PECkham - good.  STOnegrove - bad

On 2004 March 30 Kim wrote in her blog:
London Director system exchange names

Or, in less geeky speak - the original text messaging!

My mother still has the occasional slip and refers to London numbers as ARChway blah-blah-blah-blah. Which is charming (as is her habit of occasionally converting prices into pounds, shilling and pence without seeming to actually think about it).

I'm gutted to discover that my old phone number still had its proper code (PECkham 7762, please, operator!) whereas I'm now in some pseudo-exchange.  STOnegrove, in Edgeware? Pah.
Apparently she means: 'PECkham - good.  STOnegrove - bad.'

But what were the GPO (as it was then) to do when they had used up all the 10,000 numbers available on EDGware exchange?  They opened up, in their geek-speak, a 'second unit', looked round for a name with some local significance and which would not clash with any existing exchange name and decided on STOnegrove.

I have to admit that living south of the river I did have to look up Stonegrove on the map. But having done so, I agree with the GPO: to anyone living in the area STOnegrove is only slightly less helpful as a mnemonic than EDGware.

And either name is infinitely more meaningful than a three digit code!

And at least some of the subscribers in Edgware had an exchange name which matched where they were: the inhabitants of Bromley had to make do with WIDmore and RAVensbourne (both good names suggestive of the area - at least to me) because CROydon had got there first for a code of 270.  Likewise Dalston had to use CLIssold and SPArtan (the significance of the latter I still have to discover) beause EALing had bagged 325.

I fail to see the connection between exchange names and text messaging. Perhaps Kim is too young to remember that the original text messaging was the telegram.


Blogger kim said...

Well, if you're going to be picky maybe we should discuss Semaphore... grin. Wrote a massive comment, but have taken it back to the blog... drop by for the SMS connection!

5 December 2004 at 00:28:00 GMT  
Blogger kim said...


Thought you might appreciate this poster from WWII...


11 July 2005 at 13:28:00 BST  
Blogger Simon said...

I was told by a telephone engineer that exchange names like Spartan and Advance were fairly arbitrary and just selected to fit the number allocated to the exchange. What was more interesting to me is that companies in those exchange areas started to take the name of the exchange. Until very recently there was an Advance Travel Agents in Mile End.

9 October 2005 at 14:20:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many tailors' workshops were based in the area and thought their customers wouldn't like their expensive suits having labels with the original exchange name, which wasn't considered quite posh enough. So the GPO had to change it to something else.

For compatibility, it had to use the same holes in the dial, so they came up with ADVance to replace... BEThnal Green !

The travel agent may have had similar thoughts, and of course 'Advance' goes well with the idea of planning ahead.


4 October 2015 at 17:45:00 BST  

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