Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Electric Telegraph Co

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1845 John Lewis Ricardo bought the singe-needle telegraph patent from Charles Wheatstone and William Fothergill Cooke[1]. Together with George Parker Bidder, Robert Stephenson, and others he formed a Company - which became the Electric Telegraph Co - to provide telegraphic communication for the public.

1846 The Electric Telegraph Company was the world's first public telegraph company founded in the United Kingdom in 1846 by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and John Lewis Ricardo MP, who became the chairman. C. F. Varley joined the company. W. T. Henley supplied the telegraph instruments.

1848 The Act that incorporated the Electric Telegraph Company empowered the Home Secretary to take possession of the Company's telegraphs for one week in times of civil unrest, or longer if necessary. These powers were exercised in April 1848 when the Government used them to obstruct Chartist lines of communication[2].

1848 The world's first central telegraph station was opened by the Electric Telegraph Company in Founders' Court, Lothbury in the City of London[3].

1850 August: Edwin Clark became engineer to the company; he took out patent on electric telegraphs; his brother Josiah Latimer Clark became assistant engineer.

1851 Exhibited at the Great Exhibition [4]

1851 John Watkins Brett recorded in the census as proprietor of the company[5]

1852 Samuel Alfred Varley, brother of C. F. Varley, started work in the company's Manchester workshops.

1852 C. F. Varley became engineer for the London area.

It proved difficult to attract customers and at one point the company nearly ran out of money[6].

1855 The company merged with the International Telegraph Co to become the Electric and International Telegraph Co

1856 William Henry Preece was appointed superintendent of the Electric Telegraph Company's south-western district at Southampton.

1869 Electric and International Telegraph Co and other telegraph companies were taken over by the General Post Office.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 8 April 1868
  2. BT Archives 1870 [1]
  3. BT Archives [2]
  4. 1851 Great Exhibition: Official Catalogue: Class X.: Electric Telegraph Co
  5. 1851 census
  6. The Times, 8 April 1868