Ivybridge Post Office & Telephone Exchange

The first Post Office in Ivybridge (around 1830) was located at the coaching inn, the Rogers Arms (later the Ivybridge Hotel) on Western Road, where Grosvenor Court is situated today. Four mail coaches called each day at this important staging post on the Plymouth to London road. Stops to collect mail were short. The Plymouth to Exeter coach took around 3½ hours whilst the whole journey to London took around 22 hours. There were change-over points for fresh horses located at Chudleigh, Ashburton and Ivybridge. The Post Office later moved to the more central location of Fore Street.

 

With the rising population and improved adult literacy, the 19th century saw a rapid increase in letter writing and the sending of greetings cards. Mail distribution was greatly improved through the development of the railway network and Sir Rowland Hill introduced reforms to the postal system with a uniform rate of postage regardless of distance, the Penny Post.

Penny Red

The Penny Red was first issued in 1841. It succeeded the Penny Black and continued as the main type of postage stamp in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until 1879. The colour was changed from black to red because of difficulty in seeing a cancellation mark on the Penny Black; a black cancel was readily visible on a Penny Red. [1]

Mr Winston – a postman in Ivybridge – photograph circa 1889. (2)

Penny Red

The Penny Red was first issued in 1841. It succeeded the Penny Black and continued as the main type of postage stamp in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until 1879. The colour was changed from black to red because of difficulty in seeing a cancellation mark on the Penny Black; a black cancel was readily visible on a Penny Red. [1]

Mr Winston – a postman in Ivybridge – photograph circa 1889. (2)

Pillar boxes were introduced in 1853 and were painted in dark green. It wasn’t until 1874 that the colour changed to bright red to increase their visibility. The Post Office was now expanding into new areas. In 1861 the Post Office Savings Bank opened, offering an alternative to traditional banks and nine years later a telegraph service was launched. This new method of communication would permit messages to be converted into Morse code and sent to another Post Office where it would be written down. The written message would then be delivered, normally by young boys. Compared to traditional letters, this was a much quicker way of communication. A directory describing the postal arrangements for Ivybridge in 1878 stated that ‘The Post, Money Order, Telegraph, Government Insurance and Annuity Office and Savings Bank’ were located at Mr William H. Mackay, the Post Master in Fore Street. A few years later in 1883, the Post Office started a parcel delivery service despite stern opposition from the major railway companies who previously managed the transportation of parcels.

With Post Offices providing such a wealth of services to local communities, a position of prominence was vital. A document dated July 1898, submitted by W. Vincent, Carpenter, Builder, Cabinet Maker and Undertaker of Western Road, Ivybridge, records a sum of £733 10s to construct a three-storey building on the main thoroughfare at 49-50 Fore Street.

 

In 1909 Post Offices became the principal payment agency for social security benefits which began with old-age pensions. The first payments were issued in bound books, each containing 25 pension orders. Stowford Paper Mill in Ivybridge was to become the principal supplier of pension payment slip paper from 1926. It was business which was to remain in Ivybridge until paper-based pension books were phased out in 2003.

 

By 1912 the General Post Office had branched out into telephone services when it bought the system from the National Telephone Company.

New Post Office 49-50 Fore Street

With Post Offices providing such a wealth of services to local communities, a position of prominence was vital. A document dated July 1898, submitted by W. Vincent, Carpenter, Builder, Cabinet Maker and Undertaker of Western Road, Ivybridge, records a sum of £733 10s to construct a three-storey building on the main thoroughfare at 49-50 Fore Street.

 

In 1909 Post Offices became the principal payment agency for social security benefits which began with old-age pensions. The first payments were issued in bound books, each containing 25 pension orders. Stowford Paper Mill in Ivybridge was to become the principal supplier of pension payment slip paper from 1926. It was business which was to remain in Ivybridge until paper-based pension books were phased out in 2003.

 

By 1912 the General Post Office had branched out into telephone services when it bought the system from the National Telephone Company.

Mr Wilfred Love

Ivybridge Sub-Postmaster

In 1948, Wilfred Love retired after more than 18 years of service as sub-postmaster in Ivybridge. To celebrate the occasion Ivybridge postal staff held a special evening at the King’s Arms Hotel with around 80 people attending.

 

As a retirement gift and in recognition of his service to the Post Office, a leather wallet containing an undisclosed sum of money was presented to Mr Love during the evening.

 

Mr Love during his farewell speech declared that he had “thoroughly enjoyed his work at the Post Office, and the association with his colleagues and his contact with the general public, 99 per cent of whom he had found to be helpful and kind.”

 

Mr Love’s sister Marion was a school teacher at Erme School and an enthusiastic member of the Women’s Institute.

Wilfred Love is the gentlemen in the middle of the front row, whilst his sister Marion Love is on the far right.
Photograph : members of Ivybridge Civil Defence (A.R.P.) around 1942.

NUMBER, PLEASE ?

Ivybridge Telephone Exchange

Early telephone exchanges often had a single operator, generally responsible for other post office work. Few households in Britain would have had telephones, they were more the domain of business with calls relatively expensive. Lee & Son, the millers located almost opposite the Post Office had the telephone number 4, the single digit number giving an indication of just how few telephone numbers existed. Those lucky enough to have a telephone (referred to as subscribers) rented it from the GPO along with the house wiring and the connection to the local network known as a distribution point.

Ivybridge Telephone Exchange

Early telephone exchanges often had a single operator, generally responsible for other post office work. Few households in Britain would have had telephones, they were more the domain of business with calls relatively expensive. Lee & Son, the millers located almost opposite the Post Office had the telephone number 4, the single digit number giving an indication of just how few telephone numbers existed. Those lucky enough to have a telephone (referred to as subscribers) rented it from the GPO along with the house wiring and the connection to the local network known as a distribution point.

The first telephone exchanges were of course entirely manual systems requiring human operators to connect a call from one subscriber to another. As demand for telephone services increased, particularly after WW2, larger exchanges emerged. These consisted of plug boards, large vertical panels containing banks of jacks, each of which represented a subscriber’s telephone line. The switchboard operators would then make the necessary connections with the relevant cords. Switch board operators, or telephonists as they were referred to, needed to have a good speaking voice and were regarded as having good jobs.

Switchboard
The last days of the old telephone exchange above the Post Office in Fore Street and inside the new exchange.

Miss Phoebe Phillips

One telephonist in Ivybridge warrants special mention. Miss Phoebe Phillips together with the services of her father Mr William Phillips, were responsible for the continuity of telephone services including weekends for 28 years up to the introduction of an automated system. Phoebe knew most people’s telephone numbers in Ivybridge from memory. Having a familiar voice at the end of the telephone asking the customary question “number please?” was always reassuring and her calmness in the face of many distressing situations brought her much praise from the local community.

 

Phoebe’s father William took over the Telephone Exchange in 1934 when the family moved into the premises. William would operate the exchange during the night shift whilst Phoebe was the daytime telephonist, a job she carried out until her retirement.

 

The Phillips family were long standing members of the community of Ivybridge. Phoebe’s grandfather owned the ironmongers and newsagents in Fore Street.

William Phillips with his wife Jane Elizabeth outside the shop at 36 Fore Street.

Move to an automated telephone exchange …

Manually operated switchboards were of course both labour and cost-intensive, inhibiting growth and often creating bottlenecks in the network. To alleviate the situation, the Post Office began to introduce automatic switching, rolling out a programme to replace all old exchanges. With Ivybridge growing during the 1960s, local MPs were lobbying in Parliament for new telephone capacity. In response, a new telephone exchange was introduced using the latest technology and housed in a purpose-built building beside the Congregational Church. The normal progression from manual to automatic was through the introduction of a UAX, (Unit Automatic Exchange). In the case of Ivybridge, it was a UAX13 which could be expanded by adding units (racks of equipment) as demand grew. With so many people in Ivybridge requesting telephones, an unprecedented 3 UAX’s were interconnected and by the end of 1962 all the equipment had been successfully installed and was operational.

Throughout the 1960s the Post Office was still a Government department and vehicle livery was mid-bronze green with white lettering. However, by the 1980s as separation of postal services and telecommunications gathered pace, the livery changed to bright yellow with red lettering with the emergence of a separate corporation, British Telecommunications on 1 Oct 1981.

Switchboard retrieval
Retrieving the old switchboards from the telephone exchange above the Post Office following the successful commissioning of the new automated exchange.
Acknowledgement
A special thank you to Anthony Kingdom, former Technical Officer, Post Office Telephones, for all the photographs relating to the old and new telephone exchanges. We are also grateful for his detailed explanation of the installation of the automated exchange which he personally oversaw.

 

References
[1] Wikipedia
[2] Images from the Ivor Martin archive collection.
Acknowledgement
A special thank you to Anthony Kingdom, former Technical Officer, Post Office Telephones, for all the photographs relating to the old and new telephone exchanges. We are also grateful for his detailed explanation of the installation of the automated exchange which he personally oversaw.

 

References
[1] Wikipedia
[2] Images from the Ivor Martin archive collection.

IVYBRIDGE POST OFFICE & TELEPHONE EXCHANGE

The first Post Office in Ivybridge (around 1830) was located at the coaching inn, the Rogers’ Arms (later the Ivybridge Hotel) on Western Road, where Grosvenor Court is situated today. Four mail coaches called each day at this important staging post on the Plymouth to London road. Stops to collect mail were short. The Plymouth to Exeter coach took around 3½ hours whilst the whole journey to London took around 22 hours. There were change-over points for fresh horses located at Chudleigh, Ashburton and Ivybridge. The Post Office later moved to the more central location of Fore Street.

 

With the rising population and improved adult literacy, the 19th century saw a rapid increase in letter writing and the sending of greetings cards. Mail distribution was greatly improved through the development of the railway network and Sir Rowland Hill introduced reforms to the postal system with a uniform rate of postage regardless of distance, the Penny Post.
Pillar boxes were introduced in 1853 and were painted in dark green. It wasn’t until 1874 that the colour changed to bright red to increase their visibility. The Post Office was now expanding into new areas. In 1861 the Post Office Savings Bank opened, offering an alternative to traditional banks and nine years later a telegraph service was launched. This new method of communication would permit messages to be converted into Morse code and sent to another Post Office where it would be written down. The written message would then be delivered, normally by young boys. Compared to traditional letters, this was a much quicker way of communication. A directory describing the postal arrangements for Ivybridge in 1878 stated that ‘The Post, Money Order, Telegraph, Government Insurance and Annuity Office and Savings Bank’ were located at Mr William H. Mackay, the Post Master in Fore Street. A few years later in 1883, the Post Office started a parcel delivery service despite stern opposition from the major railway companies who previously managed the transportation of parcels.

 

With Post Offices providing such a wealth of services to local communities, a position of prominence was vital. A document dated July 1898, submitted by W. Vincent, Carpenter, Builder, Cabinet Maker and Undertaker of Western Road, Ivybridge, records a sum of £733 10s to construct a three-storey building on the main thoroughfare at 49-50 Fore Street.

Ivybridge Post Office

In 1909 Post Offices became the principal payment agency for social security benefits which began with old-age pensions. The first payments were issued in bound books, each containing 25 pension orders. Stowford Paper Mill in Ivybridge was to become the principal supplier of pension payment slip paper from 1926. It was business which was to remain in Ivybridge until paper-based pension books were phased out in 2003.

 

By 1912 the General Post Office had branched out into telephone services when it bought the system from the National Telephone Company.

Ivybridge Telephone Exchange

Early telephone exchanges often had a single operator, generally responsible for other post office work. Few households in Britain would have had telephones, they were more the domain of business with calls relatively expensive. Lee & Son, the millers located almost opposite the Post Office had the telephone number 4, the single digit number giving an indication of just how few telephone numbers existed. Those lucky enough to have a telephone (referred to as subscribers) rented it from the GPO along with the house wiring and the connection to the local network known as a distribution point.

 

The first telephone exchanges were of course entirely manual systems requiring human operators to connect a call from one subscriber to another. As demand for telephone services increased, particularly after WW2, larger exchanges emerged. These consisted of plug boards, large vertical panels containing banks of jacks, each of which represented a subscriber’s telephone line. The switchboard operators would then make the necessary connections with the relevant cords. Switch board operators, or telephonists as they were referred to, needed to have a good speaking voice and were regarded as having good jobs.

 

Manually operated switchboards were of course both labour and cost-intensive, inhibiting growth and often creating bottlenecks in the network. To alleviate the situation, the Post Office began to introduce automatic switching, rolling out a programme to replace all old exchanges. With Ivybridge growing during the 1960s, local MPs were lobbying in Parliament for new telephone capacity. In response, a new telephone exchange was introduced using the latest technology and housed in a purpose-built building beside the Congregational Church. The normal progression from manual to automatic was through the introduction of a UAX, (Unit Automatic Exchange). In the case of Ivybridge, it was a UAX13 which could be expanded by adding units (racks of equipment) as demand grew. With so many people in Ivybridge requesting telephones, an unprecedented 3 UAX’s were interconnected and by the end of 1962 all the equipment had been successfully installed and was operational.

Old and new telephone exchanges