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Dial House, Salford

One of the most important telephone exchange buildings being home to the Central, Blackfriars and Deansgate Telephone Exchanges.

Grid reference:

A map showing the location of dial house

A picture of Dial House on Chapel Street, Salford
Dial House in Salford as viewed from Chapel Street.

Dating from the 1930s, Dial House in Salford is a large telephone exchange that extends from Chapel Street to the banks of the River Irwell and the boundary with Manchester. It houses the Central, Blackfriars and Deansgate telephone exchanges and has played an important role in the early development and adoption of new technology.

After the Second World War, the BBC started work on expanding its television network to cover the whole country. At first, only houses in the South East could receive a television signal, but gradually, the network expanded to cover most of England and Wales. Extending the service to Scotland created a major challenge and Manchester was to become a key link in a chain of relay stations that carried the signal over the border.

The microwave dish from the Kirk O'Shotts relay station
A dish antenna from the Kirk O’Shotts microwave relay station on show within the Connecting Manchester Gallery at the Museum of Science & Industry

Unlike radio broadcasting, where the BBC had its own transmitters, the national television transmission system was built and operated by the General Post Office. A coaxial cable link ran from London to Manchester via Birmingham. From Dial House in Salford, the signal was transmitted to the Windy Hill transmitter (near junction 22 of the M62) by radio. From there a 250-mile 4GHz microwave network comprising seven repeater stations delivered television signals to Kirk O’Shotts in Lanarkshire, Scotland. This was the UK’s first microwave network and became operational in 1952.

Dial House also formed part of the UK’s first national computer packet switching network – Experimental Packet Switch Stream (EPSS) opened in 1977 and was the first telephone exchange in Manchester to go digital with the introduction of System X in April 1986.

Today it remains a major operational and administration centre for BT.