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British Industrial History

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Henry Hunnings

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Henry Hunnings (1842-1886) was a British clergyman and inventor.

Born in Tottenham on 25th July 1842, Henry Hunnings worked as a Printer until, aged 25, he became a student at St Edmund Hall, Oxford.

In 1870 he joined the Clergy and between 1874 and 1880 was a Curate at All Saints, Bolton Percy near York.

During this time Henry created his own telephone transmitter device which he patented in the UK on 16 September 1878.

The Hunnings transmitter was a great success, the secret being the use of carbon granules behind the diaphragm and this produced a clearer, stronger voice signal than any other at that time. It would be used around the world for generations and was only phased out by the British GPO in the 1980’s.

It was also at Bolton Percy where Henry met Margaret Ann Ridley. Margaret lived with her family in one of the cottages adjacent to the Church and in 1880 at the ages of 37 and 19 respectively Henry and Margaret were married. They subsequently had two children together; William Butters and Katherine Mary.

Henry left Bolton Percy with his family in 1880 taking other Curate’s positions in Rothwell (Leeds), Ryde (Isle of Wight) and Eling (Hampshire) before securing his final role in November 1885 as Chaplain of Royal South Hants Infirmary. However, by this time he was in poor health and in fear of losing his job he took his own life on 4 May 1886.

The post mortem held later that month gave a verdict of “Suicide in an unsound state of mind”. On his death Henry left an estate valued at £1222, 12s, 6d.

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