer in the fact that the original building had housed all the equipment for the incoming and outgoing GSC, but now filled the role of incoming GSC only, while the new building handled the outgoing GSC traffic.  Technical innovation, however, meant that the it had some of the more advanced designs of equipment for its purpose, as well as a different system to the Strowger one, known as 'Crossbar'.  This system was new in design although less than new in concept, but had a distinct advantage in far less moving parts, and therefore far less complexity - and noise - of operation.
A Snowy scene in January 1974 looking west from the old Clarendon Road Exchange (The Moorings) across the recently cleared site where the new exchange was to be built. Far left is the spire of St Matthew's Church, left centre is the 'Dome' block of flats, right centre is the old water company offices, later Thornton House School, later Thornton House Maternity Hospital. In the foreground crane parts await assembly.

     A small difficulty arose with the siting of this second telephone building in Clarendon Road, and it concerned identification.  Although the buildings were totally dissimilar in style, with the 1930 one being of red brick, and the 1974 one faced with white stone, most of the post to either was addressed to simply 'Redhill Telephone Exchange'.  While the engineers would have known immediately which building was meant, the postman did not.  The different post codes would seem to have been a bit of a give away, but even when they were included in the address they made little difference, mail went to the wrong building almost each and every time.
       As already stated, the old house had been demolished in 1967 when the building attached to it had been extended, and anyway, its original name had not been used for address purposes since 1930, when the it had become a part of  the telephone exchange.  Now was the time to revive it. The name 'The Moorings' was affixed to the redbrick building and remained there for the rest of its life.
       At the same time, to make absolutely sure, the 'old' exchange, 'The Moorings' as it now was, was allocated the number it had never previously had.  Twenty-five was chosen because due to development the numbers of other premises in Clarendon road had become vague and a little haphazard at that time, and the number twenty-five set the building well apart from all others.  The new building slowly became known as 'Redhill Clarendon' and the post went to the correct destinations from then on.

The The new building, with part of the old exchange visible bottom right

       With the opening of Redhill 'Clarendon' the exclusiveness of 'The Moorings' was over.  It would continue to function in a still important but increasingly limited role for another fourteen years but, with the transfer of  its outgoing GSC facilities, much of its equipment fell silent and was removed, leaving great gaps on the apparatus floors.  The level of staff was also reduced.  The prestige once enjoyed by the 'old' building because of its importance as an incoming and outgoing  Group Switching Centre, although in theory now shared, was in reality now entirely transferred to the newer and grander one. When the 'old' building had been transformed by the provision of the latest automatic equipment staff had moved in from elsewhere to man it.  Now some members of that staff moved on to the new building to man the latest addition to Redhill's ever growing telephone service.  Underlining this 'crossing the road' of prestige was the early transference of the manager's office.

Ironwork lays on the apparatus room floor
in January 1990 where racks of redundant
equipment have been removed

  The biggest single subsequent change-over occurred when the vast amount of mechanical equipment serving the Redhill customers for all their local calls was converted to the new system X equipment that is still in use today.  The preparatory work for this was mainly complete by Easter 1987, and the new facility was brought into operation on May 14th of that same year.  Redhill went almost as quite on that day as it had become noisy twenty years earlier at its conversion to mechanical automatic working.  In fact, the 'new' automatic equipment did not last quite the whole twenty years, showing how rapidly technical innovation was progressing.  Redhill 'The Moorings' lasted three more years, acting as a tandem exchange for through traffic while modernisation took place elsewhere.  It finally closed in May 1990.
       Its successor also saw a decline.  The new electronic exchange was more like a computer than the old automatic exchange had ever been.  With enhancements it was able to cater for not only the local traffic but also, in conjunction with other strategically placed switching units, the STD and international traffic, routing it to other centres for processing and onward routing.  The Crossbar on the ground floor fell into disuse, and by the 1990s Redhill GSC building was beginning to see the same gaps on the apparatus floors and outward movement of staff that Redhill 'The Moorings' had experienced ten years before.   The manual board on the top floor also closed and moved away.
      During this period BT as a whole underwent a drastic restructuring.  Modern equipment and methods, and government policies of  free competition meant that it had to reform if it were to compete in the modern market place.  Old technologies had gone, the skills associated with them were no longer required, and thousands of the engineers that had those skills had to find alternative work. Thousands of staff left BT under voluntary redundancy schemes.
       Of those staff remaining there are those who started their working lives in 'The Moorings' with the old technology, and now work in 'Redhill Clarendon' under the new. They will be among the first to acknowledge that, in the last 100 years  of telephones in Redhill, no change has been greater than that which has occurred in the last ten.

A photo taken from the main road looking up Clarendon Road towards 'Clarendon', with the Post Office and 'The Moorings on the right hand side. The buildings on the left are the new Iceland shop that replaced the Co-op and the multi-storey car park. It is interesting to also remember that the part of Clarendon Road leading down the side of the exchange and Post Office to London Road was once much narrower, having been widened on the side away from the exchange in the 1980s when the redevelopment took place and the Co-op and Clarendon House were demolished.  The widening to provide an extra lane for access to the car park, and the yellow line curving alongside the kerbed entrance to the car park marks the original width of the road for its  whole length to the main road. The new exchange standing atr the very top of the road looks good in white but is basically a concrete and steel structure with white blocks of stone hung on hooks on the concrete facia. 
The angle that the upper part of the building made with the lower part was so that adjacent buildings would not lose their light.
A pleasant view towards 'The Moorings' and London Road from the steps of 'Clarendon'.  When the new exchange was built its front garden was filled with Azalea and Rhododendron bushes but upkeep of the garden proved too much of a problem and many plants failed to prosper. The garden was eventually cleared and laid out to lawns.

 The Transfer
     The change-over of Redhill subscribers lines from the automatic exchange in 'The Moorings' to the new electronic exchange in Redhill 'Clarendon' took place at 8am on 14th May 1987.  To achieve this every one of the 10,000-odd existing lines had to be teed from the old exchange to the new via tie cables between the two buildings   In order that all lines would continue to work on the old exchange until the change-over day, wedges were fitted to every number. This was done on the Main Distribution frame on the ground floor of 'The Moorings' in such a way that with the wedges in place the lines were connected to the old exchange only, and with them out they would be connected only to the new.  The preparatory work was time consuming, and the picture on this page shows an engineer fitting the yellow wedges before the lines were teed across.
      Strings were attached to the wedges and when the time came for the transfer to occur a signal was given and they were all pulled out together.  The operation took about 30 seconds, and these pictures capture that moment.  The old, noisy, electro-mechanical exchange fell silent as 10,000 lines were transferred from it to the new electronic one, which sprang into silent life.

Fitting wedgesPulling out the wedges to effect the changeove

Redhill Clarendon
      The new exchange was a busy place, as busy as any of the other exchanges before it had ever been.  Its Crossbar equipment required engineers specifically trained in its operation and features.  It connected Redhill customers to outgoing STD routes required to route them to other parts of the country as they dialled their own STD calls.  The equipment worked from around 1976 until these routing operations were taken over by the extensions to the digital exchange in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although manual boards where customers were connected to other customers had dissapeared in the 1960s there was still the need for auto-manual boards to provide customer assistance. Previously this had been at Purley but now it returned to Redhill on the top floor of the new building, and was of a far more modern design than any of those that preceded it. 
      The middle floor of Redhill Clarendon contained more apparatus for the manual board and offices.  Also, part was used for several years for the Repair Service Centre (RSC), which was a central point for the area for the collation of customer's line and telephone faults, and the control of the external engineers sent to repair them. This facility moved to Purley exchange in the late 1980s.
Where are we now?
      Firmly in the digital age, that's where!  Redhill 'The Moorings' was sold to a company who tore it down and replaced it with a modern office block. Redhill Clarendon's crossbar equipment has been removed and replaced by digital equipment that makes the exchange function like a huge computer. The manual board, too, has gone, such is the rapidity of change.
       BT is faced with competition.  Plenty of companies can provide alternative ways of making telephone calls, including the cable companies that have dug up the streets of the Redhill, Reigate and the surrounding area to lay fibre optic cables to provide not just TV channels. And of course we now have the mobile 'phone.
        Things will not be the same again.  Possibly that's how it should be, but it is not the purpose of this history to make judgement, just to note the facts.  Unfortunately many facts are lost in time and we shall never know it all.  Perhaps that is how it should be, too.

Now you see it, now you don't.
The hole in the ground left after
the demolition of the old 'Moorings'
telephone exchange 
Other Telephone Exchanges in the Redhill and Reigate Area
       Although Redhill was the first exchange the numbers of lines connected to it meant that over the years additional exchanges had to be built to lighten its load. These were built in the areas they served and a brief history of each one follows.
       A magneto (manual) exchange opened on 7th September 1909. The number of lines served at 1st Jan 1910 was 80, many of which would have been transferred from Redhill. Following the take-over of the private telephone companies by the Post Office, Reigate exchange was re-located over the Reigate Post Office in Bell Street on 17th February 1912 with CB10 (manual) equipment. In the 1920s there were 5 operators employed there. Reigate exchange was converted to automatic working on 12th December 1937 in one of the few public buildings in Great Britain completed during the reign of Edward VII. (It is interesting to note that at the front and sides of the exchange in the 1960s and 70s contained a number of fruit trees: there were pear, apple and plum.The ground had probably been part of the Wilderness, the large old house that once stood on the corner of Church Street and Monks Walk, later became the Monks Court a hotel and is now the site of flats). Its auto-manual switchboard was at Redhill. Its numbers all had four digits. The services of the operators, who had been at Reigate for 25 years, were no longer needed. On 27th February 1963 the numbers were converted to 5 digits, the old numbers receiving 4 as a prefix. In the late 1960s Reigate obtained STD services via Redhill, and later the numbering range was further altered to six digits with the addition of 2 at the front of each number.  On 4th June, 1987, Reigate was converted to electronic working. The new equipment occupies only a part of the space used by the old auto equipment and some of the building has been used for other purposes
.     Prior to this conversion to electronic, the exchange had a resident staff of up to six engineers and 2 cleaners employed to maintain it.  After the conversion they, like the 1937 Reigate operators from the manual exchange over the Post Office, were no longer required.  The exchange almost runs itself and is unmanned, visits being made only by mobile engineers. 

Reigate Exchange pictured in 1996 with, below, a close-up of the 1936 Edward VIII crest.

       Merstham exchange opened 14th February 1910 at 2, Elm Cottages, Merstham.  The number of lines connected at 1st January 1911 was 43.  The exchange was transferred to new premises in Station Approach, Merstham, on 21st December 1927 with CB10 (manual) equipment.
         This building was unsuitable for conversion to automatic working, and a new, single storey building was erected on ground behind Merstham Village Hall, next door to the old exchange.  The new Merstham Non-Director type automatic exchange opened here on 18th October 1967. It had STD facilities, and as Redhill manual board had closed the same year the manual services were supplied by Uplands (Purley) exchange until the manual board moved back to Redhill (in the new exchange at 22 Clarendon Rd) in the mid 1970s until the early 1990s.
          The ground floor of the old building was converted into a BT stores depot, and  around the same time a vehicle repair depot was built on adjoining ground, with its own entrance on the other side of the old exchange building. Merstham had a relatively short life of only fourteen years as an automatic exchange as it was converted to digital on 8th January 1991.

The old Merstham Exchange in Station Road, Merstham


      Opened by the National Telephone Company at about Christmas time 1908 with 15 lines at the house of Mrs Sandford, 3 Elm Villas, Betchworth. 1st April 1919 opened as a CBS exchange with 24 lines; converted to CBS2 (a type of manual) on 1st March 1927; number of lines on that date was 128.  Originally it was not in the London Telecommunications Region (LTR) but was transferred in 1932 with 168 lines.
         The exchange location in the 1940s was the local Betchworth Post Office run by Mr and Mrs Hurdle. Their son, Robert, joined the Post Office as an engineer  He was to return to Betchworth exchange in the 1960s, when he was the resident engineer at the new automatic exchange which opened on the 5th May 1948 as a UAX14 (partially unattended exchange) at the Old Dorking Rd, Betchworth, with its manual board at Redhill. In those days the local engineer looked after all of the telephones in the area as well as the exchange. The exchange is now digital.

Burgh Heath
        Opened as CBS at Roberts grocery stores in Brighton Road on 25th May 1910. Number of lines 1st Jan 1911 was 67. The exchange transferred to Diceland Rd, Burgh Heath, on 15th December 1926 as a CB1 (manual). It was converted to a 5 digit numbering scheme on 28th February 1965. Converted to Non-Director automatic at Garratts Lane, Banstead, 23rd November 1966.  STD provided 17th August 1970. Manual board at Uplands. The old exchange at Dicelands Rd became a manual centre from 1967 to 1971 to relieve an overloaded Uplands manual centre.
        Converted to digital 3rd August 1987

        Started at the Head Post Office in North St, Headley in 1912 with 31 lines.  At that time it was outside the London area but was transferred to the London Telecommunications Region in February 1932.  It was converted to a UAX5 at Hurst Lane, Headley, 29th November 1932, and then to a UAX13 at the same address.  It was housed in a wooden building and was the 1st standard UAX in the LTR. (UAX = Unit Automatic eXchange.  These were unattended exchanges that were visited regularly by an engineer who would have more than one small exchange to look after)

        Downlands started life on 16th June 1930 as a hypothetical exchange at Merstham. It was created to serve the Hooley area and eventually was given a home of its own as a CB1 (manual) exchange at Hollymeoak Rd, Coulsdon. It suffered slight war damage due to enemy action in 1940. It was converted to auto - date unknown - and to 5 digit numbering on 7th November 1965.
         Converted to digital 21st March 1988.

Dawes Green
      Opened as a UAX 15th January 1934 at Topners Rd, Dawes Green. Manual board at Redhill. Number of lines connected 1st Jan 1934 was 60.         Dawes Green is no longer part of the Redhill group, as it was transferred out of the London area into the Home Counties region and re-parented on Dorking exchange.

Nutfield Ridge
      Opened 22nd Jan 1936 at Mid St, Nutfield as a UAX7. Number of lines at 1st January 1937 was 103. It was converted partly to Non-Director, partly to TXE2 (an old type of electronic exchange) on 7th April 1971. Converted to digital 14th May 1987.

       Opened 17th January 1940 as a Non-Director type exchange at Epsom Lane South, Tadworth. Its auto manual switchboard was at Burgh Heath. (A small puzzle exists here - I worked at Tadworth on various occasions, and once found that there were papers beneath other papers pinned to the notice board that dated back to 1934..AJM) Converted to digital 4th March 1988.

      Opened 15th November 1945 as Non-Director automatic at Sandy Lane, Kingswood to relieve part of the rapidly growing Burgh Heath area.  The number of lines at opening was 497.  Auto manual board was at Burgh Heath, later transferred to Uplands.
       There was a marked difference between the Mogador and Tadworth exchanges in that the Tadworth building proved to be too small and had to be extended, whilst Mogador was too big and always remained half empty, leading to (humorous?) speculation that the building plans had been reversed.
       Converted to digital 29th June 1989

Power to Work the Telephone 
Before finally leaving the history of the Redhill telephone service it might help to mention a little about the power that worked telephones. This has been mentioned in several places above but not explained.
      Telephones were always very much independent of Mains power. In the early days batteries were housed in customers' premises to work the 'phone installed there but a great step forward was the change from local battery (LB) working to central battery (CB) working. In local battery working each customer had to have the battery to operate their telephone located at their premises. This had the disadvantages of a need of space to store the battery and of regular maintenance visits to keep them in good order. With central battery (CB) working working the power was provided from the exchange via a large battery situated there. This meant that the batteries at the customers' houses could be done away with and the installation there could be much smaller and less obtrusive.
     The replacement for all these individual batteries were two batteries centralised at the exchange.  Each consisted of twenty-five 2 volt cells connected in series to give a nominal total of 50 volts.  In spite of being only 2 volts each the cells were physically quite large, resulting in a large ampere/hour capacity.  The batteries were connected together in parallel but could be split for maintenance purposes.  In practice the voltage was slightly over 2 volts per cell, and the total voltage was maintained between approximately 51-52 volts.
      The batteries were floated across a rectified mains supply, transformed to 50v and could take over instantly should that mains supply fail. This meant that although the lights went out during an electricity power cut the town's telephones continued working, and due to their large capacity could usually last until normal power was restored.  This was a fact overlooked by many people, who thought that if the lights in their house did not work then neither would the telephone.  In manual days there was a mains driven generator that was used to charge the batteries.  Later there was charging from the mains via rectifiers and a diesel generator that started automatically in the event of a mains failure to provide essential power supplies to the exchange, including replacement of the 250v AC supply to those same rectifiers from which the 50v floated power supply was derived. This meant that the only time the batteries alone took the full power load of the exchange was between the mains failure and the diesel generator starting and running up to full speed, a time of around a minute or so.  This meant that the battery capacity could remain the same and would not have to be increased to cope with the extra power demand due to the ever growing popularity of the telephone.
      The power was distributed around telephone exchanges via 'bus' bars, large copper (sometimes aluminium) conductors which carried the power from the rectifiers (which converted the 240 volts AC mains to DC 50 volts) and batteries to the equipment.  From the equipment it provided power to provide ringing, supervisory and speech currents to all the customers' lines.

An engineer at inspects the strength of the electrolyte in the exchange's batteries

        The photograph is of the battery room at Redhill Clarendon.  The batteries are arranged in four rows of twelve cells.  The right hand pair of rows are connected together by a large copper connector and comprise one battery.  The second battery is identical, although its second row of cells is partly obscured.  The bus bars carrying the supply to the exchange are visible at the far end of the room.  They rise vertically and then pass out through the left hand wall to the control panel where coupling or decoupling of the two batteries, charging etc., may be controlled. The batteries in The Moorings were a little smaller than those in Clarendon. Reduced physical size meant less plate area and therefore a smaller ampere-hour capacity (a measurement of how much current could be delivered for how long).  Batteries in smaller exchanges, such as Tadworth and Betchworth, which had lower power demands, had smaller batteries still.
       There is a story about painters who were redecorating the inside of the ground floor apparatus room at 'The Moorings'.  They found themselves close to the bus bars, did not like the look of them, so asked the engineer-in-charge if they were safe.  "Of course," he replied, and demonstrated by climbing the ladder and grasping the unprotected positive and negative bars, one in each hand. "They're only 50-odd volts," he explained.
        "Oh, good," exclaimed the painter, and to the engineer's horror, promptly placed his paint pot across them.  The paint pot disappeared in an brilliant and instantaneous flash of molten metal, and the paint went everywhere.
       For those whose electrical knowledge is sketchy it ought to be explained that the ability of an electromotive force (a source of power such as a battery) to push a current through any object is dependant not only upon the magnitude of its voltage but upon the electrical resistance of the material of the object.  The body of the officer who grasped the bars was of sufficiently high resistance for 52 volts not to harm him, but the resistance of the metal paint pot was extremely low.  The result was that whereas next to no current had flowed through the man because he had excellent resistive properties, the metal paint pot had no resistive properties at all, in fact it was extremely conductive and represented almost a full short circuit to the bars.  A high current flowed instantly through it, high enough to melt the pot in a flash of light and flame.
         Perhaps to painters (and others) the moral of the story is: Beware! When around electricity all may not be as it seems.
A condensed version of the above appeared in the Surrey History Magazine volume VI No.2
.......I joined British Telecom to train as an operator in 1978 at Balham Telephone Exchange in South London. We used to call it: - “Gateway to the South”. Unfortunately the job was to last only 6 years when in 1984 the building was sold to the then Labour Exchange. When they announced this to us operators we all felt very sad as we thought this was going to be the end of our lovely jobs but fortunately we were given the choice to transfer to any other exchange of our choice which was not closing at the time. I transferred to Impact House near the flyover in Croydon as this was the nearest to where I lived at Pollards Hill, Mitcham.
........Then in 1984 or thereabouts another blow was dealt us operators. Croydon Telephone Exchange at Impact House was to close and move to Ryland House which fortunately was not far away and still in Croydon. The volume of British Telecom business was starting to increase therefore more lines and equipment were needed. Ryland House had the vast amount of space to cope with it.
.......Whilst at Ryland I was offered to train to become a “subbing officer”. A “subbing officer” is one who helps out the Supervision if and when they are short of Supervisors to man the exchange. A Supervisor is there to answer any queries from customers so that it leaves the operators free to answer calls. At times, in cases of Emergencies, the exchange got very busy, especially in cases where the 999 service got stretched to its limit. I did quite a lot of “subbing” then and thoroughly enjoyed it as it gave me a bit of variety and broke the sometimes monotony of sitting on the board just answering 100 calls.
.......Then I was asked if I would travel to do my subbing at any other exchange. I said yes I would but the furthest I would be prepared to go was Redhill in Clarendon Road. I stayed at Croydon until 1987 when we decided to sell our house and move to Horley. My husband at the time was still with Royal Mail at Heathrow Airport and it was easy for him to go on the M25 to get there. From Mitcham to Heathrow was a much longer journey. I then transferred permanently to Redhill. The journey was also shorter for me. I continued to work as an operator and “subbing” officer until 1988 when I decided that enough was enough. The service within British Telecom was changing so drastically that it was no longer a pleasure to work for B.T. Also more and more automatic exchanges were being installed and fewer operators were needed. By this time, I was only working part time nights.
.......In 1988 I resigned from British Telecom as an operator. I was given a very memorable farewell by my colleagues, a signed card by all the operators and management, which I still have in my possession. I will treasure this forever. It was a sad end to a very enjoyable 10 years of my working life as a British Telecom Operator. It was the best ever. It is not the same nowadays.
.......“Operator Service, can I help you”?

. . . . . . . Composed and typed by Mrs. Margaret Ellison, July 2007.
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