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York Street Telephone Buildings

There are two important buildings that have or continue to provide essential telephone services.

Grid reference:

A map showing the location of York Street

Telephone House at 26 York Street
Former ‘Telephone House’ located at 26 York Street.

Telephone House, 26 York Street

Designed by Leonard Stokes and J W Beaumont and built in 1909, 26 York Street (now New York Street) is a former telephone exchange that also included the regional network and operations centre (NOC) for BT. Known as ‘Telephone House’, this building housed the Peterloo Telephone Exchange and played a pivotal role in a technology which ultimately led to the development of the mobile phone. On the 28th October 1959 the General Post Office (GPO) launched the South Lancashire Radiophone service which allowed the general public to install telephones in their cars. These telephones were then connected via a radio communications link to one of two main base stations located on Winter Hill near Horwich and Lancaster House in Liverpool with a third auxiliary station positioned here, on the roof of Telephone House. Calls made over these links could then be routed to the national telephone network by an operator who connected the call through the Peterloo Telephone exchange located within Telephone House. This was the first radiophone service launched in the UK that was available to the public and allowed calls to and from the national public telephone network. The service was extended to the London area on the 5th July 1965 with the opening of the London Radiophone service which had three radio base stations (Pimlico, Kelvedon Hatch and Beulah Hill) covering the Greater London area. In the mid-1980s, a new form of radio communications was introduced with the launch of the cellular based mobile network which has, of course, evolved into today’s 4G mobile phone service.

An image of a GPO leaflet advertising the South Lancashire Radiophone service
A GPO leadlet advertising the South Lancashire Radiophone service.

There was also access from the basement of this building into the underground Guardian Exchange and associated complex of tunnels.

Rutherford House, York Street

A picture of Rutherford House on York Street, now known as The Exchange
Former Rutherford House on York Street, now known as simply ‘the exchange’.

Built in 1967 by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, this building was originally named as Rutherford House and housed the Rutherford Telephone exchange. Today it has been refurbished as general office space and renamed, ‘the exchnage’ however, it continues to house Manchester Central Telephone Exchange in the basement where also there is access to the underground Guardian Exchange and associated complex of tunnels. Access for BT staff into the building is now from George Street.