Records created and used by the Electric and International Telegraph Company

Scope and Content

This collection contains secretariat and financial records and records concerning the company's Intelligence Department.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Electric and International Telegraph Company, popularly known as 'the Electric', was formed by a merger of the Electric Telegraph Company and the International Telegraph Company in 1855. This placed it is a strong position because it had purchased the patents for various systems designed by William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone and had a near monopoly over the wayleave rights to construct telegraph wires along railway lines.

By 1868 it was the largest telegraph company in the country and owned more than 10,000 miles of line, more than 50,000 miles of wire and 1,300 telegraph stations in Britain and Ireland. It also employed 3,000 skilled operators and controlled three continental cables.

The company was included in the Acts of Parliament which brought the telegraph system under the control of the Post Office, being paid £2,938,826. The transfer date for the company was 29 January 1870.


The collection has been arranged by business function.

Access Information

Available for research at BT Group Archives, see

Acquisition Information

These records were transferred by the Post Office Archives between 1 June 1991 and 30 April 1992.

Other Finding Aids

Full catalogues for BT Group Archives can be searched at

Archivist's Note

The records were previously catalogued as part of the Post Office class 81, they have been re-catalogued here to better reflect their provenance and to allow for improved access.