Many of the early GPO telephones were wooden.  In fact, nearly all the wall phones were wood - but be careful because many of the early GPO phones were inherited or made from old National Telephone Company telephones.  You will have to speak to an expert about these and they will not be mentioned here.

This page will deal with the later wooden wall sets, many of which were made from old recovered bellsets in the GPO repair factories.  All metal work on any GPO telephone would be painted black, even if the metal was brass.

The picture to the right shows a reproduction telephone - look at the amount of brass. The phone is showing a dial fixing in brass (never), the flattened bell gongs are wrong and not deep enough. The shape of the top of bell receiver is incorrect and there is a square brass escutcheon plate around the switchooks (normally round).  The phone has plastic plastic cords.

Expect your wooden phone to be a bit bashed around - wood dents you know.  Don't touch a perfect phone, unless you can verify it's real.  Check out the external finish, all GPO phones were finished to a high standard.  The backboard of the phone should also have round wooden stand-offs - these are easily damaged and may be missing or badly damaged.  The phone on the right has no stand-offs on the back - the original phones were fixed to the wall by screws that fixed through the base and stand-offs.

The back of the phone should has a stamped model number and expect to find older model numbers (especially bellset model numbers, as bellsets were sometimes made into phones) crossed out.  There should also be a manufactures code and date.  There will also be a quality stamp in most cases.  You will also find repairs and holes filled in the factory refurbished phones - this is quite normal.

Most of the wooden phones had all the components fitted in them to make them work.  Candlesticks and 100 type telephones could also be connected to these phones and will work using the circuitry in the main wall phone.  Every phone had a bell, capacitor and induction coil.  The internal wiring will be cotton covered and not plastic.  A diagram will also be found in every phone (unless it has fallen out).  Most of the internal components will be dated and have a manufacturers code.

Wooden telephones had a Bell Receiver No. 1 or a Bakelite handset called a Telephone No. 164.  The bell receiver was an old style magnet receiver which is quite weighty.  The picture to the right shows an original bell receiver broken down into it's component pieces.  The receiver cover was black (although made of brass) and had a plastic sort of finish applied to it.  These have gone brown over the years and in a lot of cases, have fallen off.  Always ensure that the original earpiece cover is fitted, as this is a slimmer version of the 100 & 200 telephone earpiece and generally has a dimple on the edge.  Make sure that there is also a metal plate under the earpiece.

Reproduction Bell Receivers normally have a metal weight inside them.

Reproductions tend to have brass dials - which is totally wrong as the GPO never used brass dials - they were either black or stainless steel.  The dial finger stop should be next to the 0, but is generally slightly to the right of the 0 on reproductions (see the picture at the bottom of this page).

These GPO wall phones are now pretty elderly, so look for age, old components and wiring - check for dust and dirt inside the case!

Is it old or is it new???

Reproduction phone above
Easily identified by the:-
  1. Plastic wiring
  2. Wiring generally of the same colour
  3. Wiring not laid out and fixed
  4. Bell ringer is modern
  5. Escutcheon plate, by switch-hook - too fat
  6. Screw tags of a modern type
  7. Piece of wood under bell ringer
  8. Gongs fixed to wooden case
  9. Dial is not GPO
  10. No capacitor or induction coil.
  11. No circuit diagram
  12. Look like steel hinges

The varnish colour isn't a bad shade!

Original GPO Telephone No. 121 above
Easily Identified by the:-
  1. Brown coloured bell receiver (due to discolouring in sunlight)
  2. Cotton covered internal wiring
  3. Wiring is nicely laid and fitted
  4. Pasted diagram
  5. Large bell coils
  6. Huge induction coil - just above capacitor (square grey item at bottom)
  7. Exposed switches
  8. Grey metal capacitor at the bottom
  9. Blackened hinges
  10. Metal work in dull black finish

Total Replica

Reproduction above

Easily identified by the:-

  1. Bell Receiver is wrongly shaped
  2. Brass dial
  3. Dial finger stop in wrong place
  4. Brass microphone and speaking tube
  5. Brass bell clapper

Reproduction above

Close up of the brass microphone - All old phones had a Bakelite speaking tube


Bellset No. 20 converted to look like a Telephone No. 121

Bellset 20 made to look like a telephone 121

The points to look at are:-
  1. Metal parts are not black.  May be original but cleaned back to brass
  2. Receiver - wrong shape
  3. Dial mounting is straight and brass
  4. Funny screws on bell gongs
  5. Case is much deeper than normal
Bellset 20 made to look like a telephone 121

The points to look at are:-
  1. The 121 had no switch unit
  2. Dial looks like it has a plastic number ring
  3. Dial looks like is has a plastic mount
  4. There is a generator handle on the right.  The 121 had no generator inside the case
  5. Bell gong fixings do not look correct
  1. Wiring has been cut away from the switch unit
  2. Unusual to see the modern bell ringer in this type of phone/bellset
  3. Wiring is just run across the insides and not fixed or laid out
  1. Diagram states Bellset No. 20
  2. Plastic wiring with 1980's colours
  3. Wiring enters through the label

Indian dial

Indian Dial - Front
Indian Dial - Rear

Check out the reproduction phones made by Conversation Pieces

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Last revised: January 30, 2021