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Cable laying in 1905
Although now an ordinary company, BT has more than a century of history as the UK's state telecommunications provider, first as the Post Office, then as Post Office Telecommunications, and finally British Telecom. Its company archives are of national and international importance, with the vast majority counting as public records — to which the British public have a legal right of access.
Over the next 18 months, the University of Coventry, together with BT and the National Archives, is digitising around half a million photographs and many other items for public access in a million-pound project called New Connections. As a taster of treats to come, here is a small selection of photographs already available in the BT Archive.
Pictured above is how it all began, with men in class-defining headgear pushing thick cable into a suburban hole. Replace the horse-drawn cart with a Ford van, add some high-visibility tabards and a small fence around the excavation, and remove the hats, and the scene is still being repeated today.
The picture was taken in 1905, 15 years after the first cable was laid between London and Birmingham and seven years before the first automatic telephone exchange in the UK was installed in Epsom in Surrey.
Image credit: BT