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The first Preston Telephone Exchange, c1881 Sharples, George (1820-1903)

George Sharples was a successful businessman who installed the first telephone exchange in Preston.

Sharples was a jack-of-all-trades who could turn his hand to just about anything. He grew up in Preston above his father's butcher's shop, but he always had more on his mind than managing the family business.

He became a well-known and respected figure in Preston, working as a pharmaceutical and analytical chemist, electrician, optician, photographer, explosives expert, surgical appliance manufacturer and installer of lightning conductors.

However, he made his mark in 1880, when he installed the first exchange in his home town. This was only a year after the first exchange in London and put Preston well and truly at the forefront of progress.

Sharples lived to the ripe old age of 83, and at his death was revered as the oldest working tradesman in Preston - and probably England.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...