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Telephone No. 1

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 27th July, 1951, transcribed by Gill Hollis

How Rushden got its First Telephone
Now No. 1 Goes Out

Here is the story of Rushden One – the town’s first telephone, which will lose its identity under the new numbering system.

In the early 1870s the late Mr. John S. Clipson, of Rushden, travelled to Canada and the United States on business and used for the first time that wonderful invention of the day, the telephone. Fired with enthusiasm, he settled at Higham Ferrers on his return and at once began campaigning for its local installation.

How he succeeded has been described to us by his daughter, Miss W. M. Clipson, of Church Street, Rushden, whose phone has the coveted number, Rushden 1. Under the automatic system, which will come into operation in the autumn, the family will lose this distinction and with it, no doubt, the many amusing incidents and inquiries which have been its everyday accompaniment.

Taking up the story at the point of her father’s return to Higham Ferrers, Miss Clipson relates: “He at once began to bombard the National Telephone Company, whose headquarters were at Nottingham, but they could not bring a wire for him alone. In about two years, however, a deputation of manufacturers came over from Rushden asking my father to open a repairing shop in Rushden for the machinery they were then beginning to install in their factories.

Bought a shop

“Conditions in Rushden, as far as housing and shops were concerned, were as difficult then as now, but at an opportune moment an old bachelor died and left his shop – which had not been opened for 20 years – and my father took it at once.

“In another two years the house in Church Street, Oak Lodge – with its staircase and porch made from the oak from the Windmill mentioned in Domesdaye Book – was in the market, and father bought that and across the drive erected a retail shop with a workshop behind.

“From the house to the shop he had a telephone – absolutely the first telephone in Rushden.

“All those years he had been worrying the National Telephone Company to bring a wire to Rushden, but with no response. However, what his business needs could not achieve the magic of a title could, and when Sir Percy Vernon, Bart. – afterwards Lord Lyveden – settled at Stanwick, his application was successful.

“The wires got to Sanders Lodge at the same time as the Bailiff’s man got to Sir Percy’s house at Stanwick, and the Company, remembering the importunate Mr. Clipson, thought it best to turn down Wellingborough Road and up to Church Street.

Tiny Exchange

“My father persuaded four boot manufacturers to have telephones installed, and a tiny exchange was established in the Post Office yard with Mrs. Grant in charge.

“In those days the telephone company was a very friendly affair, and at Christmas presents were exchanged and we were linked up with theatres at Birmingham and Nottingham to “listen-in” to pantomimes.

“Business men used to ring up from London to ask father to give messages to their wives when they had missed the last trains home. Soon we shall lose this distinctive number, alas, and no longer be asked by lady friends of the Army of Occupation, “Are you Yelden Post Office?”

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