We've created a series of downloadable PDF historical information sheets and timelines for you to learn more about some of the familiar - and not so familiar - aspects of BT’s amazing history.

  • British phone books

    Our phone books collection is possibly the most comprehensive in the world. But how were they made and how did telephone expansion affect their development since the first one was produced in 1880.

    pdf - 540 KB
  • BT Tower

    This iconic feature of the London skyline has been open since 1965. It's history is fascinating as is its importance to the telecommunications network.

    pdf - 601 KB
  • Directory enquiries

    Britain’s Directory Enquiry service began as an informal service in the 1880s to assist a few hundred telephone subscribers. Discover how the service grew and how computerisation played its part.

    pdf - 222 KB
  • Private telegraph companies

    As the telegraph service grew so did the number of national and international companies. However, nationalisation changed all that.

    pdf - 397 KB
  • Private and municipal telephone companies

    The rapid development of the early telephone lead to fierce competition among the emerging and rival companies, and to strongly contested legal battles on both sides of the Atlantic.

    pdf - 423 KB
  • Privatisation

    Nationalisation of the telephone service brought it under the control of the Post Office in 1912. As a Government department at the time it's from here that BT’s road to privatisation began.

    pdf - 397 KB
  • Telephone kiosks

    Enterprising shopkeepers provided the first public call boxes to try and attract more customers. As a piece of street furniture they've become iconic and have come in varied designs and colours.

    pdf - 404 KB
  • The development of the K8 kiosk

    Giles Gilbert Scott’s K6 kiosk had been in service since 1936. The way the public used kiosks was changing and manufacturing techniques had advanced. A new kiosk was needed.

    pdf - 407 KB
  • The greetings telegram

    A price increase for telegraph messages lead to people writing shorter, more direct messages. These became known as "telegrams” and came in many decorative designs.

    pdf - 248 KB


Here are some timelines covering other aspects of our long and rich history: