Left to right: Betty Palfreyman, Charlie Newton,
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.
The switchboard was the latest type of manual equipment. By 1949
there were 1,100 subscribers in Matlock.
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
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
 Derby Daily Telegraph", ,
4 December 1930. New Matlock Exchange. "Derbyshire Times",
6 December 1930 - Matlock's
New Exchange. Official Opening Today.
 Derby Daily Telegraph", 3