Electric Telegraph Company

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of secretariat records, financial records and examples of telegraphs.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Electric Telegraph Company, the first electric telegraph company in Britain, was provisionally registered in September 1845 and officially incorporated as a company by Parliament in 1846. It was set up by William Fothergill Cooke and Joseph Lewis Ricardo to work the patents of Cooke and Wheatstone. The ETC's major growth period coincided with the expansion of the railways in the 1840s by providing electric communication to the railways' signal operators. The company grew rapidly with the realisation of the electric telegraph's potential for the transmission of news.

In 1852 arrangements between the ETC, the astronomer royal and the South Eastern Railway Company were made for transmitting Greenwich Mean Time signals. In 1855 the company merged with the International Telegraph Company, which was using submarine telegraph lines to connect to the Continent. This ended the operation of the two companies as different entities although using the same staff.


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 to BT Group Archives from the Post Office Archives between 1 June 1991 and 30 April 1992.

Other Finding Aids

Full catalogue for BT Group Archives can be searched at www.bt.com/archivesonline .

Archivist's Note

These records were previously catalogued as part of the Post Office collection under the POST 81 and POST 82 classes. They have been recatalogued to better reflect the provenance of these records and to aid access to them.