Help with an old telephone number

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Panceltic, 21 Apr 2015.

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  1. Panceltic

    Panceltic Member

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    Hello,

    today I have found an old letter in an (even older) book. The letter bears no date, but the letterhead reads: "Brent Knoll", Milton Street, Brixham, Devon; Brixham 2480.

    I assume the bolded part is a telephone number. Based on its format, can anyone tell from what time this letter may be?

    Thank you for helping :)
     
  2. ilkestonian

    ilkestonian Member

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    You are right to assume that Brixham is "part of the number". It predates subscriber trunk dialling (STD), at which time phone numbers evolved to all numeric with the first part representing the area code (or exchange)

    I'd estimate the letter is pre 1970s, and perhaps significantly earlier.

    As an example of how numbers changed over the years, a relative of mine, in the 1960s had a phone number Castle Donington xxx

    When STD came in, I believe in the late 1960s or early 1970s, it became Derby 810xxx and could be dialled directly if you knew the code for Derby (0332).

    In those days though if you lived near Derby exchange, but not actually in the same exchange area, eg Burton on Trent, you would not dial 0332 810xxx, but instead there would be a local Derby code* starting with a 9, eg 97 810xxx which is why most people and businesses quoted the name of the exchange rather than the STD code.

    * I think you could dial the STD code, but a trunk call as it was called was quite a bit dearer than a local call.

    Edit. Some businesses with large stocks of letter headed paper might of course continue to use them even if the exchange details had changed, so the letter might have been written after the date of any number change...
     
    Last edited: 21 Apr 2015
  3. table38

    table38 Established Member

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    At a guess, I'd say most three and four-digit phone numbers got phased out when BT introduced System-X; Brixham got absorbed into the Torquay STD code 01803.

    Usually what happened was that numbers on the old satellite exchanges got a prefix to get them up to 6 digits, so "Brixham 2480" would at a best-guess probably have become "01803 882480".

    I don't know the specific date for Brixham, but most were done between 1980 and 1990.

    Prior to System-X, there would have been a local code to get from Torquay to Brixham, so people often publicised their numbers like "Brixham 2480" because what you dialled pretty much depended on where you were dialling from.

    So if you were already in Brixham, you dialled "2480". From Torquay, you'd dial "88" to get to Brixham, then "2480". With the older Strowger kit, if you'd dialled the full "01803 882480" when actually in Brixham, it may not have worked.

    The other way, you'd generally dial "9" to get from say Brixham to the Torquay exchange, the choice of "9" was mainly so that "999" still worked, although this had the drawback that if you were already in the main exchange area, you only had to dial "99" to get through to the emergency services!

    Because local calls were cheaper, with mechanical metering of units, the only way the exchanges knew how to bill you was how you made the call, if you could find the local codes, you could often route a long-distance call yourself by dialling a long chain from one local exchange to another. BT couldn't do much about it other than put a warning in the telephone codes book that "you may only use codes published and authorised for your use", or somesuch.

    So a long way of saying probably before 1980 :)
     
  4. ExRes

    ExRes Established Member

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    I'm no expert on the history of Brixham phone numbers but I'd go for 01803 852480 rather than 882480, as far as I'm aware 85 is general for Brixham
     
  5. edwin_m

    edwin_m Established Member

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    To be pedantic, the numbers would have been 0803 not 01803 at that time, as the 1 was inserted in 1995.

    The link below suggests Brixham didn't have any specific set of leading digits, though some nearby areas did.

    http://www.ukphoneinfo.com/old-std-list
     
  6. table38

    table38 Established Member

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    Tsk, I should have thought of that :oops:
     
  7. Panceltic

    Panceltic Member

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    Wow thanks, that's a lot of interesting facts! :)
     
  8. jcollins

    jcollins Veteran Member

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    The thing I find interesting with dialing codes is a town the size of Knutsford get's it own dialing code (01565) and doesn't share it with other towns only neighbouring villages. Yet it seems every village, town and city in Greater Manchester has the 0161 dialing code. (I realise you have to dial 7 digits after 0161 opposed to 6 digits.)
     
  9. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    Well that's not true.

    Rochdale and surrounding area is 01706.
     
  10. jcollins

    jcollins Veteran Member

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    Well a large number of places then. 0161 includes Hale, Bury, Oldham, Eccles, Hazel Grove and Stalybridge so covers a vast area in comparison to 01565.
     
  11. PaxVobiscum

    PaxVobiscum Established Member

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    I think some of the replies are confusing All Figure Telephone Numbers with Subscriber Trunk Dialling. Local calls could be dialled from quite early on in some areas - well before WW2.
    My memory is that the former was introduced in the mid 1960s - before that telephone numbers had a 3 letter and 4 number format as in WHItehall 1212 for Scotland Yard.

    EDIT: My memory is correct - see http://www.btplc.com/Thegroup/BTsHistory/1912to1968/1966.htm
     
  12. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    Such a number would nowadays be 01803-852480, if the houseowner had not changed things in the meantime, as covered above.

    Before the "1" was inserted nationally in 1995 the area code would be 0803. These were broadly alphabetical for the exchange of the area, from 0200 to 0988 (0999 was not used for obvious reasons). 0803 fits Torquay nicely into this pattern.

    When dial telephones first came in they could only handle within their own exchange, beyond that you had to ask an operator. This was then extended out to adjacent exchanges with a short prefix, everyone was issued with a little card kept by their phone for this, if you were calling from Torquay to Brixham it was probably - yes, you guessed it, 85. Some of these short codes were three figures because smaller telephone exchanges themselves only had three digit phone numbers. Dialling nationally came in the 1950s-60s.

    Dialling within larger areas, like London, also came early on (1930s), and used the USA-style mnemonic exchange names based on the letters on the phone dial, in front of the 4-digit number. Having determined the 3-digit exchange number code, ingenuity was then used to select an appropriate name for it. Thus London around Parliament was 944, which was contrived to WHItehall, with the first 3 letters capitalised, while over the road in Westminster was 222, contrived to ABBey. Some names were more obvious than others - Wimbledon was 542 and called LIBerty. Elderly ladies used to take for ever to dial these as they peered into the dial, rather than get to know the associated numbers, to read the small letters :)

    Letters on phone dials went completely out of use for some years, then of course came back with mobiles and Text Messaging. Of course, what has completely gone is dials themselves, it's been years since I last handled one (ironically in Poland), and the younger readers here have probably never done so.
     
    Last edited: 22 Apr 2015
  13. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    That's true for all the larger phone code areas (01x1, 011x and 02xx) - that's presumably why they have 10 times as many available numbers or 100 times for 020x).

    Some areas must have changed much later. I wasn't born until the 70s but remember my dad's phone number having 4 digits (and I remember the new centre insert coming in the post and I put it in the phone).

    A good few people I know in the village still give their number as four digits, assuming people will know to put 82 in front of it (which of course doesn't work with newer numbers).
     
    Last edited: 22 Apr 2015
  14. Tom B

    Tom B Established Member

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    Manchester is one of the original director areas (London (01), Birmingham (021), Edinburgh (031), Glasgow (041), Liverpool (051) and Manchester (061)).

    In these areas, the three digits after the STD code refer to an exchange name - historically they were all married up to letters on the dial. This allowed the exchange equipment (mechanical Strowger exchanges) to route the call based on these, and for direct lines to commonly used exchanges to be used rather than tying up equipment to/from a larger centre.

    For instance, ARChway exchange in London was 272. The concept of dialling exchange names, rather than numbers, disappeared in the mid 60s to allow for expansion, after which some codes were adjusted for technical reasons and others added (so Upper Holloway ATE, historically having numbers starting 272, now has numbers starting 281 and 263, which do not have names). At the same time, phones stopped being issued with lettered dials (until they started being used for e.g. texts on push button phones!).

    STD codes in general marry up to their place names. The first digit is an 0, which is not really part of the code but an instruction to the system that you wish to call another exchange. The second digit, 1, is a 'filler' from the changes to phone numbers. The next two are alphabetical. For example, DOncaster, DOver, DOrchester, FOlkestone etc all have the first two letters corresponding to "30". The final number was allocated according to the number (or expected number) of subs in that area - the busier places allocations starting from 2, up to 0 for quiet ones (remember that a dial telephone takes significantly longer to dial a 0 than a 2, so it was thought that the busier calls should be made quicker to dial). Hence Doncaster becomes 0302, Dover 0304 etc.

    It remains common for people, especially within local areas, to give phone numbers as "Blackpool 123456" or the like. It was relatively common until the 80s/90s to have four- or five-digit numbers within an area - these are now quite rare although I know that subscribers in Buxton still have five digit numbers, I'm sure others exist. Until recently I believe that dialling the STD code if you were in that area resulted in either number unobtainable, to avoid trunk lines being used up unnecessarily.

    Oh and whilst on the subject - a pet peeve, there is no such STD code as "0207" or "0208". The STD code is 020, and the 7 or 8 from 071 or 081 numbers was transferred to the subscriber's number - so if you live in the former 071 area and want to dial TfL you would dial 7222 1234 not 222 1234.

    OK - I'm sure some of that will come in handy for a pub quiz somewhere!
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    It is relatively straightforward, with a little electronics knowledge and a copy of a wiring diagram, to wire up a phone to work with a modern line. There are various ones lurking in my workplace still in use, usually in obscure cupboards or plant-rooms which get forgotten about!
     
  15. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    Pendant alert!

    020 7222 1234 has now been discontinued and replaced by the 'cheaper' 0343 222 1234.
     
  16. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    0343 is no cheaper (or more expensive) than 020. Is cheaper for most callers than the 0843 222 1234 number that was in use for a few years.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    True if you had a number that was an 0171 or 0181 number. Newer numbers are using other fourth digits. My work phone number starts 020 3.

    Two of my 3 landline phones have dials. And the one that doesn't looks as if it does.
     
  17. Abpj17

    Abpj17 Member

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    Completely? A lot of companies quietly maintain the 'normal' number in the background as some of the odd-prefixes are more expensive/impossible to access from overseas. This may not be widely publicised :)
     
  18. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    Yes. Completely. 0207 222 1234 contains a recording advising you to call the "cheaper" 0343 number - I suspect the recording is the same as on the 0843 number where it is accurate.

    There should be no problem accessing any 03 number from overseas. Charging should be the same as for an 01 or 02 number.
     
  19. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    Was what is now 01706 once part of the former Blackburn telephone area?
    Wigan uses the code 01942
    Bolton uses the code 01204
    Part of Hazel Grove is 01625

    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Some plays and films have the old exchanges but lower sequence numbers in their script. I am sure that in an episode of Miss Marple, she answered the telephone saying "St Mary Mead 13".
     
    Last edited: 24 Apr 2015
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