The quality and significance of the documents, photographs and films preserved by BT Archives have been recognised through both the Designation and Memory of the World Schemes.
Historical phone books
Near complete set of phone books for the whole country produced not only by BT, but also by its predecessors including Post Office Telecommunications, the National Telephone Company and other private companies. Dating back to 1880, the year after the public telephone service was introduced into Great Britain, they are of particular interest to family historians.
BT's historical phone books 1880-1984 are also available online. The phone books have been scanned with Ancestry.co.uk and are available for historical genealogical research purposes to anyone with Internet access anywhere in the world. Copies of the phone books from 1880 to the present day may also still be viewed in person at BT Archives.
PDF version of an information sheet on British phone books (363kb)
Please note: we no longer hold historical copies of the Yellow Pages directory. These are now available for inspection at the Berkshire Record Office.
Post Office collections
Historical records of the telecommunications function of the Post Office and its predecessors transferred from the Post Office Archives. These papers document the development of the telegraph and telephone services up to 1980, and include records of preceding private telegraph and telephone companies taken over by the Post Office dating back to the early part of the 19th century. You can now search these records on our online catalogue and on the BT Digital Archives. The collections are available to researchers in full at BT Archives.
Private telegraph companies
The collection of records from the private telegraph companies dating back to 1846 are some of the oldest held by BT Archives. This collection comprises of the records created and used by the inland private telegraph companies before the network was nationalised under the Post Office in 1870. It also includes some private telegraph companies who operated international services, which were brought under control of the Post Office. This collection includes many interesting items including company letter books and plans of the developing telegraph network. You can now search these records on our online catalogue and on the BT Digital Archives. The collections are available to researchers in full at BT Archives.
PDF version of an information sheet on private telegraph companies (122kb)
This comprises of records created by the company from 1980 to the present day. These are subject to a thirty year closure period.
Visual materials library
The historical photographic, video and film collections of BT and Post Office Telecommunications dating back to the last century. A fascinating body of records which includes not just images of old equipment, but views of engineers and telephone operators at work, old vehicles, street furniture and scenes and so forth, including many local views. Copy films, photographic prints and scanned images can be supplied to order, subject to copyright restrictions.
Historical communications library
BT Archives holds a wide selection of printed sources relating to the history of communications, from major scientific breakthroughs and national events to histories of local exchanges and telecommunications pioneers.
Sources including journals and periodicals, technical and historical works (dating back to the 18th century) and external publications and reports complement our archival records.
We also hold a wide selection of BT publications, such as annual reports and staff magazines, many of which are digitised and can be searched electronically in our searchroom.