300 types

These are the larger chunky Bakelite telephones issued by the GPO and made by various manufactures.  They came as table or wall models in four colours: Black, Ivory, Red and Green.  That's the genuine article on the right.

They vary more than the 200 types as they come in a variety of models, generally with extra press buttons or with trembler bells installed.  All models will work on a standard exchange line, but the trembler bell models will not ring on an incoming call from an exchange line.

As these phones were also sold by other companies and used on internal telephone systems, there are a lot of them on the market.  Most will have the company model number stamped on the base.  The GPO used a three digit model number (i.e. 332).

Ericsson, who also made the 300 type telephone for the GPO, generally had the their model number stamped on the base of non-GPO telephones and these normally started with an N plus at least four numbers i.e. N1014.  You will also find phones that start with L - these are ATM/ATE, whilst those with TEL or ST on them are GEC models.

To the right is an example marking from the base of an actual GPO Telephone No. 162.  A 300 type telephone would have similar markings.
The markings show:-
No. 162 - the telephone number
S - made by Siemens
32 - manufactured in 1932
F - with a dial that had figures on it
234 - mark 234

Inspect the inside of the telephone to ensure that it has the original wiring and components.  Check the diagram pasted to the base plate and look at the markings on the components.  GPO parts always had a description and number (i.e. Coil Induction No. 29) whilst privately supplied telephones generally just had numbered parts.  If any of the part numbers start with the prefix N then they are Ericsson models and not GPO models.

Also check the dates on these components, this will indicate whether the phone is totally original.  Expect some parts to be dated differently as many phones were repaired at GPO factories, with parts replaced and then returned to the field.  If you are offered a telephone that is supposed to be totally original then check the component dates and manufactures name.  These should be the same code and the dates within a couple of years of each other. In particular check the dial - you will have to release the dial from the case to find the date of issue and manufacturers code under the outside edge.  The dial should be stamped with a 10 or a 12.  The dial finger plate  should be stainless steel on this model - no brass dial finger plates were used by the GPO.  Later GPO factory refurbished telephones can have a plastic dial and this will have a black finger plate.

GPO telephones have the model number (i.e. 332) on the base plate and also on the internal component chassis - check that the number on the base plate is the same as the number on the chassis plate (generally between the bell gongs)!

The chassis could have either cotton covered wiring or PVC covered wiring - check that this is laid out nicely and laced professionally.

Another thing to check is the handset.  The genuine handset has a recess in the middle with raised script.  Many reproductions have a raised oval, with raised script.  On the Indian telephones the oval can be raised, with the letters ITI.  On other replicas the oval is also raised, either with the marking 164 - PL35 or with these letters filed off in the mould. Some of the replica handsets have only two terminals (instead of three), the microphone and receiver being wired in parallel.

Most British-made 164 handsets (as used on 200 and 300-type telephones) have an oval-shaped depression on the underside of the hand grip.  This normally contains a Post Office code (e.g. 164 - H47) or the manufacturer's emblem (e.g. ETL, ATE) and is always recessed, with embossed lettering within the recess.  Occasionally the lettering is ground away; the Irish Post Office tended to do this and usually engraved the letters P&T in its place. Handsets made in the UK for export to Portugal often carry APT or APTOPHONE here.  None of the replicas look like this. 

Please note that coloured handsets used by the GPO in 1954, 1955 and 1956 carry no manufacturer code, only the type (164) and year.  They were made by Siemens Brothers, which was the only firm making them by that time.

See the picture below - note that the left hand picture has no GPO markings (this was a later handset).

Genuine - recessed                     Replica - protruding

Check for case and handset colour match in natural light and whether the case has been painted (look at the corners).  If you think it is painted then try to scratch the paint off with your finger nail!

Recent production plastic cases have a shade and appearance totally different from original British-made parts, due no doubt to the modern moulding powders and pigments used.  The red is very garish, whilst the green is too deep and the ivory is almost white.  Distinguishing them from genuine British-made cases takes some skill but in general the real thing has colours that are more muted (and often faded to some degree).

It's worth noting that the pre-war cases, made of a urea-type material have a very different 'look and feel' to those of post-war manufacture.  The pre-war parts tend to have an eggshell sheen (a few are more shiny) and a granular feel to the touch; the green and red colours are quite muted too.

Another common distinguishing factor is a filigree crazing of the surface and dirty cracks along stress-lines where the moulding material has shrunk.

The post-war cases were moulded in a cellulose acetate material and have a gloss looking quite like moulded Perspex, which is more or less what they are.  The red and green colours are more vivid too.

Check the quality of moulding.  The Indian moulds used for producing 300-type telephone parts became quite worn and the sharp lines along angles have become quite soft (rounded) and irregular.  Replica components have pronounced ridges along the joints between the two halves of the mould.

Edges and holes often show irregular edges or visible file marks and just do not look clean.  Many of the reproductions carry a dark, greasy film (probably a mould release agent).  The moulding material is rather brittle, especially around the mouthpiece where it is reduced in thickness for the bayonet fitting (look out for cracking).  The mouldings are also under-sized, with an Indian design of receiver akin to the BPO Receiver No. 1L which is rather poor. Some people have tried to jam in a BPO Receiver No. 2P, causing further cracking.  The electrical connections within these handsets also tend to be suspect; many have already gone open circuit and those which have not yet done so - may fail later.

Check out Ebay and some of the Vintage Telephone sellers. 

Other identifying marks
Most GPO equipment came with a batch stamp on it - look for the marking on the right.

Look for minimal refurbishment and expect to find markings on the bases.  A plastic sticker indicates factory refurbishment and a white painted square nearby would most probably be covering the original markings - this is quite normal.  Bases with nothing written on them or cases with transfers are not GPO, or have had the markings removed.  In these cases, check inside the phone, but be wary.

The only garish thing done to 300 types was a mirror inside the instruction draw with a red GPO insignia (very rare) or a mirror without the GPO insignia (not quite so rare).  There are no GPO transfers on the cases of GPO 300 type telephones.

The picture below shows the internals of a genuine GPO 300 type telephone.

Note that:-

  1. The components are on a separate chassis.

  2. The wiring is in a laced loom and nicely formed.

  3. The components are big and clunky (induction coil upper left - capacitor upper right).

  4. The Capacitor is round - this is a later model.

  5. The dial in this instance is a Dial No 10 and labelled on the underneath of the outer rim.  You may also find Dial No. 12's fitted as well.

  6. The bell gongs are stamped 2 & 2A.

  7. The bell ringer has a round central magnet.

  8. The handset has an indented label in the middle and should be numbered 164.

  9. The dial wires are actually cloth covered, but can be plastic.

  10. On the phone above is a central button - note that it is chrome plated and that there is a label associated with it, fixed by two screws.

  11. The handset has a recess in the middle with raised writing.

The pictures below are of a GPO Telephone No. 332.

This earlier model has a square capacitor - shown above the right bell gong.

Note the separate chassis held in place by the two screws located centre right & left with a third screw located to one side of the cord entry slot at the rear of the chassis.

This is the base of a 300 type.  Note the feet - these are correct for the table model.  The plastic sticker indicates that this was a GPO refurbished phone.

The base is also stamped with holes and has an oblong stamping in it.  Even if the phone has no tray, the stamping is still there.


  • Check all Bakelite parts for cracks.

  • Inspect the Bakelite parts and if a brown colour with knobbles then this will not brighten up.

  • Dial - is it slow - but does return slowly - this is repairable - clean out spindle.

  • Dial - does not return at all - broken return spring - costly replacement.

  • Cords - braided - can be replaced easily with reproductions.

  • Cords - plastic - not many reproductions on the market - if greasy can be cleaned.

  • Visually check internals.  Generally they don't go wrong.

  • Check that there is a metal plate inside the earpiece - unscrew the earpiece and if you see screws the plate is missing.  The plate is needed for speech reception.


How to spot a non-GPO 300 type

The telephone above is a reproduction and the following explain the differences to that of a GPO 300 type:-

  1. The printed identification marks in the centre of handset look like they are projecting from the moulding and not recessed as they should be.

  2. The feet are not fixed with screws - if this case they look like they are fixed with adhesive.  Check these against the picture of the 300 type base above.

  3. The base plate has vent plates fitted.

  4. The label is not of the GPO style or type.

  5. The base plate  has screws showing in the centre (the four screws at each corner are normally found on 300 types) and therefore I assume that the components are fitted to the base plate.  GPO 300 types had a separate component fixing plate inside the telephone.

  6. The handset cord is plastic and curly.  Some times a GPO telephone would have a black plastic curly cord fitted - usually on 1960's factory refurbishments.

  7. The cords are fitted with a grommet - none ever fitted to GPO 300 type telephones.

  8. The colour looks really white - 300 types were an ivory colour, although some have bleached through many years in the sun.

  9. A GPO dial should have a projecting label holder and the metal retaining ring should be split at the bottom and not at the top as shown.

  10. The dial finger stop should be next to the digit 0.

These phones are normally from India and can have "Supplied by India" printed on the base.  Click here for more on Indian Telephones

Here's a picture of the internals:-

Note that:-

  1. Components are big, but don't match those in the 300 type.

  2. The bell gongs are a different shape and size.

  3. The switchooks are on the front and should be on the back if a GPO 300 type.

  4. No separate chassis - it's all on one plate.

  5. The round capacitor has ITI on it.

  6. In this case the wiring is a mess.

Similar chassis with different components

This has a UK bell ringer fitted Modern bell ringer and large capacitor


And here's some more:-


The two telephones above look like reproductions.  The dial finger stop should be next to the 0.  The left hand phone has a white press button above the dial - these were always chrome.  In front of the button there would have been a label explaining the function of the button (i.e. Recall), this label would be fixed to the case by two screws - can you see the screw holes - I can't.  The right hand phone has the wrong dial.

Indian Dial - Front Indian Dial - Rear


As prices vary all the time do not expect this document to reflect the current market prices for any telephone mentioned above


I do not give valuations!

BACK Home page BT/GPO Telephones Search the Site Glossary of Telecom Terminology Quick Find All Telephone Systems

Last revised: December 26, 2022