A MINOR MANUAL EXCHANGE IN THE FRONT ROOM OF THE HOUSE
KNOWN AS FERNDALE AT THE JUNCTION OF CRESWELL ROAD AND
NORTH ROAD, CLOWNE, DERBYSHIRE THE POSTAL ADDRESS WAS
136, NORTH ROAD. THE HOUSE WAS OWNED BY A PRIVATE
LANDLORD AND RENTED BY POST OFFICE TELEPHONES FOR THE
PURPOSE IT WAS OPENED ON 8TH OCTOBER 1914 (Source:- B.T.
The tenant was employed solely to work the exchange and was on duty 24hrs
per day, as the exchange could not, - after its initial opening,- be left unattended
for so much as a minute. The attendants were called “caretaker operators” and
were very carefully vetted. They were trained initially by the Sheffield Telephone
Manager’s Office. The only record I could find of who were in Kelly’s Directory
of Derbyshire 1922 and 1925, which lists “Post Office Telephone Exchange,
North Rd, (Miss Mary Johnson, Clerk in Charge.)”
Here follows some personal recollections by Miss Linda Purdy who had a
fairly long association with the Exchange from 1944 to 1961.
“My parents became Caretaker-Operators at Clowne exchange, late in 1944,
when I was 9 years old . My father who was Albert Purdy, had been on
active service in the Royal Engineers during the War, but after seeing
action at Monte Cassino was invalided out of the Service with duodenal
ulcers. My mother,- Elsie Purdy-nee Hayes, Knew that he would need care
for quite a while after surgery, and that she would have to still be the
breadwinner, so applied for the vacancy which had just arisen.
The previous Caretaker had been a Mrs Streets, and I was too young
to know if she was a Clowne person. I suspect not.
And so I came to live at the Exchange. One of the most vividly
remembered parts of my life. The first lesson I had to learn was that I took
second place to that all important room on the ground floor which
contained all that mysterious equipment. That my meals, my bedtime, my
homework,-everything, could only involve my parents if no-one in
Clowne or Barlborough wanted to make a telephone call. Also, the three
of us could no longer, ever, go out together.
Either Mother or Father had to stay with the switchboard.
As well as that, for a few years there were no holidays at the seaside, because
there were no –one in the village capable of standing in whilst my parents
In those early days of course there were not many people with telephones
in the two villages, and there was only one switchboard. It was fixed to the
wall of the room which has a window facing the road to Barlborough,
and another overlooking the path to the front door. The floor of the room had
a very highly polished brown linoleum on it, and there was an imposing black
cast iron fireplace with tiled surround, (allowance for coal was extra to the
caretaker’s wages, but only for that fire) There was a big floor to ceiling
rack of pairs of fuses (each customer,-called subscribers had a pair each)
and apart from the cupboard for stationery, the table for paperwork,
and the adjustable swivelling chair for the operator, no other furniture was
allowed. There was a large wood and frosted glass screen across the centre of
the room for additional privacy and to keep the draught off the operator.
The windows both had frosted glass in the lower halves and have no
curtains, but durable roller blinds which would originally have been for the
blackout during the war. The walls were painted in grey gloss paint,-very
Serviceable. Strictly speaking I should not even have been allowed in the
switchroom, but although very keen on regulations the officials who dealt
with us were humans, and humane, so I spent many hours on the hearthrug
in front of the fire, perhaps occupied with homework or colouring whilst
mother connected what calls were required, and did her knitting in between.
For an idea of the layout of the rest of the house see Appendix 1.
Mother sat facing what was rather like a tall piano in shape, but
There the similarity ended. The carcase of the switchboard was of a reddish
brown smooth composition type material-probably the precursor to today’s
plastics. Set into the upright face of it were numerous round windows about
the size of a 2p piece. Below each window was a small round hole in a brass
surround, and each set of window and hole had an identifying number beside
it. These numbers were the subscriber’s (customer’s) telephone numbers and
started at number 1 through to 100 with 1 on the lowest row and 100 on the
highest. Below these rows of no’s were a line of others labelled Chesterfield,
Sheffield and Worksop-2 or 3 of each.
Down on the desk like part of the “board at the rear were about
twenty pairs of sticking up brass plugs which if pulled out were followed
by a thick woven cord which would stretch as far as was needed from one
side of the board to the other. In front of these were matching pairs of
little glass windows with brass rims, identical to those in the face of the board,
and front of each set of plugs,cords, and windows there was a corresponding
rocker-switch which could be pushed away from the operator (to speak or listen
to the caller)-
Inside each little window tucked away out of sight was a bright yellow tiddleywink (called an indicator) and if any subscriber picked up their telephone their own indicator would drop down flat to its window so that the operator could see who wanted her attention. No one in Clowne or Barlborough had a dial (or key-pad) on their phone and they didn’t hear any noise like our
Dial tone or anything else until the voice of the operator with “Number Please?”. In the early
Days the operator had an ordinary hand held telephone on the end of a thick flex, which
Plugged into a large brass “jack” on the front of the switchboard. As the telephone traffic increased after the war, it wasn’t long before the big black bakelite headsets were provided
With the chest mounted speaking, trumpet and separate headphones. Much later still, some
Time in the mid fifties I think, the cream- coloured light weight all-in-one headset and
Mouthpiece arrived. We also had a hard black shaped end to put on our pencils. We used
it to dial with, -much easier on the finger ends.
Lets just take a telephone call through from beginning to end to see what happened in
those early days.
Assume that Doctor Knowles wanted to book a ticket for a train journey from Clowne Station. He would pick up his phone and wait. The operator would see the yellow indicator inside the window of no 3 and would lean forward, pick up the back (furthest) brass plug, pull it out of
the board and plug it into the jack (hole) at the side of the relevant window. She would then
push the correct rocker switch away from her and be able to speak to Dr Knowles with her carefully learned “standard expression”, -Number please?” “Clowne 19 please”. he says and
she repeats “Clowne 19, I’m putting you through”.
She picks up the corresponding brass plug of the pair on which shes first answered the
call and puts it into the jack at the side of the No 19. She brings the rocker switch to
Upright and then pulls it towards her. Pulling it towards her would ring the telephone bell in
the stationmasters office but she would know that he had not yet answered because the yellow indicator connected to the pair of plugs she was using would still be flush with the window.
So, rocker switch forward again to speak to the caller with “I’m trying to connect you”, switch upright and towards her to give the stationmaster another blast on his bell. This time he
answers (the yellow indicator disappears) and so Dr Knowles has to pay for that call.
On the “board in front of her the operator has a notepad of pre-printed ‘tickets’
which she will then record the details of the call and if it was successful. These would be
sent off in the Post van each day to the Telephone Manager at Sheffield whose staff
would prepare the bills for the subscribers. To save some time, each exchange name had
code letters, e.g. Clowne was CL, Chesterfield was CD, Sheffield-SF and Worksop-WW.
To this day these codes appear in my personal Diary, - they became second nature. Some
calls were not successful of course, “I’m sorry the line is engaged”, or “I’m sorry there is
no reply”, or “I’m sorry the line is out of order-it has been reported to the engineer”. and most embarrassingly-“I’m sorry that line is temporarily out of service”, because everyone knew
then that you hadn’t paid your bill.!
Of course Dr Knowles could have wanted to ring the Royal Hospital in Chesterfield, so
he would have to ask for Chesterfield 2771 please” and the operator would plug in to
one of the lines marked Chesterfield on the bottom row and then use a special rocker
switch and the only telephone dial in both villages to dial 2771. The dial was over on the
right hand side of the “board and the operator could speak to other operators in Chesterfield
or Sheffield by plugging in to the appropriate line and dialling 0.
If a subscriber asked for a call to Exeter or any other far flung outpost, there was a big book about A4 size, with each page in transparent plasticky stuff which would tell you how to
route a call to that particular place.
One had to ask operators from Sheffield onwards to forward your call down the country
till you reached someone who could dial the subscribers no, direct or put you through
To another small exchange who could ring the no manually for you. It was a long number
of years before “Subscriber Trunk Dialling” came in.
I have said that mother or dad had to be on duty 24 hours a day, but they were
Of course allowed to leave the room for calls of nature, eating meals in their own living
quarters, normal domestic affairs and going to bed for the night. However, on every single occasion, before leaving the room, they had to operate a brass lever on top of the ‘board
which was marked BELL DAY or BELL NIGHT. That meant that if anything happened on
the switchboard, a big loud clanging would ring either out in the living quarters, or at night,
just outside the bedroom door. And you had to run!
Imagine if you will, the middle of the night, both fast asleep, and some amorous soul decides
that they cant sleep and will therefore have a chat with their inamorata in the next village.
You the operator are jerked rudely awake by this clanging bell and throw yourself out of
bed and hurtle down the stairs, thinking there must be some dire emergency afoot. You
connect the call and then you sit and wait, chilly because the switchroom fire has gone out
and you didn’t stop to put your slippers on or dressing gown, and you cant go back to bed
till these people have finished their billing and cooing because the bell will ring again as
soon as they put their phones down, and you have to pull out the plugs with which you’ve connected them, (referred to as ‘clearing
That you were of real worth to your community.
For calls to the police we had the Sergeants house across the road on the junction of Creswell and Rotherham rds or alternatively the Police Station/Court House at Renishaw. For an ambulance we had to dial a Chesterfield number, but in case of fire we ourselves had to sound the Siren and call out fire Brigade
Life at the exchange made an enormous impression on me as a child. I was at that time a pupil at Clowne Seniors Girls school with the redoutdtable Miss Lavinia Kenning as Headmistress. I passed the scholarship to go to Netherthorpe Grammer School in 1946 and during those years (1949) my parents left the exchange and moved to my fathers childhood home on Mitchell st, No 31.
On leaving Netherthorpe in 1951, the only career I wanted was that of telephone operator, and I was very fortunate in that there was about to be a vacancy at Clowne Exchange.
I must backtrack a little here, to say that as you know, my parents were in sole charge of the exchange, fulltime, but they needed the occasional relief and so Miss Elsie Foye (who subsequently became Mrs Ron Sherwin,) was trained to operate the switch board as well. She had been in the A.T.S during the war and had the necessary basic skills. During the latter years of my parent’s caretakership, the numbers of people requiring telephone service in the two villages, increased by leaps and bounds, and sometimes operators from Chesterfield would come out and man the board during the daytime periods. Eventually it was necessary to install a second switchboard and the two new ones were put in situ in middle of the room, sideways on to the window which faced Barlborough Road. At that time Elsie Sherwin was employed as a fulltime operator, and another Clowne lady, Olive Jenkinsen(nee Dorricott) as a part
timer. When I say full time I mean of course during daytime office hours ie 9 to 5. The caretakers always covered the evening , night and weekend duties right up till the closure of the exchange in 1961.
After my parents left, a man called John Newcombe took over as caretaker and he and his wife were still there when I came back to work as a fulltime day operator. Newcombes stayed till the end of 1956 and then from 1st Jan 1957 it was Mr And Mrs Hawley.
Things had become much more official and less “villagey” by then and so I had to travel each day for several weeks to Sheffield exchange for lectures and training on the big switchboards in the enormous building in Fitzalan square. Very daunting.
The vacancy had arisen because Elsie Sherwin was leaving to have her baby and it wasn’t too long before Olive Jenkinson too resigned for the same reason. Her place was taken by a girl called Maureen Copley from Renishaw. She had been an operator at the manual exchange in Eckington, but had gone automatic (all the subscribers had been given a dial telephone) and operators were redundant there.
This left me as the senior member of staff, but the youngest person on it, quiet an anormaly. I was however after several very serious interviews, given the title of Officer in Charge(lots of responsibility , no extra wages) Apparently I was the youngest O-I-C in the whole of Sheffield Telephone Managers area.
Altogether I worked there for 10 years, 1951 to 1961, again a very exciting and colourful time of my life.
The operators knew everyone in the villagers by voice , if not by site and they knew who we were too so a lot of the time, (unless the travelling supervisor from Sheffield was standing behind us.) the standard expressions were not so much in evidence. Dr Knowles was very much more likely to say “give me the station please Linda”, the “Clowne 19 please”.
We were a lot more involved in the life of the villages than was allowed for in the rule books. The most dramatic evidence of this was after old Dr Eastwood came to live on Mill Street. This was his first general practice and he hadn’t enough money at first to employ any staff. He would come to the exchange each morning and we would draw him maps of where his calls were, so of course we knew where he had gone to and if another patient needed him, we would ring down the list until we found him.
He always said to use our own discretion and he would back us to the hilt, so if we couldn’t find him, and the matter was very urgent we occasionally got his patient admitted to hospital, had oxygen brought to the village for them, or summoned another doctor in his name.
He eventually married Dr Margaret Middleton (I think that was her maiden name) who was a paediatric consultant at Chesterfield Hospital and Scarsdale Maternity wing. Two Dr Eastwoods was too confusing so they said Dr Margaret and Dr Robert would suffice. They were so grateful that they invited the exchange staff to their wedding at St Margarets, Westminster and to the reception in the House of Commons. The caretaker operator at that time (from 1st Jan 1957) was a Mrs Dorothy Hawley and her husband Maurice, with their two girls Carole and Kathryn. Maurice hired an Austin Princess car for a couple of days so we could arrive at the wedding in style. Wow.!
Other drama in all our working lives was provided by the fact that since none of the subscribers had a dial they had to rely on us for emergency calls as well as ordinary traffic.
A picture i found on the net that resembles the drawing done by Linda
Rough Drawing OF Original Switchboard by Linda
originaly on the top point of one of the old colliery buildings in the pit yard opposite
the East Midland Bus Garage, and had been the village air-raid warning during
I do not know if it was the Caretaker operator’s responsibility to sound the siren in
those circumstances. What I do know is that the box containing the mechanism
for sounding the siren was already in that room when my parents took the exchange.
It was a polished mahogany cabinet about 1ft across, 18” high and 9”deep, fixed
to the back wall of the switchroom at about shoulder height. It had a lockable door
on its front and a sturdy solid brass ring big enough to get three fingers into,
protruding from the bottom of the box.
If anyone needed the fire brigade the operator had to unlock the box, grasp the
brass ring and pull it firmly down as far as it would go, and then release it.
It would start to travel slowly back up onto the box in seven equal pulses which
corresponded with those awful rising and falling wails of the siren, which will
never be forgotten by anyone who lived during the War years.
The firemen also had bells in their own homes which were operated by the same mechanism, and they would come dashing by car and bicycle or even sprinting
to the fire station, to get the engine out. Then having learned from the operator
where the fire was reported,-off they would hurtle with men struggling into
uniform whilst hanging on to the ladders. Marvellous!
The ordinary everyday life of the village was like an open book to the
exchange staff, not only because we knew who every subscriber was, so we
knew who they were ringing, but mainly because most people who made a
call would ask for who they wanted by name instead of number, but because
they often felt the need to tell you why they were ringing. It did get a bit
embarrassing sometimes when someone who had their own telephone at home
came into one of the village public telephone boxes and asked for a number
without saying who they were or why. I’m sure they couldn’t have known how
well we could recognise voices, no matter which phone were using.
So of course we could always guess who was being a bit naughty.
One of the amazing things I can remember from the days when my parents
lived at the exchange was that the Italian P.O.W.s from the camp at Southgate
House were allowed to wander about quite freely in the village, and would
sometimes come to the door to ask Mother to help with telephone calls. I have
never heard of any place were British P.O.Ws were allowed the same priviledge,
and I cant help wondering why this happened. Are we stupid as a race,-or silly
and soft hearted? I know that whilst my cousin Raymond Woodhead was on
leave from active service in the Royal Navy he escorted his mother from their
home down “Monkey Park” into the village to shop and two of these ‘macho’
Italians pushed her off the pavement. He flattened them both and then had to face
the indignity of a visit from the local Constable who said that if he hadn’t been
going back to his duty at sea, he would have to had to go to Court at Renishaw.
No matter how friendly we were with the village people, we still
always had to bear in mind that we were employees of the Post Office
Telephones,-a very highly respected orginisation with a worldwide reputation
for excellence, and the service we gave had to reflect that, so friendly or not,-
We could never be sloppy in our work, and sometimes, due to unusual events
in the area, (extreme weather conditions or similar,-we were under extreme
pressure. By this I mean that lots of people wanted to make calls at the same
time, so the face of ‘board would be a sea of yellow indicators. We had to try to
answer every caller within the proper time ie 45 seconds or less,-because of
course none of them knew that we had anything else to do other than attend to
them individually. They certainly didn’t have any music to listen to or recorded
announcements saying “Your call is extremely important to us, but all our operators
are busy at the moment, and your call will be answered as soon as possible” They
just had to wait with silence on the line. Some of them did get impatient and would
jiggle the receiver rest up and down as they‘d seen on the cinema, and occasionally
we would suffer the sarcastic comments like “Whats the matter,-couldn’t you bear to
put your knitting down” Under no circumstances were we allowed to answer back.
There was the inviolable rule that the customer was always right, no matter how
galling it was to us.
Just to make sure that we were on the ball” so to speak, there was a lady
Who came out from the Telephone Managers Office in Sheffield to check on us.
She was called the travelling supervisor and she would choose a subscribers house
at random, visit them and ask to use their telephone. She would have a stopwatch,
and would time our speed of answer. Woe betide any of us if we were a bit slow.
We had to provide her with a very good explanation. She also came into the exchange
to see that the paper work was being done properly and all rules and regulations being obeyed. She was very strict, and I think that BT could do with a few of her like today.
One of the very strict rules was that operators were not allowed to accept gifts or
money from subscribers. At Christmas time each year, the exchange room at Clowne
would resemble Aladdins cave, whith all the gifts
Given, and how could we possibly refuse when they had bought stuff specially. It
the chicken house.
would have given great offence to do so, and the Telephone Manager,(our ultimate
boss), agreed with us. We always used to laugh because we knew that in the up
towards Christmas the T.M. would bring his Deputy to pay a visit to our humble little
exchange so that he could gloat over how well thought of we were,- and of course to
sample a few chocolates and a couple of glasses of sherry from our cornucopia,- All
strictly against the rules!
With regard to the occasional events which placed extreme pressure on us,
weather was necessarily the most frequent culprit. The telephone service in those
days was taken to and from the exchange to subscribers houses by overhead wires
held up on wooden poles,- a very common part of every landscape. The system was
very vulnerable to high wind, heavy snow, icing up and lighting. There were always
bad snow storms in the winter months which would often fetch a lot of the wires
down, but the worst storms were those which gave deep, deep snow which cut the
villages off completely and didn’t fetch the wires down, This gave rise to everyone
being trapped at home with a working telephone. I remember having to be lifted over
snow drifts as high as my head, by miners trying to get to work, struggling for 45
minutes to complete the normal 7 minute walk up North Road, and arriving at the
exchange to find Mr and Mrs Hawley both at the switchboard in their pyjamas
because they hadn’t been able to get time to dress since the village folk awoke at
first light to the realisation that they were not going anywhere and immediately leapt
for the ‘phone.
Maureen Copely from Renishaw was the other full-timer just then, and she
staggered in mid morning, having walked all the way. Along Clowne Fields she had
walked over the top of an East Midland bus which was buried in a snow drift. The
pressure on us was intense as we tried all day to connect all the calls as quickly as
possible, but we often ran out of plugs on both switchboards and had to wait for
someone to finish before we could connect another. Doctor Eastwood called to see
us before lunch and after watching for awhile, suggested that we were in desperate
need of relief. Of course there was none. No-one could get in to the village from
Chesterfield-our only source of assistance. We just had stick it out. That kind of
winter was commonplace during those years and we accepted it. No Global
For about four or five years in succession there were a series of dreadful
thunderstorms too, which affected the telephone exchange to a dramatic degree
Clowne is quite a high spot in the landscape and was getting these storms two or
three times a week for several weeks. The lightening would strike the poles,
travel both ways along the wires and earth itself through the subscribers phone
and fuses in the exchange room. People would tell us when their phones was out
of order (and very often in bits) and the glass fuses behind us would shatter and we
would be picking bits of glass out of our hair. The ‘boards were liberally endowed
with bits of brass (plugs etc’) and there would be sparks rippling across them
during any bad storm. We would push our chairs well back and pray that no-one
wanted a call, but ironically, old Mr Bunting from the Petrol Station on
Barlborough roundabout (opposite the DeRodes Arms), -one of our most grumpy
customers under normal circumstances,- would invariably pick up his ‘phone to
enquire tenderly if we were alright, as he was worried about us amongst all” that
there electric stuff “.
These storms put so many ‘phones out of order that our fault record out-
stripped any in the whole area and the T.M. and his Deputy came to see why.
The lightning also caused numerous fires by hitting t.v. aerials, zipping down the
wires and blasting all the electric out of the house walls, often setting fire to
joists in the process.
No-one could say why, but it was a theory that the removal
(9 months previously), of the tall colliery chimney from the pit yard between
Creswell Rd and Station Hill, with its high lightning conductors, had left any
lightning to find alternative routes to earth. Who knows?
The engineers who came to mend our faults, both at the exchange and in
subscribers houses came to us from the automatic exchange building in
Worksop, but new installations were done by Sheffield engineers. They were
very puzzled by one elderly lady whose ‘phone was very faint, -we could hardly
hear her. The engineers sounded ok to us, as we did to them, but we couldn’t hear
her and none of the people she rang could hear her either. One day the engineer who
had visited her several times, asked her to actually make a call whilst he watched.
All became clear. She was putting the earpiece to her ear, but the mouth piece was
waving about above her head,- she had been used to the old candlestick type of
phone and was using this “new fangled thing” like that.
I don’t know if it is right or even ethical to speak about incidents I can
remember in connection with individual subscribers, but I can’t see any great harm ensuing from what are after all not state secrets.
There were the Jacksons out at one of the farms past Pebley. They were incomers from Sheffield and still dealt in scrap and second hand American cars. Their daughter
used to drive an enormously long bright pink Cadillac round the village, and one day
we waved to her from our open window and admired the car. “I think we’ve about
four of them” she said. They didn’t like missing calls so had an extension fitted in
There was another extension ‘phone which used to get knocked off accidentally, but I will not reveal whose that was, because it was right beside the bed of a lady whose husband frequently went away on business. (He used to tell us when he was going.)
Another dear friend of ours was also closely involved with the exchange, in that she worked at Chesterfield exchange full time, used to come in sometimes to cover for our holidays etc, and used to relieve
The noises which issued down that ‘phone during the night when he was away were very revealing. Unless of course the lady was having odd dreams?
There was the time when Hopkinsons at Pebley Grove Farm had a rick fire, and one of the twins ran through Barlborough Park to old Mrs Bamber’s house to ask for use of the ‘phone to summon the Brigade. She refused him, saying she was not a Public Kiosk, and so he had to run the rest of the way into the centre of Barlborough
to use the box there. Hopkinsons had a ‘phone fitted after that.
During the hot weather I and my cousin Christine Frost, who was by now the second full time operator(to my great delight)would often sit by the open window which looked onto the front path of the house. The telephone kiosk which had the number Clowne I was situated right beside the front door at that time and it was a little awkward if someone came into it to make a call whilst we were there. People still were not as used to phones as they are now and would often speak loudly. One day I was sitting there and a lady came to use the kiosk. She was wearing a thick coat over her dress and became very hot. Her voice was very very loud and quite soon I got quite warm and decided to move. But was riveted when she started to wriggle about to dislodge her coat and refasten it around her waist-all without pausing in her tirade down the phone. The coat made an ankle length then, and she lifted 1 leg up, propped her foot up against the side of the kiosk, and peed! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the stream issuing from below her coat.
Mrs Hawley and myself had to swill the kiosk out with buckets of disinfectant, But although Mrs H got one shilling a week for cleaning the kiosk, she said enough was enough and asked for it to be moved away from her front door. That’s how it came to be re-sited on the other side of the crossroads.
One terrible day, an incident personally can never forget. A Tuffnell’s lorry driver rang his head office from the kiosk in Barlborough, and after he’d finished, picked up again and asked me to recommend a local garage as he had a problem with the lorry engine. I sent him to Frank Godfrey off Barlborough, road.
Imagine my horror when we got all the emergency calls from there a little later, as the fly wheel of the lorry had disintergrated, killing Frank instantly.
I suppose the emergency calls are the things one remembers most vividly,-although I must say that I was not working at the exchange at the time of the Creswell disaster. So many Clowne men were involved, the atmosphere must have been awful.
I do remember the elder Mrs Towndrow at their Television/Radio shop on the green one day banging the receiver rest up and down frantically and when I plugged in to answer she was just screaming I couldn’t make her hear me because every time she pressed on the rest it cut us off , so after a few moments I sent everyone, Fire Brigade, Ambulance and Police, in the hope that one of them would fill the bill. It turned out that she had seen a whisp of smoke coming from a TV set that was under test, and she’d panicked to some tune
In complete contrast, Mrs Alan Bourne, at home on Church Lane one day, said “Is that you Linda?”. “Yes Mrs Bourne,-can I help you?”. “well dear, the field is on fire. And, actually dear, the flames are advancing quite rapidly towards the house”. “Do you think we ought to ask someone to come?”. Needless to say we were already leaping for the siren box.
On the subject of banging the receiver up and down, it was quite well known amongst travelling salesman and the like if you used a public kiosk with a dial(and you had to put your coins in first, dial the number and press the large button marked A when it answered-or if it didn’t, press B to get a refund)-there was a trick you could pull to get a free call. The dial, on its journey back to its resting position would have emitted an equal number of pulses to the number you had dialled. If however if you banged that same number of pulses-plus one-out on the receiver rest, your call would go through free. We often got wild flashing of indicators from public boxes and when we answered there would be a surprised gasp and a story of having put money in the box, dialled the number and oh dear, operator I got you instead. Perhaps you’d put me through? Our gentle enquiry as to what exactly they had dialled with was usually again met with a gasp and a gentle replacing of the ‘phone.
Christine and I worked together for quite along time-she married John Shardlow whose family originally built the shop which was eventually taken over by Towndrows and is now (2005) a Chemist opposite the war memorial. They were about the first ones to introduce this area to the delights of Television and Stereo sound.
Rough Drawing OF Original Switchboard by Linda
In 1961 it was becoming clear that the exchange would have to bow to technological progress and give way to an automatic one. That decided me to take
the step of emigrating to New Zealand with my fiancé Peter Davies, we left the country in the late September ‘61 and the exchange actually closed down at the very end of November ’61.
Mrs Hawley, Christine Shardlow and Elsie Sherwin (part time) presided
over it’s last hours which were apparently featured on BBC Regional T.V. news.
For our amusement we have tried to compile a list of telephone numbers as they were
Then: There are lots of gaps in our memory so I’ve just listed the ones we can Remember
The ones marked Rp have been filled in By Roanald Presswood.
|Clowne 1-Kiosk outside exchange.
|Clowne 2-Albert Straw’s Garage(the cross)
|Clowne 3-Doctor Knowles
|Clowne 5-Barlborough Post Office(Thompson)
|Clowne 6-Barlborough WaterTower(Egg cup)
|Clowne 7&8-Bourne’s Mill
|Clowne 9-P.O(Winnie Hanford.)
|Clowne 10-East Midland’s Bus Garage.
|Clowne 11-Barlborough Hall School
|Clowne 12-Clowne Co-op.
|Clowne 13-Gas House(Station Rd) & Later Archie Hayward (seed Merchant)
|Clowne 14-Rose & Crown(Lily Kate Keel?)
|Clowne 15-Bacon Factory
|Clowne 16-Sherwin’s shop(North Rd)
| Clowne 17-Mennell’s Shop.
|Clowne 18-Police Station(Junc.Rotherham/Creswell Rds.
|Clowne 19-ClowneRailway Station.
|Clowne 20-Dr Allun, Later Dr Eastwood
|Clowne 22-Ernest Hobbs(Taxi)
|Clowne 24-Lukes(Works Down West Lea)
|Clowne 25-Payphone in Royal Oak.
|Clowne 27-Public Kiosk on the Green
|Clowne 28-Mr Baker(Hawthornes, Barlborough)
|Clowne 30-High Leys Farm 24 High street. (rp)
| Clowne 31-Public Kiosk High St Barlborough.
|Clowne 32-Technical College
|Clowne 34-Soar’s Shop
|Clowne 36-Cyril Calow(JP)
|Clowne 38-Bowskill’s Shop & later L H Robotham
|Clowne 39-Arthur’s Farm(Romley)
|Clowne 41-Barlborough Co-op
|Clowne 42-CE Moss & Son (building Contrartors/painters & Decorators) Rp
|Clowne 43-Billy Holmes(Bookmaker)
|Clowne 44-Booth’s Shop
|Clowne 45-Buntings Garage Barlborough
|Clowne 49-Truman’s Haulage
|Clowne 50-Margaret Stenton(Hairdresser)
|Clowne 52-Rattue’s Shop
|Clowne 53-Bernard Porter(Undertaker)
|Clowne 54-Sturman’s Farm
|Clowne 55-Ernest and Maude Pearce(Garage)
Clowne 58-Passey’s Shop
|Clowne 59-Boughton Lane School
|Clowne 60-Blatherwick’s Chemist
| Clowne 65-Spot Furnishers
|Clowne 69-Frank Godfrey(Garage)
|Clowne 70-Jackson’s Farm, Harthill
|Clowne 74-Gray St Post Office
|Clowne 75-The Beehive
| Clowne 77-Mrs Bamber. Barlborough Park
Clowne 78-Gill Woodhead
| Clowne 79-Norman Fenton(Cycles)
|Clowne 80-Andrew Newton(Decorator)
| Clowne 84-The Manse
|Clowne 85-Fosters Butchers
|Clowne 88&89-Clowne Rural District Council
|Clowne 90-Butlers Shop(North RD)
|Clowne 94-Reuben Offiler
|Clowne 97-Alan Bourne’s House
|Clowne 99-Stan Presswood.
|Clowne 100-Our Office Phone
|Clowne 104-Public Kiosk Barlbro' Common
|Clowne 108-Mrs Crookston
|Clowne 110-Nurse Oliver
| Clowne 111-Nelme’s Bakery
|Clowne 112-Royal Oak
| Clowne 113-Archie Hayward
Clowne 114-Alan Renshaw
Clowne 122-Clowne Cinema
Clowne 124-English’s Furnishers
Clowne 125-Shardlow’s Electrical Shop
Clowne 127-Stansfield’s Farm
Clowne 138-Hopkinson’s Farm(Pebley Grove).
|Clowne 139-Meridian Factory
|Clowne 141-Goerge Renshaw & son (newsagent) Rp
|Clowne 142-Nags Head
|Clowne 143-Harry Holmes Bookie
|Clowne 145-Phone Box, Creswell Rd.
|Clowne 147-Reuban Offiler.
|Clowne 153-Nurse Davidson.
|Clowne 158-Doctor Smart.
|Clowne 161-Kaye (Plumber)
| Clowne 162-Robsons (Builders)
|Clowne 163-Phone Box (Council Offices)
|Clowne 164-Cunning (Motor Cycles)
|Clowne 193-Bob Stanley, Westfield Lodge.
|Clowne 213/214-William Peppers.
|Clowne 230-Malenders Shop
| Clowne 232-D Burnell.
|Clowne 236-Van Dykes
|Clowne 248-Ernest Metcalfe (Rp)
|Clowne 2108-Elsie and Ron Sherwin
|Clowne 2162-Albert and Elsie Purdy.
(The 4 digit numbers were shared service)
I hope that this little slice of Clowne history will bring enjoyment and Memories
of a less “technical” time.
Linda Davies (nee Purdy) 24th JUNE 2005.