Nowadays picking up the phone and calling any other city in the UK – indeed, the world - is something we take for granted.
But more than 130 years ago, the distance of a call was limited to just five miles.
The first long-distance calls had been made by Alexander Graham Bell in front of Queen Victoria from Osborne House on the Isle of Wight to Cowes, Southampton and London in 1878.
One December 17, 1884, the UK’s first long-distance trunk line was opened between Brighton and London: a trunk line is when two telephone switchboards are connected by trunk wires.
The line was built by the General Post Office and licensed to the United Telephone Company (UTC) to connect their exchanges and customers. The UTC was formed when the Edison Telephone Company or London and The Telephone Company Limited merged in 1880.
Previously the range of a telephone exchange was limited to five miles from the centre of a town, but on August 7, 1884, the Postmaster General withdrew the restriction. This meant telephone companies could apply for licences to work in the UK and create exchange areas, allowing more people access to the telephone.
This ‘liberalisation’ meant any member of the public could make calls from the public call offices that started to spring up in places like shops and railway stations.
The picture above is a telephone kiosk/call office used by the National Telephone Company around 1901-1912.
In 1896 the trunk network was nationalised and brought under control of the Post Office. Read more in our article: When a telephone conversation was actually a telegram in the eyes of the law