The Siemens Brothers Neophone and
Post Office Telephone No. 162

Prior to 1900 public telephone systems were of the magneto type and subscribers were provided with hand combination instruments.  In 1900 the first common battery telephone system to be used for public service in this country was introduced by the National Telephone Company in Bristol.  For this type of system the N.T.C. adopted as standard a solid back transmitter and Bell receiver combined together, well known now as the “candlestick” table telephone.  For approximately the next thirty years this “candlestick” type remained the standard instrument in this country.

In 1924 with the advent of new materials and technology Siemens Brothers commenced research on a new type of telephone.  In co-operation with the British Post Office they returned to the advantages of a hand combination set.1   This instrument has been christened the “Neophone”, “Neo” being derived from the Greek word “Neos”, meaning new.

The “Neophone” was standardised by the British Post Office for public service. It comprised of six sets of components:

  1. The Bakelite mouldings
  2. The metal fittings
  3. The transmitter
  4. The receiver
  5. The dial or dummy
  6. The cords

The complete “Neophone” consisted of 275 separate piece-parts, involving no less than 930 different operations.  The Post Office named it the “Microtelephone”.2  It is interesting to note that the “Neophone” reviewed in the article is a prototype.  The body of the “Neophone” illustrated is made of metal.  The handset illustrated does not have any markings, e.g. later an oval stamp appeared in the centre with either of the following markings:

G.P.O. S-29 No 164
or  Siemens
Brothers&Co, Ltd

The mouthpiece is held on by four screws. The base is made of cast iron and embossed with:

G.P.O. S-29 No 162

The terminal block for the cords is made of metal.  In the prototype the handset cord is secured by means of a screw.  The body being tapped for the thread of this as well as the thread for the fixing of the anti-side-tone coil, this process could not be continued when the body was produced in Bakelite.  Due to the change in the material it was necessary to change the internal design.  A metal ring was used to secure the cord and nuts to secure the coil, both of these items being inserted into the mould so that they become integral parts of the complete moulding.

Metal Bodied Prototype Interior of metal Bodied Prototype
Bakelite Model (note Screws on mouthpiece) Interior of Bakelite Model

The Science Museum has an early example of a “Neophone” from the first batch of 200 produced.  I was very fortunate to be able to photograph it in great detail including the inside.  It consisted of all the details mentioned previously in the prototype with the exception of the body which has been changed to Bakelite and modified as described.  Thanks to John Liffen, Associate Curator for his kind help and patience.

Telephone case mould

The British Post Office placed a substantial order for 50,000 black “Neophones” in May 1929 Siemens Brothers announced that “The “Neophone” is stocked in two colours, in black for general use, offices, etc., and in ivory for use in boudoirs, bed rooms and elsewhere where a light colour is desired. It can also be supplied in other colours, or with mottled or jaspe effects, provided the quantity in any one style is sufficient”.4

The Post Office issued only black, named it the “Microtelephone” and numbered it No. 162.  The Siemens Brothers “Neophone” is fitted with a cast iron base.  This cast base could be removed and a bell set fitted in its place thus making a combined set, alternatively the bell set could be used on its own when fitted with a suitable flat cover.

It is interesting that the Post Office did not adopt the Siemens bell set.  At the time of the introduction of the Tel. No. 162 it had 1,000,000 “candlestick” sets in use and also held large stocks in reserve.  I conclude that a similar number of bell set No. 1 were also in use and therefore as a cost saving measure these were to be used initially with the new “Microtelephone”.  A matching Bakelite bell set No. 25 was introduced by the B.P.O. in 1932.  It had a different chassis to the Siemens type and was larger in height, the cover was made in one piece and therefore did not require a lid.

The Telephone No. 162 first appears in the “Vocabulary of engineering stores” (rate book) in 1930 and then only in one colour, black.

Following the success of coloured telephones introduced in the U.S.A. by A.T.& T Co. Siemens Brothers took along eight coloured samples for the G.P.O. to evaluate.5  They approved four immediately: Ivory, mahogany, old gold and oxidised silver.  The last two being black underneath but having a painted and lacquer finish applied.  The first order was placed for zoo each of these in December 1930.

Green was set aside for possible future order but only if they could get a variant of the type submitted in jade green (it was introduced in 1931).  Excluded at that time were Chinese red, blue and ivory (lacquer finish).

At that time the Telephone No. 162 used the wood cased Bell set No. 1.  In 1932 a matching Bell Set No. 25 was introduced in black.  In 1933 coloured versions were introduced in ivory, jade green, old gold (see picture), oxidised silver and walnut.

The painted and lacquer finished telephones did not prove durable and so old gold and oxidised silver were discontinued in October 1934, along with walnut which was not deemed a popular colour.  At the same time Chinese red was introduced as a standard colour.

The Telephone No. 162 had a smooth handset cord that came in only three colours: brown, old gold and silver.  They also had matching dials in all the standard colours as well as dummies for use on manual exchanges.  In 1934 the stainless steel dial was introduced and matching dials were phased out.  Likewise in 1935 coloured microtelephone sets were issued with cords to match and silver cords were discontinued.

In July 1931 the B.P.O. placed an order for 200,000 “Neophones” with Siemens Brothers.  This was at that time the largest order for telephone instruments ever placed with one supplier in Great Britain.  Also in 1931 King George was presented with an old gold “Neophone” to mark the two-millionth telephone connected to the B.P.O. System.

Siemens Brothers registered their design on 17th May 1929 for the “Neophone” and the combined set which included the bell set.6  The copyright expired on 17th May 1944.  I have found seven patents taken out on the “Neophone” one of which is “An improved method of attaching the mouth piece”.7   There might well have been others.

Apart from the B.P.O. further orders for the “Neophone” had been placed with Siemens Brothers from the telephone administrations of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and many other countries.

So this is the history of the development of the “Neophone” and Telephone No. 162.  If anyone can add to this information I would be delighted to hear from you.  Please contact me by e-mail: or by telephone on 020 8446 4983.


  1. The Manufacture Of The Neophone. Engineering supplement to the Siemens magazine. No 77, October 1931.
  2. A New C.B. Microtelephone. A.J. Aldridge, E.J. Barnes, E. Foulger. The Post Office Electrical Engineers Journal. Vol. 33 Part 3, October 1929.
  3. Hand Combination Telephones. Extract from the Times. 8th May 1929.
  4. Siemens London Neophone. Pamphlet 508a. August 1929.
  5. Extracts from papers held at BT Archives.
  6. Public Record Office. Registered Designs 745766-7
  7. British Library. Patent 328926.

An article by Laurence Rudolf

See also the Siemens Brothers No. 82

Click here for the Canadian Patent 318320 - Telephone Drawing
Click here for the Canadian Patent 318320 - Telephone Description
Click here for the Canadian Patent 318320 - Telephone Claims

Click here for the Canadian Patent 318321 - Handset Drawing
Click here for the Canadian Patent 318321 - Handset Description
Click here for the Canadian Patent 318321 - Handset Claims

Click here for the Canadian Patent 331525 - Base Drawing
Click here for the Canadian Patent 331525 - Base Description
Click here for the Canadian Patent 331525 - Base Claims

Click here for the Canadian Patent 332525 - Transmitter Drawing
Click here for the Canadian Patent 332525 - Transmitter Description
Click here for the Canadian Patent 332525 - Transmitter Claims

The Telephone No. 162 Walnut

This was first introduced into the vocabulary of engineering stores (rate book) in 1931.  Walnut was one of the standard colours available at that time, note the matching coloured dial.  The bell set No. 25 Walnut (not shown) was introduced in 1933.  Both the Walnut telephone and bell set were discontinued in 1934 and became obsolete when the existing stock was exhausted.  During the years 1931-1934 that it was available more than 1000 Walnut telephones were produced.

An article by Laurence Rudolf

Click here for BPO Telephone No. 162

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Last revised: July 30, 2019