BT Telephone Exchange – Ashton under Lyne

BT Roundabout OL6 6QQ

In 1913 Ashton is already a crowded town, a cotton town.

The first telephone exchange arrives and sweeps away property at the junction of Scotland and Bedford Streets.

The second arrives along with the bypass and establishes a roundabout, an island of telecommunication.

Tameside Image Archive

There they sit betwixt St Michael’s Parish Church and Albion Congregational.

A marriage of inter-war brick Revivalism and post-war concrete Brutalism.

Ninety nine point nine percent of the passing parade pass by onto the bypass by car, I took time to circumnavigate the site on foot.

This is what I saw.

BT Hanley Tower

You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you,
You’re nobody ’til somebody cares.
You may be king, you may possess the world and it’s gold,
But gold won’t bring you happiness when you’re growing old.

Hanley GSC represents a major telecommunication facility for BT and is positioned within the City boundaries of Stoke-on-Trent, on a very congested site.

The building fabric was starting to degrade and in need of structural refurbishment.

Works comprised of cleaning down the externals by high pressure water jetting, carrying out concrete repairs, applying an anti-carbonation coating, anti-corrosion treatments, painting the windows and applying sealants to windows and various joints around the structure.

All work was carried out whilst the exchange was fully manned and operational.

Works were carried outover a 26 week period, utilising mast climbers around the structure, with a limited amount of scaffolding on the low level structures.

Contract value £580,000

Makers.

Derided locally as an eyesore, currently the tallest building in town following the demolition of Unity House.

It has an antecedent as an immediate neighbour.

Former telephone exchange and offices – circa 1900.

Brick and terracotta with plain tiled roof. Eclectic style, with main block of three storeys, and three 3 narrow bays with flanking towers, all vertical spaces elongated.

The Potteries

Let’s take a look at the young upstart.

Telephone Exchange Gateshead

Having formerly posted a post about the Hadrian TSC in Newcastle, it seemed only right to record it’s not too distant cousin across the Tyne.

Here we are at the confluence of main roads.

I wandered around circuitously, circumnavigating this fine building.

The attendant BT workers are as ever kind and helpful, many thanks.

Hadrian TSC – BT Newcastle upon Tyne

Melboune Street

Land was acquired for this site in 1929 for the then General Post Office.

The first buildings are constructed in 1932 as General Stores, a Workshop and Garages.

BT Digital Archives

These were demolished in 1966 to make way for the present development.

The current building was phase one of eleven, which was to include a further twenty two storey building with a planned capacity of twenty four thousand people by 1980.

Building construction started in 1969 and was completed in 1972.

Final cost was £1,218,401.

My thanks to Sonna Lawrence BT employee, for his time and information.

There is little by way of background information online, save for this thread.

It’s officially The Hadrian Trunk Switching Centre and it is indeed owned by BT. It’s just a telephone exchange with a handful of staff. I only know this as I used to work for BT 150 customer service when ISDN was being rolled out 20 years ago and when there was a fault in the Newcastle area it was usually something going wrong in this building.

I’ve heard that it goes down as far as it goes up.

Someone has mentioned the basement which is legendary amongst the people who work there. Some say it’s a nuclear bunker, some say there’s a tunnel that goes to the other BT building in Carliol Square, others say there’s nothing down there.

The rumour always was that the central core was nuclear bomb proof so people in power could still make phonecalls and there is also a service tunnel going across to the CTE on the other side of the central motorway.

One online source suggests it may have been designed by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works.

All that aside I took a look around outside, come along circumnavigate along with me.

BT Building – Warrington

Wilson Patten street Warrington Cheshire WA1

A forgotten part of Warrington town centre could be turned into plush new affordable flats.

Developers are looking to put an eight-storey apartment block off Wilson Patten Street close to the former BT telephone exchange building – described in the planning application as an:

ugly concrete monolith

It would be home to a mix of forty one, two and three bed flats on the spare land which is currently used as a car park.

Warrington Guardian

Typically the architecture of Twentieth Century infrastructure is reviled and ridiculed – simply swept away by contemporary, anonymous design and construction.

At least in this instance the developers intend to retain the ugly concrete monolith.

For me it is an essay in confident construction and decoration, the marriage of 1955’s brick utilitarianism, with a later concrete structure.

Poised on massive grey piloti, rising elegantly above the town.

Adorned with a simple articulation of surface.

Telephone Exchange – Stockport

Typically, as with timid police officers, telephone exchanges seem to travel in pairs.

An inter-war brick building, of a utilitarian brick Classicism, restrained in nature, along with a post-war concrete construction.

These are pragmatic architectural forms, constrained within a typology, and responding to the nature of the technology contained within.

Here is the building of 1934 – BT Archives

In 1961 – when Exchange Street was but a rough track, the area was also known as Blueshop Yard.

Stockport Image Archive

The concrete cousin constructed in 1971.

So here we are in 2021 taking a close look at these BT beauties, without further ado.