In My Childhood of the late 1940's and early 50's the area where I grew up and the surrounding villages were serviced by a manual telephone exchange. Sited in the front room of a small cottage in the High Street in Saul.  Calls were made by lifting the receiver, in some cases winding the lever of a magneto generator. Upon calling the exchange you would be asked for your number "Number Please"  There on a local call the operator would  take your cord and place it in a jack  belonging to the called number. For calls further afield she would ask the assistance of an operator on the Gloucester Exchange.


Saul was run by Mrs Travell and her family. 

​I am trying to research the exchange which had two digit numbers so less than 100 subscribers although there was an increasing number of shared service telephones  which were designated 20XX and its partner 30XX. From the photograph the switchboard appears to have a total traffic of 20 calls of which the possibility of five trunks to Gloucester.  At busy times I doubt if there would be no more that ten or a dozen calls in progress at any one time.  At night only very urgent calls!  There appears to be a dial centre console which would be used for Gloucester numbers (4 digit) Talbots, Commercial Road Gloucester 2401


This is not the type of switchboard that existed at Saul but the principle is the same. The silver "dolls eye" shown has dropped indicating a caller wishes to male a call and this has a number on it to tell the operator who is calling. The operator takes the next spare answer cord plugs it in that numbered jack and  presses the speak key (black). "Number Please" The operator then takes the second cord and plugs it in the jack for the wanted number.  When that person answers their "dolls eye" comes down. At the end of the call both indicators disappear and the operator takes out both chords.  On many exchanges including Saul ringing was achieved by cranking the handle on the right hand side.


​Installing a new bank of "dolls eyes" they would be blank and the fitter would have to paint the numbers on them..extremely tricky...  a derogatory  term was

" He could not even put dots on dolls eyes"

The Shaws were dependent on shipping along the Bristol Channel and Southern Ireland and there was no communication with the ships...none no VHF, No Radio telephones , nothing. I know they would ask the Harbour Master or the Agent to ring home and say they had arrived.  This is where Mrs Travell came in... she would ring and if there was no answer she would take the call and note it down.  When she could get an answer she would tell us the message... "Ken's arrived and he will be on the late train"

Saul Manual Telephone Exchange

Mrs Flora Travel  photograph with kind permission: Lorraine Hunt