"Mr. Watson, come here, I want you"

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Bell's telephone - 1877

On 14 February  1876, Alexander Graham Bell filed, in America, an application for a patent on a piece of equipment for transmitting vocal sounds. "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you" was what Bell said to his assistant on 10 March that same year as he transmitted the first complete sentence over 100 feet of wire.

Bell's telephone - 1877

 

 

In 1878, Bell demonstrated his apparatus - by then known as a telephone - to Queen Victoria on 14 January at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. From there, calls were made to London, Cowes and Southampton - the first long-distance telephone calls ever made in the UK.

The Telephone Company Ltd was formed to market Bell's invention in Great Britain and their first Telephone Exchange was opened in London in 1879. It served eight subscribers. The first known Telephone Directory was published in January 1880 listing 250 subscribers connected to 3 London Exchanges.

Osborne House

Osborne House, Isle of Wight

The family home of Queen Victoria and  Prince Albert

 

 

Introducing a telephone system to London was fairly straightforward compared with the creation of a nation-wide system throughout the country. There were rival companies, each with their own lines and operating systems to bring together and many technical difficulties to overcome before the telephone reached the more remote areas of Great Britain such as Devon and Cornwall.

In 1889, four companies united to form the National Telephone Company which then went on to buy up all the smaller companies such as The Western Counties and South Wales Company with its 4027 lines which it purchased in 1892.

 

Central Telephone Exchange, London

Central Telephone Exchange, London

Women were employed because they could be paid far less than men

 

By the time of the 1901 Census, the National Telephone Company had established itself in Exeter. We know this from the census return of Douglas Stentiford, Jessie's youngest brother, who was born in Plymouth in 1874 and whose family we first met in Issue 5. We find him living with his wife Adeline, their baby daughter Matilda and his niece, Marian Leleux, at 37 Beaufort Road in the St. Thomas area of Exeter. He is working for the National Telephone Company as a foreman  supervising installation of the lines in this area.

 

Beaufort Rd, St. Thomas, Exeter

Beaufort Rd, St. Thomas, Exeter

Douglas and Adeline Stentiford lived at number 37

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  Last modified:
30/09/2005