|This telephone, made by the Gower-Bell company, used a
rather large receiver. It consisted of a very large magnet which made
it more powerful than other makes, but was too heavy to be held to the ear.
Because of this it was fitted inside the wall cabinet and connected to two listening tubes.
The transmitter which is the fixed in the top of the cabinet cover, below the push button, is of the Pencil type. This Gower transmitter is a variation on the Hughes carbon pencil microphone (invested May 1878), but consists eight carbon pencils with nine carbon blocks. These are arranged in a star formation and connected to two copper strips. This forms two groups of pencils in series with each group of four pencils which are in parallel.
A thin membrane covered the transmitter and this itself was sometimes covered with a wooden sheet that had slots and carvings in it to allow the sound through.
On some telephones the transmitter cover was replaced with a flat plate and a white coloured Porcelain mouthpiece fixed in the centre. This helped concentrate speech onto the transmitter mechanism.
Some later telephones were retrofitted with a Hunnings type transmitter.
The Gower-Bell telephone remained the Post Office choice for many years, and was continuously developed. By 1891 it had become known as the Universal Telephone, so-called because it could be adapted for use under practically any conditions likely to be met with in Post Office service. It retained the Gower Transmitter but the receiver and speaking tubes had given place to a pair of Bell receivers as soon as the Bell patents had expired.
The calling signal was a trembler bell which was rung by a battery at the subscriber's premises under the control of a relay operated by a signalling current received from the exchange. A feature of this system of working which has a modern sound was that when an operator rang the subscriber's bell she could hear the interruption in current caused by the trembler bell contact, a forerunner of ringing tone.
One key disadvantage when using this telephone was that the design of the instrument required the user to take and hold both tubes while speaking to activate the automatic switches which signalled the exchange, thus leaving no hands free for writing.
The Gower-Bell Telephone Company was formed in 1880. The Gower-Bell telephone had first been manufactured by Messrs Scott and Wollaston with a licence issued to them from The Telephone Company Ltd in 1879. Gower ultimately acquired the licence and formed the company, which supplied the Post Office with telephones. The British Gower-Bell Telephone Company Limited was established on 25 March 1881 to acquire and extend the Gower-Bell Telephone Company and purchase the six patents upon which it was founded. The Consolidated Telephone Construction and Maintenance Company Limited was then established on 9 April 1881. It secured all of Gower's patent rights in the UK and abroad except for North America, France and countries served by the Oriental Telephone Company Limited. It made arrangements with the United Telephone Company for the exclusive right to manufacture Bell, Edison and Gower patents for twenty years.
The British Science Museum have an instrument made by Scott and Wollaston, England, dated 1880.
See also History of BPO Telephones
Last revised: October 30, 2022