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One day free conference

Greater Manchester Archaeology Festival 2019

Telecommunications Heritage Conference

Saturday 22nd June 2019, Peel Building, University of Salford, M5 4WT

As part of the Greater Manchester Archaeology Festival 2019, which is held in conjunction with the Greater Manchester Archaeology Federation, we are pleased to offer this one day, free, Telecommunications Heritage Conference. Held in association with the University of Salford’s Centre for Applied Archaeology and Connected Earth and supported by the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals, this conference will explore the history of telecommunications and its impact on society and the development of industrial cities such as Manchester.

Telecommunications has had a transformational impact on society and our environment whether that has been through the development of national and international communication networks, the evolution of the telephone into the mobile and onwards to the smartphone, or the Internet and its associated world wide web. Each technological advance has improved our ability to communicate over ever greater distances and speed thus leading to the creation of new services and businesses.

Manchester built its wealth on the global trade in finished cotton goods and its rapid growth and commercial strength ensured that it was – and continues to be - an early adopter of new communications technology. That in turn has helped shape the city’s urban landscape.

However, telecommunications is an incredibly fast moving field in which ‘vintage’ can today refer to something which is only a few years old; or in the case of the mobile phone, several months old. Coupled to this, telecommunications is normally hidden from view, and with very few exceptions, isn’t an industry populated by iconic structures which means that it tends to get overlooked and ignored. Infrastructure and buildings come and go, either by changing their appearance as form follows function or through change of use and even demolition. The net effect is that the archaeological heritage of telecommunications can easily become eroded and in many cases, lost forever. This creates huge challenges for industrial archaeology for when an object is recognised as being important from a heritage point of view, and hence, worthy of preservation, it has often already gone and been replaced by something more modern.

Our one-day conference aims to celebrate telecommunications’ rich heritage by exploring technological development, societal impact, and its influence on urban development with a particular, although not exclusive, focus on Manchester.

For example:

Stewart Ash will be talking about Sir John Pender, a Glaswegian who made his fortune as a cotton merchant in Manchester and who then masterminded a global network of under-sea electrical telegraph cables that wired the world and earned him the title, ‘Cable King’.

Nigel Linge will explore Manchester’s telephone story, from the first telephone installed within the country under licence from the Post Office in 1878, through the expansion of the national network, to the imminent launch of the latest generation of mobile phone, 5G.

Andy Sutton will be examining the relationship between the mobile phone network infrastructure and the built environment. He will be reviewing the many different designs of mobile phone mast and their associated support equipment and showing how these have been transformed with each new generation of mobile phone.

Andrew Hurley from the National Telephone Kiosk Collection will be describing one of their most significant finds of recent times namely, the discovery of an original Norwich design kiosk, making it the oldest known surving example of a British phonebox. He’ll be discussing work in progress to restore it and place it on permanent display at the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings.

Information on other talks will be provided as those speakers are confirmed.

Call for contributions

If you would like to offer a contribution to this conference, please contact us by using the button towards the bottom of this page. Presentation slots are 25 minutes with an additional 5 minutes for questions and discussion. Contributions are welcome on a broad range of telecommunications topics and whilst a Manchester link is especially welcomed, this is not an essential requirement. Equally, if you would rather not deliver a presentation, we do welcome other forms of contribution which could, for example, include bringing along old photographs, ephemera or relevant artefacts for people to see. If you are a former employee of a telecommunications company and worked within Greater Manchester, then we would be particularly interested in your recollections and memories of that time and the places where you worked.


All events in the Greater Manchester Archaeology Festival are available free-of-charge however, we do require participants at this conference to register in advance for a free place to enable us to manage venue capacity and catering requirements. Registration entitles you to attend all presentations, receive copies of any information handouts and partake of the refreshments which includes a light lunch in the Salford Museum and Art Gallery cafe.

Whether you are a technical specialist, an enthusiast, a former or current employee of the telecommunications industry, a museum or heritage professional, an academic or someone who has a general interest in history and industrial archaeology then you are all most welcome and we would be delighted to see you. When registration opens, please book your place by using the button located towards the bottom of this page.


The Conference programme is currently ‘work in progress’ with new speakers being confirmed all of the time. Please keep checking back to this page for the up-to-date version of the programme as it emerges.

Saturday 22nd June 2019
Time Activity Speaker Topic
10:00 to 10:30 Arrival Registration and welcome coffee
10:30 to 10:40 Welcome Nigel Linge Official welcome to the conference and outline of the day’s agenda.
10:40 to 12:40 Presentations
10:40 to 11:10 (P1) Stewart Ash John Pender, “Cable King”, and his Manchester connection
11:10 to 11:40 (P2) Nigel Linge Manchester’s telephone story: from the UK’s first phone to 5G
11:40 to 12:10 (P3) Andy Sutton Mobile communications and the built environment
12:10 to 12:40 (P4) TBC Presentation slot 4
12:45 to 13:45 Lunch A complementary light lunch is provided within the Salford Museum and Art Gallery cafe.
13:50 to 15:20 Presentations
13:50 to 14:20 (P5) Andrew Hurley Discovering and preserving a Norwich, Britain’s oldest surviving phonebox
14:20 to 14:50 (P6) TBC Presentation slot 6
14:50 to 15:20 (P7) TBC Presentation slot 7
15:20 to 15:50 Discussion Contemporary Collecting: How can the heritage movement keep pace with rapidly changing fields such as telecommunications?
15:50 to 16:00 Close Nigel Linge Formal close and departure.