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Events in telecommunications history


The previously privately owned inland telegraph system was transferred to the State on 28 January under the Telegraph Act, 1868. Capital stock to the value of £10,948,173 was created to compensate the Electric and International, the British and Irish Magnetic, the United Kingdom Electric and other telegraph companies. The Post Office took over a service with 1,058 telegraph offices and 1,874 offices at railway stations. About 60,000 miles of wire was in use. Income was c. £550,000 per annum and the number of telegrams transmitted in 1869 was 6,830,812.

Interestingly, state involvement had been foreseen from the outset of the telegraph service. The Act that incorporated the Electric Telegraph Company empowered the Home Secretary to take possession of the Company's telegraphs for one week in times of civil unrest, or longer if necessary. These powers were exercised in April 1848, when the Government was able to obstruct Chartist lines of communication using the resources of the Electric Telegraph Company.

Following the nationalisation of the telegraph service in 1870, the Post Office went on to rapidly expand the UK telegraph network, particularly in more rural areas which had previously not been commercially attractive to the telegraph companies.

Two telegraph cables to Holland and one to Germany were acquired by the Post Office and leased to the Submarine Telegraph Company.

The Post Office Factories Division (later BT Consumer Electronics Ltd. and Fulcrum Communications Ltd.) was born with the acquisition of two small factories in Camden Town and Bolton previously belonging to the Electric and International Telegraph Company and the Magnetic Telegraph Company respectively. At the time of the transfer to the Post Office these factories employed 175 people on the manufacture and repair of telegraph equipment.

The Post Office acquired its first cableship from the International Telegraph Company, a 512 ton paddle-steamer called the Monarch which was originally built in 1830. She was the first of the five GPO cableships to bear the name, but sadly Monarch (No 1) soon broke down and was sold to the Admiralty by whom she was sunk in 1910 as a target for torpedo practice.

A continental telegraph station was set up in Little Bell Alley, Moorgate (Telegraph Street). 

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