Headington history: Miscellaneous

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Telephone system

The former telephone exchange, Lime Walk

In 1928 Oxford extended its boundaries eastwards, and the three rural villages of Headington were swiftly brought up to city standards and provided with electricity and telephone lines.

Headington’s first telephone exchange was at the top of Lime Walk, where the postal sorting office later stood (now flats). There was no need for a large exchange, as in 1928 only four businesses in Headington appear to have been on the telephone, namely:

  • City Motor Co., 152 London Road (beside Stile Road on the site now occupied by the Co-op), tel. Headington 2231 and 2232;
  • Cooper & Boffin, bakers & confectioners, 70 London Road (now the Mirabai), tel. Headington 1386;
  • Miss Dorothy W. Crook, and Miss Constance E. Ridout, physicians & surgeons, 74 London Road (now the right-hand half of the Mount Pleasant Hotel), tel. Headington 6976;
  • A. E. Vallis & Sons, the timber & builder’s merchants in Windmill Road (now Blanchford’s), tel. Headington 6957.

Plans were made in 1926 to open a satellite exchange in Headington, and it was allocated 100 private branch subscriber numbers (6800 to 6899) and 100 ordinary branch subscriber numbers (6900 to 6999). The expansion of the telephone system in Headington was very slow, and it was not until the 1950s that Headington numbers had to change from four to five figures (by adding a “6” at the beginning). Forty years later in 1997 the numbers were given a sixth digit (by adding a “7” in front of that “6”).

Lime Walk Sorting Office, 2005

Headington delivery office (above) opened at the top of Lime Walk in c.1938 in part of the telephone exchange building. The exchange moved across the road to its present site in c.1955, and the sorting office closed in 2005 and was demolished to make way for flats.


The present telephone exchange

In the 1950s Headington’s telephone exchange moved into a new purpose-built building in the huge garden of Sandfield Cottage in London Road. It is still there, sandwiched between the shop at the petrol station and the Manor Hospital.

Although Headington may have been one of the last areas of Oxford to gain access to post office telephones, it was the first to acquire cable telephones in the 1990s, when ComTel (later taken over by NTL, which in turn was taken over by VirginMedia) set up its operation for the south central area in Risinghurst. The early Headington NTL customers have six numbers beginning with 45.

Headington telephone exchangeHeadington telephone exchange, photographed from Osler Road
prior to new housing replacing a bungalow

© Stephanie Jenkins

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