HISTORY OF TELEPHONE RENTALS
The story of Telephone Rentals Ltd is bound closely
with that of TMC Ltd.
The Telephone Rentals (TR) story goes back to 1902 when its fore-runner began the renting of simple internal telephone systems. The guiding force behind both TR and its predecessors was Frederick T Jackson. FT, as Jackson was known to all of his employees, was born in 1881 into a staunch Methodist farming family in Worcestershire. He left school at the age of 15 to begin brewing cider and shooting rabbits. Six years later he had saved £40 which enabled him to head for the city lights of London. After several dead-end jobs he became, at the end of 1902, a clerk at The Private Telephone Company. His ability was soon recognised and within four years he became Company Secretary of the New System PTC as it was now known. The New System PTC was one of five companies operating telephone services in the UK at the time. All of these independent companies were run by German nationals using equipment from Deutsche Privat Telephon Gesellschaft H Fuld Gmbh of Frankfurt am Main.
At the turn of the century these companies faced immense difficulties in convincing executives of the need to change from speaking tubes to telephone wires. New System's new principle of payment by rent embodied the responsibility for maintenance of the service, without which the subscriber might eventually cease to enjoy the new speedy communications facilities.
Campbell Cochran (a solicitor) now enters our story. He met FT in 1912 in Glasgow where they were both involved with the activities of Herr Muller who's firm, the Caledonian Telephone Company, also used equipment supplied by Fuld. Similar companies were also operating in Birmingham, Leeds, Ireland, Lancashire and Yorkshire at this time but FT and Cochran managed to raise thousands of pounds to purchase these for New System. Cochran travelled to Milan with cash to purchase the CTC from Muller. The money was concealed about his person as he travelled by train across Europe viewing everybody with suspicion.
Manufacturing for war
The inter-war years
A large overdraft was obtained from the Midland Bank to tide them over, but in December 1925 this had to be repaid. A trust was founded to reconstruct the ailing company, but this too ran into difficulties. When the bank refused to advance them a further £60,000, FT stormed around to the Westminster Bank, who immediately took over the overdraft without requiring any security! This kept the company's head above water until a hectic, but short-lived, boom in 1929. It was at this time that TMC's two differing activities (manufacturing and installation/maintenance of rental equipment) were split into two separate organisations, although they shared the same board of directors to preserve the continuity of policy. These companies were the Telephone Manufacturing Co (1929) Ltd and Telephone Rentals Ltd.
During the early 1930s TR entered the PAX market with the 'Telematic' tradename for the Ericsson switchboard which they were renting. By 1933 their annual rent roll was in excess of £171,000 and as well as the Telematic internal communications service they also offered the 'Chronomatic' synchronised time-keeping and recording service for industry. Things began to look much better by 1935 when TR purchased a fleet of cars for their salesmen and a demonstration trailer. This latter item was instrumental in TR obtaining the Kodak contract which they still have and now includes digital exchanges and over 5,000 lines to connect Kodak's ten establishments in the UK with each other and the PSTN. In 1936 both TMC and TR were operating profitably and TR began to pay regular dividends to its shareholders, something which it has done ever since.
The war years
In 1941, with over a third of their workforce in the forces, TR was placed on the Ministry of Supply's 'vital list' as part of the national programme for maximum output. Material shortages and delivery problems were, however, impeding progress as were the reduced staffing levels. Perhaps the most revolutionary change during this period was the employment of, as one contemporary advertisement put it, "intelligent girls, aged not less than 18 years, for training in simple electrical maintenance in the London area."
With some 120,000 private internal phones being maintained, the 1942 rental reached £500,000 but staff shortages remained a problem, especially when women engineers and secretaries were enlisted into the ATS or WAAF. By 1944, however, TR were beginning look ahead towards the end of the war and find ways of integrating returning personnel back into the company. To this end the entire company was reorganised and the TR badge made its first appearance. The Telematic and Chronomatic trade names disappeared, however, becoming instead TR Telephones, TR Broadcasting and TR Time Control.
Takeovers and mergers
Most expanding and profitable companies sooner or later become the subject of a takeover bid, and TR was no exception. December 1966 saw the start of an arduous and protracted £26 million takeover bid by GEC. By the end of February 1967 they had withdrawn their offer, thus making TR one of the few companies (if not the only one) successfully to fight off the massive GEC conglomerate . A few months later TR made an offer (which was accepted by 90% of the shareholders) for Dictograph Telephones Ltd, one of TR's competitors dating back to 1914. This merger meant economies in premises and centralised purchasing with only ten employees losing their jobs as a result. The takeover of Dictograph must have been instrumental in increasing the rental total to £10 million in 1970 and helped the decision, made in 1973, to move to move to a new £2.75 million building in Milton Keynes. TR's head office was, at that time, situated in several separate old and unsuitable buildings widely scattered around London. Work began on 26th November 1973 when the first sod was cut and the 'topping out' ceremony performed 282 days, 6,800 cubic metres of concrete and four floors later. It was not until December 1976,however, that the 'moving in' process was completed.
Moving to Bucks
TR's operating structure was strengthened over the next two years by further improving the level of local, commercial and engineering service to the subscribers. It would also enable the company to expand specialist resources at strategically located regional centres to cater for the rapid growth in advanced communications and data services based on the new technologies.
This strengthening process fell under the banner of 'Regionalisation', the new regional offices being established in Belfast, Peterborough, Manchester, Telford, Leeds, Glasgow, Hertford, Basingstoke, Bristol and Shaftesbury Avenue. Other existing offices in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Cardiff and East Grinstead became branches within their respective regions. This means that no subscriber, or potential customer, is far from a TR office; in fact a phone call to head office from anywhere in the world is all that is required to find the address of the nearest TR office.
More recently, in the latter part of last year, TR took over Cass Electronics, thus adding another string to their bow in the guise of the health care products marketed under the Ericare label. Apart from a few alterations in the management personnel of Cass, the company has been allowed to continue trading on its own behalf without any major changes from its new parent.
Present day products
The first of these, Time and Security, deals with the time control, fire alarm and detection, and security guard protection products. The Telecommunications division is responsible for the large PABX and TDX exchanges and networks, whilst the Telematic division has the smaller PABX's, key telephone systems and dealing boards under its wing. Finally, there is the Data Communications section which looks after data and message switches, telex installations and support equipment.
Our brief look at TR's products will start with the Telematic DX, a third generation range of digital exchanges suitable for systems of between 100 and 3,000 lines. The TDX 'information switch' is capable of switching all types of voice, data and text communication and has a host of 'vertical' facilities such as the allocation of individual memory banks to each extension.
This enables short code dialling, automatic call transfer, another-callwaiting signal, recall engaged number when free, a 'follow me' facility and others such as sharing out of incoming calls, throughout a busy sales department, for instance. There is a wide range of extension phones available for connection to the TDX, many of which include additional features like hands free operation and a built-in clock and calculator.
The modular construction of the TDX enables the system to expand and the integration of several exchanges, separated geographically, into one digital. network can be achieved without the expense and delay of having to alter the basic system architecture. The Telematic DX can provide management information with a print-out of facility usage, detailed traffic information and operator response times which enables continual update and improvement by adding or withdrawing services on a departmental. or individual extension basis.
These types of facilities may be found on many large digital exchanges but for those requiring them on smaller systems then a key system may be the answer. TR have a variety of key systems of various sizes from several manufacturers, including Ferranti and Mitel. The smallest of these is Ferranti's Rhapsody which can have up to three exchange lines and six extensions, and one of the larger is the TR816 with up to eight exchange lines and sixteen extensions.
These key phone systems have dozens of features ranging from illuminated keys to music on hold, and many will allow ordinary phones to be used for those extensions not requiring the full range of system features. Learning to use one of these systems does not take as much time as the dozens of buttons would indicate. Remember how quickly everybody learnt to use calculators, even the complex scientific ones, back in the mid 1970s?
For further details of any of Telephone Rentals' services or products please contact them at TR House, Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK3 5JL.
Taken from Direct Line magazine, issue 4, 1986
TMC SUBSEQUENT HISTORY
TMC Ltd was taken over by the Pye group of companies (probably during the 1960s) and was renamed Pye TMC Ltd. When Pye in turn became part of Philips the TMC name was dropped in favour of Philips.
The Australian subsidiary (founded in 1939 as TMC Ltd and based in Melbourne) still operates under the title TMC Radio Pty Ltd after buying the assets of Simoco (http://www.simoco.com), which took over the business of Philips Business Radio Ltd, formerly Pye Mobile Radio. The website http://www.tmcradio.com/TMC_News.htm stated:
TMC Radio Pty. Ltd. announced today [no date given but mid-2003] that it has acquired the Intellectual Property Rights to Simoco's analogue range of products. This includes the world standard SRM9000 and SRP9100 products. TMC Radio is a wholly Australian owned company, based in Melbourne. Manufacturing of the TMC Radio products will be carried out in the Asia Pacific region while distribution and product support to the world market will be provided from its order and help desk in Melbourne. TMC Radio is firmly committed to fund the Research and Development for the next generation of portable and mobile radios.
TMC AUTOMATIC EQUIPMENT
I have not seen one since 1946 and this was in a Roman Catholic sisters' home in Francis Street, London SW1. There was a big one in Foyle's bookshop in Charing Cross road but I only saw the instruments on the wall when I was shopping there I had the circuit diagrams for the switches but I think they must be at the Science Museum. They have four instruments and two switches which I gave them many years ago. They went into the Reserve Collection where they said they would be held for anyone to inspect. They even collected them from me in a Rolls Royce! They were 36 volt working with one switch per line all side by side like books in a book case. The circuitry was extremely simple and as you said, the contacts were merely the piano wire threaded in and out of a back board to which the switches were secured. We nicknamed them "Monkey up a stick" switches. The instruments had a big dial with 25, 50, or 75 numbers on the dial. One set the dial very carefully to the required number and picked up the handset. A large wheel inside had the required number of inset pieces of fibre inset into the rim, each piece was the impulse break which stepped the vertical magnet and raised the wipers to the required level. One wiper was the line and the other was the P wire. There were two wires and an earth wire to each 'phone. The bell or buzzer rang with DC over one leg and earth and the speech was over the other leg and earth.
This is the history of TR's French subsidiary, adapted from the company's website which was at http://www.trservices.fr/gb/espace_main.htm#history
1919 Creation of Téléautomate by TMC (Telephone Manufacturing Company) in the UK
1924 TMC creates Telephone Rentals, which acquires Téléautomate
1988 Cable and Wireless takes over Telephone Rentals
1990 Creation of Cable and Wireless France Holding
1993 TR Services is bought out by its management, resulting in the creation of TR Expansion
1994 TR Expansion acquires Central Téléphone and its manager takes a stake in TR Expansion
1995 Acquisition of a majority stake in RCS, whose capital is increased to FF10 million
1998 Central Téléphone creates DTO
1998 Buyout of minority shareholders in RCS, taking TR Services' stake to 100%
1999 TR Services floats on the stock market
1999 Regional expansion via acquisitions
1999 Change of name to Telecom Réseaux Services
2000 Further regional expansion
2001 Plan to sell network subsidiaries and to refocus on the traditional businesses of telephony and workstations
Télécom Réseaux Services, formerly known as TR Services, has a history that stretches back to 1919, and has always operated in the telephony business. In 1993, the company's four managers bought the company from Cable & Wireless, which wanted to refocus on its core business. The deal took the form of an LMBO. The plan at the time, which remains valid today, was to become the leading provider of company communication services, while remaining independent of hardware manufacturers and operators, and offering leading-edge expertise and a highly responsive service on a day-to-day basis. This strategy led to the acquisition of Central Téléphone in 1994, and then RCS in 1995. Télécom Réseaux Services floated on the Nouveau Marché of the Paris stock exchange on January 22 1999, and continued its acquisitions policy in the telecoms and networks industry. In 2001, the rapid deterioration in the networks business, along with global upheaval in the telecoms sector and a stoppage in supplies from the company's main supplier left the company with no other choice but to start bankruptcy proceedings for its RCS subsidiaries. In November of the same year, the Bobigny commercial court named a buyer for the network subsidiaries. Télécom Réseaux Services is now focused on its company communication services business (telephony, terminals and, more strategically, workstations), which has traditionally made a profit.
CLOCKS (taken, with acknowledgement, from the Clock Museum web site)
TMC had several locations, but one main works is at Park Hall in West Norwood, west of the cemetery. Robson Road runs down the side of the cemetery from Norwood High Street towards the works, and the staff going to work each day down Robson Road referred to it as 'walking the wall'. Several people who still live in West Norwood worked there or had relatives that did.
Colin Reynolds, formerly of Gents, has also written to tell me: "Gent used to manufacture master clocks, time products and fire alarm products for Telephone Rentals and badge them with their logo. I remember designing a fire alarm equipment for them. They rented out electrical equipment and supplied the service for its maintenance and at Gent we had engineers visit the factory for training."
Last revised: July 29, 2021