This film is part of Free

Braintree Goes Automatic

The £1m automatic system replaces the manual telephone exchanges. It takes Braintree into the 21st century whilst meeting increased demand.

Documentary 1975 10 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for East Anglian Film Archive


The system goes live on 12th June 1975 and is heralded as a ‘technological space age’ development. The system started in 1899 with only 9 subscribers and demand has steadily increased. In 1975 there are 7000 users. This is the last manual telephone exchange in East Anglia. Planning for systems generally takes 14 years but Braintree’s has only taken nine years to complete. 4000 customers’ phones were tested prior to the changeover. The new system will be modern and fault free.

The film starts with a bird’s eye view of Braintree and the market place. There are scenes of the telephone exchanges including large numbers of female operators. The film shows the transition from the old system to the new system and there is an explanation of how the service has evolved including the introduction of mobile exchanges and a shot of the Three Rivers exchange. The film explains how the modern system will replace these developments. There are shots of male engineers working on the exchanges. Home and office telephones and coin boxes are checked. Behind the scenes work is shown including ‘an army of engineers’ checking the miles of underground cables and moving cables and poles where necessary.