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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Kingsway Telephone Exchange - October 2013

Here's an old report from last year that's gone public now. The site has been sealed a while now, which is a shame as I'm sure that there's plenty that I didn't get to see on my visit, and plenty of people out there that didn't get to see it. This was a walk in for quite some time last year, and on our visit we sent one person in, walked to the other door, waited a little while, open sesame, lights on, and took the lift down. Somehow, even though we were down there for hours, I only took 46 photos, most of them duplicates. Wannabe. 

Thanks to Maniac for driving, and no thanks to Raptor Jesus for singing with him.



The Kingsway telephone exchange was built as a deep-level shelter underneath Chancery Lane tube station in the early 1940s. Although intended for use as an air raid shelter, like many of the deep level shelters it was not used for its intended purpose and was instead used as a government communications centre.

The site was given to the General Post Office (GPO) in 1949. At the time, the Post Office was also responsible for telephones as well as postal system. The two-tunnel shelter was extended by the addition of four tunnels at right-angles to the originals. It was completed by 1954, and in 1956 it became the termination point for the first transatlantic telephone cable - TAT1.

Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, Kingsway Trunk Switching Centre (as it became known) was a trunk switching centre and repeater station with Post Office engineering staff totalling over 200 at its peak. Also located on site was the Radio Interference Investigation Group, whose function was to prevent television viewers and radio listeners in north and central London from suffering interference to their service from external sources such as thermostats, fluorescent tubes and injection moulding equipment. The country's first Radiopaging terminal was also installed on this site in the 1970s.

The site had a staff restaurant, tea bar, games room and licensed bar. Its bar claimed to be the deepest in the United Kingdom, located at approximately 200 feet below street level. The site contained an artesian well and rations to maintain several hundred people for many months, ensuring a safe environment in case of nuclear attack.

By the early 1980s the site was subject to a phased closure after large quantities of blue asbestos were found on the site. By 1995 only the main distribution frame was still in service. This reportedly has been removed.

In October 2008, British Telecom announced that the tunnels were for sale.




The scale of this place is really impressive. Maps are available that show just how big it is. The tunnels themselves are about the same size as an underground tunnel, and as I roamed around we could hear the rumblings of the central line above us. The site also connects to Chancery Lane tube station, although it's not advisable to open that door. 




That was the only shot I got of the recreation/canteen room, which had its snooker tables removed some years prior. 


This section is beneath the west alley, and was pitch black. It was quite odd just sitting in there, torch off, fag on, with only distant rumblings.


There were signs of life, however. The fire alarm greets you once you have taken the lift down, some phones can still make calls, and the above piece of machinery was running. It is some ventilation. 





There are four huge avenues, which are essentially giant depot things.


This is the switchboard where transatlantic calls used to be connected. Shame I didn't have a wider lens to do it justice. 


One of my favourite photos that I've taken. Sheer luck more than anything. Goods avenue. 


Cable alley, I believe. Visitors would be wise to not venture further. 


Sausage made an appearance.




So yeah, this place was awesome. Given its recent mediappearance it wouldn't be surprised if it's belled up now, but I'm sure it will have its day again. 

Thanks for reading.

Sir Jonny Penishead

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