In 1886 one of the first freestanding call offices (later to be known as 'kiosks') was introduced in Bristol by the United Telephone Company. It was basically a small wooden hut where a three-minute call could be made for just 'tuppence' (a little under 1p). Not all early payphones had a coinbox built into them; some of the kiosks had a penny-in-the-slot mechanism on the door, while others had an attendant to collect the fee.

The National Telephone Company actually produced subscribers' Trunk Pass Keys which were used to unlock call offices when members of the public wished to make a trunk call in the attendant's absence.  These would have been used in coin boxes designed by "Smith and Sinclair".  A "Smith and Sinclair" style Coinbox is pictured below.  The slots on the top were for Penny and Sixpenny coins whilst the slots on the front were for the Pass keys used by subscribers.  When the Pass Keys were turned they had the same effect as when a coin was inserted,  These coinboxes were mainly used in the Glasgow area of Scotland around the mid 1880's.

Around 1884 the NTC also produced paper stamps which were issued for the payment of telephone calls at call offices.  Colonel Robert Raynsford-Jackson, chairman of the NTC, was pictured on the stamps which had values of one pence and one shilling.

West Counties and Wales Telephone Company

NTC Trunk Pass - front view

NTC Trunk Pass - rear view

NTC Trunk Pass - front view


These keys were issues to members of the Stock Exchange and the Baltic and Wool Exchanges who wanted to make Trunk calls, from the special suites of call offices provided, after the attendants had gone off duty and locked up for the night.

Smith and Sinclair style Coinbox



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Last revised: December 26, 2021