Victorian London - Communications - Telegraph - Telegraph Offices

telegraph1.gif (168244 bytes)THE ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH COMPANY

The Central Station of the Electric Telegraph Company, at the end of Founders'-court in Lothbury, is one of the best of the recent architectural adornments of the city of London. Its exterior, though necessarily limited in width, is very bold in character and picturesque in ornament. . . . A boldly-designed doorway - the key-stone ornamented with a head, nicely sculpted - springing from rusticated work; above it a balcony, supported by trusses, having wreaths of flowers pendant from them; two enriched Ionic pilasters, supporting an entablature, simply ornamented, but in excellent style, and carrying an arched pediment - and in the space between them a clock, on a plinth, having sunken panels, and supported at the sides by inverted trusses - are the leading points of the architectural arrangements, and produce a very satisfactory effect. Above the clock, and depending at its sides, are fruits and flowers, in high relief, exceedingly well done. In a panel, at the upper part of the building, are the words "Central Telegraph Station."
    A flight of six steps leads to the interior of the edifice; and on entering the Hall the visitor is struck by its novel and beautiful effect. The space of ground is occupied by the entire building (exclusive of subscribers' rooms) is about 70 feet by 38; and great praise is due the architect for the skilful mode in which he has arranged his plans, so as to give a capacious Hall for the general business to be transacted in, and yet to allow of space for the utmost freedom of access to the different rooms in which the electric correspondence is carried on. The greatest length of the building is from east to west, the shortest from north to south; and in plan the Hall, which is in the centre of the building, is nearly a square, being about 42 feet from east to west, and in the other direction extending the whole depth of the building, within the walls - that is, 32 feet. 
telegraph2.gif (111403 bytes)    At the east and west ends a screen of two stories crosses the hall, in the manner shown in our Engraving, the first story being supported by columns of the Doric order, painted in imitation of porphyry, resting on plinths, in imitation gold veined marble, carrying their proper entablature and frieze; and the upper story by columns of the Corinthian order, the shafts painted in imitation of sienna marble, their capitals and bases of white. These stories form capacious galleries, having communication with the apartments in which are the Electric Telegraph Machines; and to connect the two ends of the building, galleries, of nearly the width of the first inter-columniation from the wall, run along the northern and southern sides. These galleries are supported by trusses springing from the frieze in the respective stories.  The trusses to the upper story are very highly enriched, and of beautiful design; those to the lower of plainer though elegant outline. The blank walls, running from east to west, have pilasters corresponding in order to the pillars of the screens and painted like them; and in the inter-columniations, are arches springing from small pilasters attached to the larger ones. On the south side is the entrance from Lothbury, and the door projects somewhat into the Hall, to allow of a room for the porter; while the gallery before-mentioned  follows the projection, as shown in our view. Immediately opposite the Lothbury entrance is a small doorway leading into the Subscribers' Rooms, and above this doorway is a dial clock. A continuous rail, of light and elegant design, runs along the lower galleries, and is also introduced in the spaces between the columns at either end, and from it spring branches for gas-lights. A railing of plain but close pattern also bounds the upper galleries.
    The glazed windows behind the counter separate an office, called the "translating office," from the body of the Hall. In this office all messages are transferred or translated into the abbreviated code arranged by the Company: but it is to be observed, that all such messages as descriptions of persons suspected of any dishonesty are not translated, but sent in full; only the lists of prices in corn, share, and other markets are so abbreviated.
    The windows separate from the body of the Hall offices for clerks, in communication with those employed at the machines above; and who have to receive messages, through the sliding panes before noticed, and transmit them to their fellow clerks above stairs, by the aid of "lifts," or small trays working up and down, by means of cords, in square tubes. There is a "lift" and a bell in connexion with every desk. The motive power to these lifts is given by the clerk at the desk above, who, on his alarm being touched, turns a winch, and elevates the tray in an instant. As there are separate "lifts" to each desk, so, of course, there are separate tubes for each to work in. On the first story the aprtments, in which are the machines, are not nearly so lofty as the Corinthian pillars would seem at first sight to indicate them to be; in fact, this story is divided into two, by a floor , which does not project so far forward as the series of archways, which both ornament the walls and allow of ingress to the machine-room; and therefore a plain railing is carried along to make all secure. . . . . In the machine galleries the wires are carried along the ceilings from the respective machines to the battery chambers and the text box; the battery wires running east and west, and the "house wires" to test box, north and south. The desks and machines, which are of Cooke and Wheatstone's Patent, are all of polished mahogany, and are very beautifully fitted up; and there are eighteen desks, thus affording accommodation for thirty-six machines, in the six apartments devoted to them. All the wires are numbered at the desks, to correspond from batteries to machines, and from machines to the test box, that the electric circuit may be complete. . . . . .     Supposing a message is required to be sent to Liverpool, the sender goes to the counter on the west side and hands the message, written out, to one of the clerks there, who takes the money, and gives a receipt for it. The written paper is then passed into the translating office, where it is duly transferred into the code arranged by the Company. This done, the clerk touches the alarum, and puts the message on the "lift" for Liverpool. which is immediately drawn up by the clerk at the machine, who instantly sets to work. and, in a few seconds, the messages reaches its destination!

Illustrated London News, January 22, 1848

Electric Telegraph Offices.

    ELECTRIC AND INTERNATIONAL COMPANY: Central Office, Founder's Court, Lothbury.
Principal Stations: 448 Strand (open day and night); House of Commons; 17 A Great George Street, Westminster; 89 St. James's Street; 15 St. George's Place, Knights. bridge; 314 Oxford Street; 241 High Holborn; 6 Edgeware Road; Cattle Market, Copenhagen Fields (open market-days only); Lloyds; 27 Cornhill (open day and night); Fenchurch Street; Stock Exchange; Corn Exchange; 30 Fleet Street.
Tariff for a message of twenty words to all the principal towns in great Britain :-within a circuit of 25 miles, 1s. 50 miles, 1s. 6d. ; 100 miles, 2s.; 200 miles, 2s. 6d.; 300 miles, 3s.; 400 miles, 4s.; beyond 400 miles, 5s.
    BRITISH AND IRISH MAGNETIC TELEGRAPH COMPANY: Central Office (open day and night), 57 to 59 Threadneedle Street, opposite the Royal Exchange.
Principal Stations: Baltic Coffee House; Stock Exchange; 27 Leadenhall Street; 82 Mark Lane; Corn Exchange Chambers, Seething Lane; 22 Mincing Lane; Lloyds; 7 Charing Cross; 43 Regent Circus; Central Lobby, House of Commons (during the Session). The stations of these companies are connected with all the principal towns in Great Britain and Ireland, and the Continental lines of telegraph.
    The charge for messages to any part of Great Britain, not exceeding twenty words, is :-within 25 miles, 1s.; within 50 miles, 1s. 6d.; within 100 miles, 2s.; within 200 miles, 2s. 6d.; within 300 miles, 3s.; within 400 miles, 4s. Special exceptions are made in the cases of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham: the charge to these places being only 1s. per 20 words. For messages of 20 words to Ireland: Queenstown, Galway, and Londonderry, 6s.; all other Irish stations, 5s. per 20 words. (Seven words are allowed in addresses without charge.)
    THE SUBMARINE TELEGRAPH COMPANY, 58 Threadneedle Street, has 7 cables to the Continent. Open day and night. Telegrams received for all Foreign Stations either at the Central Office, or at the stations of the Magnetic, and the London District Telegraph Companies.
    LONDON DISTRICT TELEGRAPH COMPANY: Chief Office, 90 Cannon Street. Delivers messages to all parts of London and the suburbs by means of a system of underground and house-to-house wires. Among its principal stations are: 7 Charing Cross; House of Commons; 22 Chancery Lane; 21 Parkside, Knightsbridge; 326 Oxford Street; Baltic Coffee House; Clock Tower, London Bridge; 3 Adelaide Place, London Bridge; Royal Hotel, Blackfriars; 102 Fleet Street; "The Horns," Kennington Park; 32 Mark Lane; 22 Mincing Lane; Lloyds ; Mile-end Turnpike; "The Angel," Islington; 94 Edgeware Road; Notting Hill; South Kensington Museum; 12 Cornwall Crescent, Camden Town; Camberwell Green; 68 London Road, Borough; Crystal Palace Railway Station. 
    Charges: For fifteen words, 6d.; for fifteen words each in message and reply, 9d.; twenty words, 9d. Delivered, without extra charge, within half-a-mile of a station.
    Amongst the principal Telegraph Companies for communication with Foreign Parts may be named:
    THE NEW TELEGRAPH TO INDIA (Red Sea and Indian Telegraph) COMPANY: Offices, 62 Moorgate Street.
    CHANNEL ISLANDS: Founder's Court, Lothbury.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

The Electric Telegraphs throughout the Kingdom being now national property, are managed by the General Post Office: the head office being in St. Martin's-le-Grand, London (see General Post Office). More than 300 branch offices are now distributed through London, so that no quarter or neighbourhood is far distant from one. By means of the London Postal Telegraph messages may be sent in a very short time from any part of London, through 400 or 500 miles of wires carried over the tops of the houses, and under the streets. The charge is 1s. for 20 words exclusive of addresses of sender and receiver - increasing at a rate of 3d. per 5 words beyond that number-to any part of the United Kingdom. Foreign telegrams are charged at varions rates (see Postal Guide).

Murray's Handbook to London As It Is, 1879

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Telegraph Offices are, as a rule, open from 8 am, to 8 p.m. on week-days, and from 8 a.m. to 10 am. on Sundays. At the following offices, however, there is attendance continuously during the day and night, both on weekdays and Sundays.
LONDON OFFICES. Central Telegraph Station, St. Martin’s-let-Grand, E.C.; Paddington Station (G.W.R. Co.’s office), W. ; St. Pancras (Midland), NW.; Victoria Station (LC. & D.R.), S.W.; West Strand, W.C.
COUNTRY OFFICES —England—Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff; Derby, Exeter, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Norwich, Nottingham, Plymouth, Sheffield, Southampton.
TIME SIGNALS. —  1. For the hourly current within a radius of two miles from the General Post Office, including the use of the necessary wire, £15.  2. For any distance over two miles, the same rate added to the private wire rate for the wire over the extra distance.
The department undertakes to supply a time signal only where the existing postal telegraph arrangements will permit the work to be properly done.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

telegraphoffices.gif (55178 bytes)

Charles Dickens Jr. et al, Dickens Dictionary of London, c.1908 edition
(no date; based on internal evidence)