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The advent of the telephone in North Mymms

Image: The first telephone exchange serving North Mymms c1915  68 Hatfield Road, Potters Bar, gable-fronted house in the middle of the picture  Note the telegraph pole next to the exchange  Image courtesy of the Peter Miller Collection
The first telephone exchange serving North Mymms c1915
68 Hatfield Road, Potters Bar, gable-fronted house in the middle
Note the telegraph pole next to the exchange
Image courtesy of the Peter Miller Collection

The first telephone exchange to service the parish of North Mymms was opened by the National Telephone Company (NTC) just outside the parish boundary in a private house called ‘Shaldon’, 68 Hatfield Road, Potters Bar.

It is not known exactly when the exchange was opened, although the 08 January 1907 issue of the ‘Post Office Circular’ records the exchange as being open at the time of publication.

NTC Central Battery Signalling Wall Type telephone c1900
Image © BT Heritage
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0
Lilian Cooper was the first telephone operator of the small manual exchange which was a Central Battery Signalling (CBS) type similar to the one below.

Image: 1907 Central Battery Switchboard BE CB 30/50  Image © BT Heritage released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0
1907 Central Battery Switchboard BE CB 30/50
Image © BT Heritage
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0
CBS means that the warning lamps on the switchboard were powered by a battery at the exchange, rather than the caller needing to wind a handle to turn a magneto in order to power the ringing of a bell to alert the operator.

The exchange was taken over by the Post Office in 1912 and remained at 68 Hatfield Road until 1930, by which time it was redirected to another manual exchange, this time a Central Battery (CB) type, at the corner of Quakers Lane and Hatfield Road.

Until this time, all telephones required an individual battery to convey the speech, but the need was negated by CB and the holding of large batteries at the exchange which provided the necessary current.

In 1906-1907 there were only two subscribers to the service in North Mymms and were listed in the southern section of the NTC directory:

Telephone NoNameAddress
5E.C. WheaterMoffats
57C.B. HarnessClaregate

The publication of the London and Provincial area directory in 1912 showed the number of North Mymms subscribers had increased to seven:

Telephone NoNameAddress
5A. HendersonMoffats
9A.C ClausonHawkshead House
21D.M. Linley, Insurance ManagerHeathfield, Little Heath
24B. LaingAbdale House
30H.T. SeymourPotterells
31W.M. Jackson Leggatts
61G.M. McDowell NathanLittle Heath Wood


Image: Order book from Potterells Dairy showing telephone number 30 - c1920 Image courtesy of the Peter Miller Collection
Circa1920 order book from Potterells Dairy, North Mymms
showing telephone number 30
Image courtesy of the Peter Miller Collection

By the time of the publication of the Hertford Area directory in 1920 the number of subscribers in North Mymms had risen to 16.

Telephone NoNameAddress
5A. HendersonMoffats
9A.C ClausonHawkshead House
21D.M. Linley, Insurance ManagerHeathfield, Little Heath
24B. LaingAbdale House
26A. BishopKerdistone, Little Heath
28Mrs A. ThompsonMimwood
30H.T. SeymourPotterells
31W.M. JacksonLeggatts
42H. L. GaussenBrookmans Park
44H. Russell-SmithHeathfield, Little Heath
57M. TomClaregate, Little Heath
60E.WormaldSheepwell (now Queenswood)
61G.M. McDowell NathanLittle Heath Wood
63H. Ayscough ThompsonRosemead, Little Heath
71Reverend J.Seymour HillThe Vicarage, Little Heath
82N. Gratten-Doyle M.P., D.L., J.P.Osborne House, Little Heath

It is noticeable that during this period, the telephone was almost exclusively the preserve of the affluent in North Mymms. The vast majority of people were unable to afford such a luxury when the rental amounted to a servant’s wage.

Potters Bar Telephone Exchange 1947
Image © BT Heritage
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0

The Potters Bar exchange had 444 lines in 1931 and had grown to 2146 lines by1947 when the exchange was automated. In 1968 there were 7996 lines.

In 1982 the exchange was replaced by a new electronic exchange. Today there are no operators based at the exchange.

Peter Miller - March 2019

Source: ‘The Telephone in Potters Bar’ by Brian Warren, PBHS Journal No. 9.



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