History of Post Office & BT & bunkers (oooooooooohh!!)
During the Cold War, the Fenton Street office housed an emergency bunker to be used in the event of a nuclear strike on the Lancaster district. Although the bunker didn’t ‘officially’ exist, it was common knowledge amongst British Telecom staff who worked at Telephone House until the basement area was cleared towards the end of the 1980s. Mike Dent, who worked for BT in the late 80s and early 90s, said: “There used to be an emergency telephone exchange in this area of the basement, as well as bunk beds and desks with phones. “There were also boxes of food rations down there too, of dried and tinned food.”
BT staff moved out of Telephone House in the late 1990s and today the building is home to various local businesses including a security firm and a dentist. But the basement remains, a chilling reminder of a time when Lancaster was prepared for unthinkable horror.
BT is the world’s oldest telecommunications company. Its origins date back to the establishment of the first telecommunications companies in the United Kingdom. Among them was the first commercial telegraph service, the Electric Telegraph Company, introduced in 1846. As these companies amalgamated and were taken over or collapsed, the survivors were eventually transferred to state control under the Post Office. They later became a privatised company, British Telecommunications plc – the forerunner of today’s global communications company, BT Group plc.
The United Kingdom telephone service in its early period from 1878 was provided by private sector companies such as the National Telephone Company (NTC), with the General Post Office (GPO) soon in competition. In 1896, the GPO took over the NTC trunk telephone service. In 1912, it became the monopoly supplier of the telephone service when the GPO took over the whole private sector telephone service in the UK, except for a few local authority services.
March 1965, the Postmaster General of the time, wrote to the Prime Minister proposing that studies be undertaken aimed at converting the Post Office into a nationalised industry. After some initial deliberations that the business should be divided into five divisions – Post, Telecommunications, Savings, Giro and National Data Processing Services – it was eventually decided that there should be one corporation split into two divisions: Post and Telecommunications. These events finally resulted in the introduction of the Post Office Act, 1969.
Under the Act, the Post Office ceased to be a government department and, on 1 October 1969, it became established as a public corporation.
In 1977, the Carter Committee Report recommended a further separation of the two main services and for their relocation under two individual corporations. The findings contained in the report led to the renaming of Post Office Telecommunications as British Telecom in 1980, although it remained part of the Post Office. The British Telecommunications Act, 1981 transferred the responsibility for telecommunications services from the Post Office, creating two separate corporations.
Visitor entrance to Ministry of Magic
A telephone booth, also known as a phone box, is a small enclosure containing a public telephone. The Ministry of Magic uses a telephone booth as its visitor’s entrance. The booth transports visitors from ground level to the Atrium on floor B8. To activate the entrance, one dials 62442 on the telephone.