United Kingdom Electric Telegraph Company

Scope and Content

This collection consists of secretariat and financial records created by the United Kingdom Electric Telegraph Company until its voluntary liquidation.

Administrative / Biographical History

The United Kingdom Electric Telegraph Company was established by Act of Parliament in 1851. It aimed to develop a comprehensive system of telegraph wires between all the principle towns in the United Kingdom. The company held patents of William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone; and Thomas Allan, who was its superintendent engineer. Professor Charles Wheatstone was their consultant scientist. The chairman was Sir Henry Leeke and the company's offices were registered at 18 Cannon Street, London, subsequently 237 Gresham House, Old Broad Street, London.

The company proposed providing private wires to companies and residences at a rental cost of £2 per year per wire. The company initially intended laying wires underground to protect them from 'atmospheric interference', later however this idea was abandoned for cost reasons. Instead the wires were run along canals and turnpike roads.

A concession was obtained from the Crown of Denmark granting the company the sole right to land telegraph cables on the Danish shores and in 1867 the company entered into a contract with the Danish Norwegian English Telegraph Company of Copenhagen for construction of wires linking England to Denmark. The cable was completed in 1868. By 1863 the company had secured 734 subscribers.

The company was sold to the General Post Office under the terms of the Telegraph Act 1868 on 12 October 1869 and voluntarily wound up on 1 January 1870.


This collection has been arranged by business function.

Access Information

Available for research at BT Group Archives, see www.bt.com/archives .

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 www.bt.com/archivesonline .

Archivist's Note

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