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British Industrial History

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Electric and International Telegraph Co

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1846 The Electric Telegraph Co was the world's first public telegraph company founded in the UK by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and John Lewis Ricardo, MP for Stoke-on-Trent.

1855 The company merged with the International Telegraph Co to become the Electric and International Telegraph Co. Edwin Clark was chief engineer.

Late 1850s Electric and International Telegraph Co established a private pneumatic despatch system between their stations at Lothbury, Cornhill and the Stock Exchange and operated it for some years[1].

1858 The company introduced franked message papers and the employment of female clerks.

1860 The Central Telegraph Office was moved from Founders Court, Lothbury to Little Bell Alley, Moorgate (afterwards renamed Telegraph Street)[2].

1861 C. F. Varley became chief engineer.

1863 Josiah Latimer Clark succeeded his brother Edwin Clark as chief engineer to the company, and held this post until the various telegraphic systems were nationalized in 1870. Clark introduced several improvements in the telegraph system, notably by coating the gutta-percha enclosing underground wires with a solution which prevented its decay; he also invented a very effective insulator to carry telegraph wires.

By 1865 C. F. Varley, who had been a member of investigative committee set up by the Atlantic Telegraph Co and the government into the failure of the first trans-Atlantic cable, was appointed chief electrician of the Atlantic Telegraph Co[3].

R. S. Culley succeeded Varley as engineer-in-chief of the company.

1868 When the government proposed to take-over the telegraph companies, the company objected that it had taken the risks in developing the telegraph, and these were not valued adequately by the government in its proposal[4]. The company wanted to remain independent but it was taken over by the British General Post Office.

1869 Electric and International Telegraph Co was amongst the c.30 telegraph companies to be taken over by the General Post Office. The central telegraph office of the new service would be located at the offices of Electric and International Telegraph Co, where all of the continental, metropolitan and country wires would be concentrated so a request was made to the Metropolitan Board of Works for advice on suitable fire precautions[5].

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 29 May 1860
  2. BT Archive [1]
  3. Biography of C. F. Varley, ODNB [2]
  4. The Times, 8 April 1868
  5. The Times, 23 October 1869
  • [3] Wikipedia
  • Biography of C. F. Varley, ODNB [4]