The short distance across the channel to France resulted in the first cross-channel telephone cable being laid, and opened on April 1st 1891 between St Margaret’s Bay and Sangatte, France.
Preceding this was a submarine telegraph cable that ran between the location of what is now South Foreland Lighthouse and Ostend and Calais. The first attempt in 1850 failed almost immediately, but a susbequent cable opened in 1851 was the world’s first ever commercially successful undersea cable.
The 1891 cable was the first subsea telephone cable in the world to link two countries and was laid by the GPO cable ship HMTS Monarch during the difficult conditions of the winter. The cable was relaid in 1930 and in 1932 a large repeater station was completed on Bay Hill, St Margaret’s Bay.
A 1932 newspaper report notes the exchange was built by Hammond and Co and “800 tonnes of chalk had been removed for the cable and heating chambers in the basement”. The cable connected to the Post Office’s Faraday Building in London.
Photographs taken by BT in the 1990s (not available to share due to copyright) show underground facilities including a standby generator, toileet, small kitchen area and a domestic coal-effect electric fire with a small television balanced on it.
Additional Resources: BT Digital Archive - Photographs E54196 - E54219