Jump to content

National Telephone Company Limited

Recommended Posts

If you got a telephone in 1881 who would you be able to call?

By the end of August 1881 there were only 145 subscribers, the company having opened with 12. Even Mark Firth's mansion at Oakbrook did not have one by his death in 1880 - the progress of his final illness was reported via a nearby neighbour's telephone.

Some of those who did have a telephone were:

In December 1880 a fire at the Barracks was reported to the Fire Station.

In June 1881 The Prison Inspection sub-committee recommended permission being given to Messrs Tasker, Son and Co to affix telephone wires to the clock tower of the [old] Town Hall.

On June 21st 1881 the Telegraph Office of the General Post Office was placed in communication with the Sheffield Telephone Exchange.

In July 1881 the Watch Committee recommended that police stations should be connected by telephone instead of telegraph.

In August 1881 the Poor Union Vestry Office at West Bar was able to telephone the new Fir Vale Workhouse

In September 1881 following an omnibus accident at Attercliffe, a replacement conveyance was summoned by telephone from Mr.Tomlinson's stables.

In November two (unnamed) firms at Owlerton had telephone wires attached to their works.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you got a telephone in 1881 who would you be able to call?

John Tasker ? Queen Victoria ?


Possibly HD - some confusion as to the date for Buck House

1892, 1910 or 1876

"details of the installation of the telephone at Buckingham Palace, Sandringham and Windsor Castle from 1892;"



"the Installation of the telephone at Balmoral Castle, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle in 1910-11"

Coventry University


"In 1876 Bell demonstrated his telephone to Queen Victoria who ordered a line from Osbourne House in the Isle of Wight to Buckingham Palace in London. This would have carried the first overseas call. Another line, similarly 'Point-to -point' was installed between the House of Commons and Fleet Street for the Press."


Link to post
Share on other sites

In January 1887, St John’s Church at Ranmoor caught fire. In order to call a fire engine a messenger had to be sent on horseback to Broomhill Police Station, from where a telephone call could be made. Presumably there were no telephones in Ranmoor at that date. (The church was almost completely destroyed.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Begs the question who or what organisations were those 12 ..

By the end of August 1881 there were only 145 subscribers, the company having opened with 12. Even Mark Firth's mansion at Oakbrook did not have one by his death in 1880 ...

Link to post
Share on other sites

22 January 1890
National Telephone Company establishes direct communication between Sheffield and London.

Link to post
Share on other sites

David E. Hughes presented his work on microphones to the Royal Academy in May 1878, and hoping for world-wide application of his ideas he did not patent them. Within a very short space of time, virtually all telephone manufacturers developed their own version of Hughes' carbon transmitter and patented them. Louis John Crossley designed a version with four carbon pencils in diamond formation, which was used for a long time in the Post Office's telephones made by Blakey and Emmott of Halifax.

William Johnson designed a version with just two carbon pencils, but had limited commercial success.

In 1878 the Reverend Henry Hunnings of Boltby in Yorkshire (apparently unaware of Hughes' work) patented the first carbon granule microphone, which was ultimately the popular approach.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Begs the question who or what organisations were those 12 ..

Assuming that the first subscribers were given sequential numbers starting 1, 2, 3 etc, and assuming there were no changes between 1881 and 1896, and excluding outlying areas (Beauchief, Eckington etc) - by extracting Sheffield subscribers with numbers 1 - 12 from the 1896 National Telephone directory we get:

1. Sheffield Independent Press Ltd, Letterpress, Lithographic Printers

2. Sheffield Telegraph "Journalists" Sheffield

3. J Robertshaw Printer and Stationer, Hartshead

4. Bury's and Co, Steel, Files, Tools

5. no subscriber found

6. John Wheeldon and Co., Rubber, Oil Works Eyre street

7. Webster and Styring, Solicitors, 5 Leopold street

8. Brightside Foundry Co. Newhall Road (may be too far out to have been subscriber in 1881)

9. Sheffield Light and Power Co. Ltd

10. H Bramhall, Accountant, 16 Fargate

11. no subscriber found

12. T.A.Ashton Ltd, Machinery Merchants, Norfolk street

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great stuff Edmund!

I posted a pavement feature from the Sheffield Electric Light and Power board on my Drainspotting thread - anyone know where it was based? (The cover is near the University) Like the National Telephone Co Ltd feature above it is unique (to me at least) as i have only seen one piece of remaining street furniture with it's name.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 6 years later...

From "The Making of Sheffield"  by J.H Stainton 1924 :

John Tasker.

The short, rather ungainly figure, so well-known in the centre of the city in the 'seventies and 'eighties, gave no indication of the busy, active brain which governed it, but a glance into Mr. John Tasker's keen eyes revealed something of the indomitable will, the almost dauntless courage which spurred him on to researches which have left undying marks on the story of Sheffield's progress. He died in Sheffield in 1895, at his home in Lawson Road, then being seventy-six years old. In early life a bootmaker, he founded a rubber and leather belting business in 1855 in Snig Hill, but prosperity so quickly came that he very soon had to remove to Angel Street, where a remarkable business was built up.

The full tide had scarcely come when Mr. Tasker heard of the telephone just then coming in, and his ever ingenious mind was captivated by its possibilities; he commenced investigations into the telephone largely as a hobby at the outset. The Exchange which he founded in 1877 was the first to be opened in the provinces. He was faced by innumerable difficulties; discouragement came from his personal friends, but he kept on and finally established a very prosperous service. That did not satisfy him. In 1886 he erected an expensive plant for the production of electric light, first providing his customers with arc lights, and afterwards with incandescent. Three years later, a football match was played at Bramall Lane, by what was known as "Wells' light," under the control of Mr. Tasker, so that his interest in new forms of lighting was no new thing.

In 1888, a company was formed-The Sheffield Telephone Exchange and Electric Light Co. Ltd., with Mr. John Tasker as Chairman; and this was re-formed in 1891 as The Sheffield Electric Light and Power Co. He was succeeded as Chairman by Ald. George Franklin. On March 12th, 1892, the National Telephone Co. took over the Sheffield Telephone Exchange on the understanding that there was to be no increase in the subscribers' tariff. The new switch, now in Station Road, was opened on March 22nd, 1893, and transfer of telephones to the Government came about in the later days of 1905.

July 1st, 1895, was a very important day in the history of all provincial towns, for on it they were placed in direct trunk-line communication with London on the telephone, under a system inaugurated by the G.P.O. By a Treasury minute of May, 1892, the Government stipulated that the operations of the licensed Telephone Companies should be confined to definite areas or towns, and that the trunk service should be in the hands of the G.P.O. For the trunk-line system, an amazing amount of wire was required, being 2,719 miles of 800 lb. copper per mile per wire; 4,914 of 600 lb. copper per mile per wire, and 3,025 of 400 lb. copper per mile per wire; 96 miles of submarine cable 24 miles long, or altogether 10,754 miles or 2,889 tons. The "backbone" wire from London through Leeds to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin was the heaviest copper wire ever erected--800 lb. per mile. The underground wires at that time were regarded as seriously impairing efficiency and clearness. The local experiments took place in the Sheffield Post Office, similar simultaneous arrangements having been made with Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Bristol, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. In Sheffield, amongst those present were the Master Cutler (Mr. C.. H. Bingham), Ald. William Smith, Ald. Bramley, Ald. Hunter, and Mr. Alexander Wilson. Mr. T. Noble (then Postmaster) had the arrangements in hand, and, on connexion being established with London,

Sheffield of the towns mentioned had the honour of leading off. At the London end of the wire was Mr. Spencer Walpole, representing the Postmaster General, and he spoke to the Master Cutler, saying that the Postmaster General hoped the innovation would be to the advantage of all and for the good of the trade and city of Sheffield. The Master Cutler said that, speaking on behalf of the gentlemen in the room, they were delighted with the distinctness of the message, which all were hearing simultaneously. " I suppose," he added "this is not the first time connexion has been set up between Sheffield and London." "You are quite right," said London. The Master Cutler asked when the service would be available for the public, and was told in about a month. Then the Master Cutler asked if it would be connected with the Sheffield Exchange; and was told that the Post Office hoped that would be the case. Bagpipes were then played in the Glasgow Post Office and heard very distinctly in Sheffield; similarly, a musical box in London gave pleasure in Sheffield, and Sheffield responded to these items by a song, sung by Mrs. Senior of the Grammar School, which London heard quite well.

The initial charges were threepence a call up to twenty miles; sixpence up to forty miles; every further forty miles cost another sixpence; and the call to London cost two shillings. The first electric light installation by Mr. John Tasker was made in 1878, and for several years the supply was given from Sheaf Street. In 1891 the business was turned into a limited company; in 1894 the Sheaf Street Station was made; and in 1898 the Corporation acquired the business for £299,348.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Fascinating stuff. I always wondered how long-distance communication was possible before electronic amplification (initially using valves) came into use. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...