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Matlock: Telephone Exchange, 1956 - the Night & Sunday Staff
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Left to right: Betty Palfreyman, Charlie Newton, Anne Orridge, Carol Barker, Marjory White and Arthur Haines (ex supervisor).


The photo was taken by Harry Salt at 11.05 am one Sunday morning; Harry can be precise because of the clock on the wall behind Mr. Haines. Those on duty were the all night staff who also covered Sundays. Harry had worked as a night telephonist from 1952 until the Matlock New Street Exchange closed in 1978. Arthur, Charlie and Harry, along with six or seven male colleagues, worked a rota of evenings and through the night duties. The female telephonists were part-time; their hours were from 6p.m. to 10.30p.m. and also included Sunday shifts. At the time this picture was taken the exchange was above the Post Office at the bottom of Bank Road but moved to New Street in 1965/6, with both exchanges in operation for a while. Harry worked the first night shift at the new exchange.

The Bank Road exchange had opened on 6th December 1930 and there were then three day time operators. When Matlock's telephone system was first introduced in 1896 there were only 14 subscribers but the new equipment installed in 1930 brought in 250[1]. The switchboard was the latest type of manual equipment. By 1949 there were 1,100 subscribers in Matlock[2].

Whilst not every household had a telephone in the 1950s, some had party or shared lines; these could be a real nuisance if the person you shared with liked to chat. All calls were handled by the exchange personnel at that time, so when a subscriber called in the standard answer was "Number Please" and the telephonist repeated the number asked for back to the caller before making the connection.

As for 999 calls, the instruction was to "Answer without delay". There is a large sign on the back wall giving the codes/numbers of the local emergency services - Fire, Police, Ambulance. When connecting, the operators had to note the time and record details of the call which were then handed to the supervisor.


The connection was made by a woven covered wire/cable about 6m in length, which had a brass plug at each end, standing upright and in line (shown left). A pulley allowed the rear plug to be raised to answer the and the front plug to make the connection.

Each set of plugs, about 12 or 14 in total, had a corresponding set of supervisory lamps and a key. When both lamps glowed the call had ended. The operator had to press key forward to answer and pull it back back to ring.

"Breast plates", consisting of a trumpet like microphone and a single ear phone, were worn though they were not very comfortable.

Six sets of cords had the addition of clocks and were used for calls from kiosks and calls that were not local - "trunk" calls as they were known then. A dial was positioned to the right on the key shelf. You can see one on the left, below the operator's hand.



Image and information supplied by and copyright © Harry Salt.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References:

[1] Derby Daily Telegraph", , 4 December 1930. New Matlock Exchange. "Derbyshire Times", 6 December 1930 - Matlock's New Exchange. Official Opening Today.
[2] Derby Daily Telegraph", 3 January 1949.