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Faulkner Street Telephone Exchange

Manchster’s first telephone exchange was opened in 1879 on Faulkner Street.

Grid reference:

Map showing the location of Manchester's first telephone exchange on Faulkner Street

Picture of the Chinese Arch in Manchester
Manchester’s Chinese Arch today stands very close to the location of the city’s first telephone exchange.

As the popularity of the telephone grew so a need arose for the creation of a telephone exchange which could provide interconnectivity between each telephone subsriber. Manchester’s first telephone exchange was opened by the Lancashire and Telephonic Exchange in 1879 using equipment licenced from Bell at premises on Faulkner Street where now stands the Chinese Arch. James Lorrain, manager of the Lancashire Telephonic Exchange actually claimed that this telephone exchange was the first to become operational within the country, beating London’s Coleman Street exchange by a few weeks however, this cannot be proven. The Faulkner Street exchange was soon followed by a second operated by the Edison Telephpne Company and known as the Edison Manchester and District Telephonic Exchange.

A picture of the inside of Manchester's Faulkner Street telephone exchange
The photograph is taken inside Manchester’s Faulkner Street telephone exchange.

By 1881, the Faulkner Street exchange had 420 subscribers, used 400 miles of wire and had placed orders for another 200 miles. One of its main customers was the Royal Exchange, which accounted for about 430 calls made on one day in March 1881. In May 1881 as a result of the merger at a national level of the Bell and Edison companies to form the United Telephone Company, telephone services in Manchester were consolidated under the Lancashire and Cheshire Telephonic Exchange Co. Ltd (LCTE) which was based at the original Faulkner Street exchange.

Note in the photograph of the Faulkner Street exchange that the telephonists were women and that the exchange was located in the roof space of the building which was necessitated by virtue of the fact that telephone wires were initially carried on overhead, rooftop, installations.