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Central administration records of the Post Office Telegraph and Telephone Service

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1814 TCB Central Administration
Held at: BT Archives
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Full title: Central administration records of the Post Office Telegraph and Telephone Service
Date(s): 1854-1969
Level of description: Subfonds
Extent: c1000 folders
Name of creator(s): Post Office Telecommunications
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Until 1934, Post Office headquarters consisted of the Secretary's Office; the Solicitor to the Post Office's Office; The Chief Medical Officer's Office; three financial services (the Accountant-General's department; the Savings Bank and the Money Order Office); and two technical services (the Engineering Department and the Department of the Controller of Stores). The Secretary of the Post Office was the permanent head of the Post Office and the principal adviser to the Postmaster General. Assisted by the Second Secretary and the staff of the Secretary's Office, he was responsible for the policy and organization of the entire department and the efficient working of its various services. Control of the mail services and the telegraph, telephone and wireless services were the responsibility of the Director of Postal Services and the Director of Telegraphs and Telephones respectively, who reported directly to the Secretary. The Secretary's Office was divided into seven adminstrative divisions, each headed by an Assistant Secretary. These dealt with mail (inland and foreign); inland telegraphs; overseas telegraphs, including wireless services; telephones; establishments (ie the numbers, organization and pay of Post Office staff); staff (ie personnel matters); and buildings and supplies. The Secretary's Office also consisted of an inspectorate: the Chief Inspector of Postal Traffic, the Chief Inspector of Telegraph and Telephone Traffic and the Inspector of Wireless Telegraphy and their staffs. The office also included a small detective staff, known as the Investigation Branch, which investigated suspected offences against the Post Office.

In 1934, a new structure was introduced for the organization of the Post Office following the recommendations of the Bridgeman Committee. The new posts of Director General and Assistant Director General were created to replace the positions of Secretary and Second Secretary (who had been perceived as having too much autonomy), and the Secretary's Office was disbanded and replaced by three administrative departments: the Postal Services Department (comprising the Mails branch and the Postal Traffic Section); the Telegraph and Telephone Department (comprising Telephone, Inland Telegraph and Overseas Telegraph Branches, Telegraph and Telephone Traffic Section and Wireless Telegraphy Section); and Personnel Department (comprising the Chief Clerk's, Establishments, Staff, Medical, Investigation and Buildings Branches, Architectural Staff and Registry). In addition, a further Department called the Public Relations Department was set up comprising a Sales and Publicity Section and a Film Unit and Library. As part of this reorganisation, a Post Office Board was also established to direct the actions of the Director General, although the Postmaster General continued to have the power to overrule the Board in matters of policy. At the same time, the organisation of the Post Office was decentralised: regions were established, with their own Regional Directors and Boards.

The General Directorate oversaw the policy and general management of the Post Office. The Director General was responsible for carrying out the directions of the Post Office Board (which was first appointed in 1934), following the abolition of the position of Secretary. The Secretary had effectively been allowed to run the Post Office, dealing with all matters of policy as well as maintaining a general managerial control.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of central administration of the Post Office Telegraphs and Telephones (later Post Office Telecommunications) including records of the Post Office Board (including meeting papers TCB 54), Post Office Advisory Committee and other central functions.

The records concern both strategic telegraphy and telephony activities, such as policy, planning, legal papers (including on the takeover of the National Telephone Company) and routine reporting, and central operational activities including personnel and communications (including Joint Production Council publications, staff magazines, press notices, media coverage and training school and studio photographs).

These central administration records also include the minuted papers relating to telecommunication services 1889-1977 that, for various reasons, fell outside previous archival transfer. The subjects in these minuted papers (TCB 2) include satellite communications (Early Bird), international telephone services, policies toward staff and unions, telephone information services (including ship telephone services, roads and weather, teletourist service, speaking clock and the Santa Claus service), and technological developments (including telephone kiosks, the answering machine, "Amplifying Telephone" and "Laryngaphone").

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged by business function.

Conditions governing access:

Available for research at BT Archives, see

Conditions governing reproduction:

Researchers may reproduce copies of material held by BT Heritage or take photographs/film of them themselves, subject to approval by the archivist and the conditions laid out in BT Archives Copying, Photography and Reproduction Information available on request and in BT Archives searchroom.

Finding aids:

Full catalogues for BT Archives can be searched at

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

These records were divided between the Royal Mail Archive and BT Archives in 1991, when the telecommunications records were transferred to BT Archives' custody, or transferred from BT directly.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

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Date(s) of descriptions:

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