We started life as the telephone department within the Hull Municipal Corporation and in the subsequent 112 years we’ve evolved and transformed into the business we are today.

We’ve always been proud of being a little different. Our founders were pioneers and innovators in the field of telephony and today we emulate their spirit by helping our customers harness the power of technology.

Year

telegraph act
telegraph act
1899

The telegraph act was passed.

The Telegraph Act was passed, allowing local authorities to set up their own telephone systems to compete with the National Telephone Company (NTC) in rapidly expanding urban areas.

Out of 1334 local authorities, Hull Corporation was one of 55 that decided to go ahead. Only 28 of 600 local businesses originally supported the idea of creating Hull’s own telephone system.

Despite initial reluctance from the business community and fierce opposition from the NTC, in 1902 Hull Corporation gained its first licence to operate services in the Hull area and borrowed £43,202 to set the system up.

granted license to run own telephone network
granted license to run own telephone network
1902

Hull City Council granted licence to run own telephone network.

Despite strong opposition from the National Telephone Company (N.T.C.), who held a virtual monopoly at that time providing local telephone services, the Postmaster General issued Hull City Council with a licence to construct and run its own telephone system. Anxious to avoid the cost of laying down a duplicate telephone system, the Council entered into negotiations with N.T.C. with a view to eventually buying the existing system in Hull. The two came to an arrangement that allowed the Corporation's subscribers to have free calls to N.T.C's subscribers in Hull and other towns. Any costs for interconnecting trunk lines would have to be paid though to the General Post Office. The trunk line system in the UK had been nationalised in 1896.

Following a public inquiry, the Local Government Board approved a loan of £43,202 to finance the construction of the new municipal system.

Hull Telephone Department opened its first telephone exchange
Hull Telephone Department opened its first telephone exchange
1904

Hull Telephone Department opened its first telephone exchange.

On November 28 the Hull Telephone Department opened its first telephone exchange 7 Wincolmlee, the former site of a public baths. The exchange was equipped with a new, ‘state of the art’ 20 position Ericsson-Bell manual switchboard, capable of handling 1,000 subscribers.

The department produced its first telephone directory. Subscribers were mainly business customers who rented a telephone line, as very few households could afford the £3 annual fee and 1d per call tariff.

In 1911 the Postmaster General announced the intention of the Government to take over the NTC’s system when its existing licence expired in 1911. At this time it was unclear what the future would hold for Hull Telephone Department and by 1913 it was the only remaining council owned telephone department. Others had closed or been taken over by the N.T.C as a result of poor technology choice or financial pressure.

First Telephone Manager appointed

In October 1903 - Thomas Holme (aged 24) former Assistant Manager and Financial Controller at Portsmouth Corporate Telephone Service was appointed Manager of the Telephone Department. He would be responsible for the construction of the telephone system from the beginning and development of the network. Hull Corporation initially paid Thomas Holme an annual salary of £200 which was raised almost immediately to £250. For the next forty three years Thomas managed the corporation telephone service, notably through two World Wars.

Hull City Council purchase N.T.C.’s network for £192,423
Hull City Council purchase N.T.C.’s network for £192,423
1914

Hull City Council purchase N.T.C.’s network for £192,423.

In 1911 N.T.C's licence expired and the Post Office took control of their network across the UK, including its Hull network, creating a nationwide service. The Hull Telephone Department remained independent.Uncertainty as to the future of Hull Telephone Department remained until the Summer of 1913 when the Postmaster General wrote to the Corporation.

In the Summer of 1913, the Postmaster General agreed that Hull Telephone network could continue independently, provided certain conditions were met. If Hull City Council agreed to buy all nine of N.T.C's exchanges and network infrastructure in the Hull licensed area and that the employees transferred to work for the Hull Telephone Department, the licence would be issued.

At a special meeting in January 1914 the City Council decided by 42 votes to 12 to the Postmaster General’s terms and bought the NTC’s network for £192,423, securing the future of the only remaining council-owned Corporation in the UK. The purchase of the NTC equipment marked one of the biggest transactions in the history of the council. The Council took out a Government loan, which was to be repaid within nineteen years.

Hull Telephone Department’s plans to develop and merge the two networks were stalled at the onset of the First World War.

Iconic K6 telephone box introduced
Iconic K6 telephone box introduced
1936

Iconic K6 telephone box introduced.

The Post Office commissioned the design of a new kiosk to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V.

The K6 (kiosk number 6), introduced in 1936; is regarded as an iconic British symbol across the world. Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, it was the first red telephone kiosk to be used extensively outside London. Many thousands were deployed in virtually every town and city.

Again the same kiosks were installed in Hull but painted cream and without the crowns. They remain cream to this day and are unique to the city of Hull and parts of East Yorkshire covered by our telephone service.

Phone Department war effort as Hull devastated by air raids.
Phone Department war effort as Hull devastated by air raids.
1940

Phone Department war effort as Hull devastated by air raids.

The first recorded air raid on the city of Hull took place on 19 June. Two weeks later, Hull suffered the first daylight raid in the country. Engineers from Hull Telephone Department worked day and night to repair the damage to underground cables and vital services.Hull suffered its worst nights of bombing at the hands of the Nazi Luftwaffe May 7, 8 and 9, 1941, saw the peak of the Hull Blitz. Part of Hull Telephone Department’s central exchange and office at Mytongate head office was destroyed by a bomb. The Department move its head office temporarily to Rosedene 74 Newland Park until the building was repaired.

Between 1939 and 1945, Hull suffered 82 air raids, and by the end of the war it was estimated that 1,200 people had been killed. At the time, however, reporting restrictions meant that a bare minimum of news reached the public and Hull was often referred to as just 'a North East Coast Town.'

With the outbreak of the Second World War, the Department provided 4,000 telephone lines for essential services and halted all expansion plans due to the shortage of equipment and supplies.

Hull followed London and introduced a new 99 service to directly contact the emergency services. In 1963, an extra digit added to create the 999 service still in place today.

'Call Father Christmas' service was introduced.
'Call Father Christmas' service was introduced.
1952

'Call Father Christmas' service was introduced.

Having heard of a recorded message service in Scandinavia, Hull Councillor J M Stamper suggested the idea of putting Father Christmas on the telephone. The ‘Call Father Christmas’ service was introduced shortly afterwards, the first of its kind in the UK. By dialling a Hull Central number children could hear recordings of a Christmas story and carol singing. The stories were written and performed by Hull Telephone employees.

The first story attracted 20,000 callers, with 35,000 customers the following year with calls and media interest received nationally and internationally.

The success of the Father Christmas service led to the creation of other recorded information lines, such as Bedtime Stories, Teledisc and Telechef. This recipe line was introduced in 1950s and was still going strong until the 1990's, with 50s recipes such as meat loaf and corned beef with cabbages being replaced by dishes such as Italian Chicken Bake.

Celebrating our Golden Jubilee.
Celebrating our Golden Jubilee.
1954

Celebrating our Golden Jubilee.

Golden Jubilee Kingston Upon Hull Corporate Telephones. To celebrate its Golden Jubilee, Hull Corporation produced Golden Pages, a Yellow Pages® forerunner printed on gold paper and distributed with a classified business section.

In those days, categories included tripe dressers, clog makers, servants’ employment agencies and bagatelle table manufacturers – a far cry from today’s entries, which include feng shui, image consultants and hydroponics.

Diamond Jubilee sees opening of new Head Office.
Diamond Jubilee sees opening of new Head Office.
1964

Diamond Jubilee sees opening of new Head Office.

Celebrating our Diamond Jubilee with the official opening of the new Central exchange and Head Office, Telephone House in Carr Lane Hull.

Hull Telephone Department becomes Kingston Communications (HULL) PLC.
Hull Telephone Department becomes Kingston Communications (HULL) PLC.
1987

Hull Telephone Department becomes Kingston Communications (HULL) PLC.

On 17 February 1987, Hull City Council announced plans for a Municipal Company to be formed. The City Council had in the past avoided constraints on local government capital spending by using 'leasing' to finance a large proportion of the Telephone Department modernisation programmes. Faced with the threat of legislation that could stop this method of financing, proposals gathered for the creation of a municipal limited company. Other methods of raising finance would then become impossible.

The complicated process of transforming the Telephone Department into a limited company began and in 1987, a new licence was issued by the Secretary of State, under the 1984 Telecommunications Act, to the council’s wholly owned operating company, Kingston Communications (HULL) PLC. This became effective from 1 January 1988.

Conversion to System X, the first all digital network in Europe.
Conversion to System X, the first all digital network in Europe.
1989

Conversion to System X, the first all digital network in Europe.

On 28 November 1984 the hand-over of the first System X digital exchange at West Exchange took place, exactly 80 years to the minute, after the opening of the very first exchange in Trippett Street, Wincolmlee (1904). This marked the start of the conversion to a fully digital network. The project was a huge investment by Hull City Council who considered the work essential to the future success of the Hull area.

The conversion was completed in 1989. Hull had the first all digital network in Europe.

The 'new' System X telephone exchanges catered for 150,000 lines and used stored programme control with advanced-micro-chip technology and the use of fibre optic cables. The switch to digital meant clearer calls, increased reliability, full itemised bills and newer services.

Launch Europe’s first commercial “fast internet” service using ADSL technology.
Launch Europe’s first commercial “fast internet” service using ADSL technology.
1998

Launch Europe’s first commercial “fast internet” service using ADSL technology.

In 1998 KC launched Europe’s first commercial “fast internet” service using ADSL technology. ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) technology to deliver a whole new range of services including digital television, interactive services such as home shopping and high speed internet access to its 200,000 customers.

The first phase of the programme involved the launch of a range of high-speed internet services for business customers – believed to be the first commercial launch in Europe. Kingston Internet’s “Ultra” service enabled users to access the internet at far higher speeds – delivering video and computer images instantly.

Debut on the London Stock Exchange with partial flotation.
Debut on the London Stock Exchange with partial flotation.
1999

Debut on the London Stock Exchange with partial flotation.

In 1999, the Kingston Communications Group made its debut on the Stock Exchange with a partial flotation, with Hull City Council retaining a 41.3 per cent stake in the company. (Selling remaining shareholding in 2007)

More than 50,000 people in the Hull area bought shares in the company. The huge popularity of the sale among the public and institutional investors meant demand far exceeded supply of the stock.

The flotation provided funding for the rapid roll-out of a national network that took in 25 metropolitan cities – including Manchester, Reading, Bristol, Plymouth and Exeter.

Celebrating our centenary.
Celebrating our centenary.
2004

Celebrating our centenary.

The business celebrated its Centenary in 2004.

To mark the occasion, the company undertook months of celebrations including employees to carrying out “100 acts of goodwill” to help the local community in the run up to its official birthday on 28th November 2004.

Also for the first time the business opened it's doors to visitors at the head office 'Telephone House'. Inviting visitors to behind the scenes tours at the head office in Hull.

In June that year, Kingston Communications became the first mainland UK operator to deploy a new generation of IP based switching equipment (SoftSwitch) from Marconi. The event was a double celebration for both companies, marking not just Kingston’s Centenary, but also 100 years since Marconi first supplied Kingston with equipment.

In July, His Royal Highness The Duke of York visited the company as part of its birthday celebrations to see behind the scenes and unveil a commemorative plaque.

New company name as Hull City Council sell remaining stake.
New company name as Hull City Council sell remaining stake.
2007

New company name as Hull City Council sell remaining stake.

The shareholders of Kingston Communications (HULL) PLC voted to change the company name to KCOM Group PLC to more accurately reflect the changing shape and geographic reach of the company. Hull City Council sell remaining stake-holding in the business.

Roll-out of ultrafast broadband begins.
Roll-out of ultrafast broadband begins.
2012

Roll-out of ultrafast broadband begins.

In Hull and East Yorkshire KCOM began deployment of its ultrafast fibre broadband service, KCOM Lightstream.

KCOM’s Lightstream service uses Fibre To The Premises (sometimes called Fibre To The Home) technology. A fibre connection from the telephone exchange all the way to a customer’s property delivers a much faster connection than is possible with Fibre To The Cabinet and, because speeds are guaranteed, customers receive what they pay for. Fibre To The Premises is acknowledged by leading telecoms experts as the only future-proof broadband access technology.

KCOM Lightstream is now available to more than 150,000* properties across the Hull and East Yorkshire area, with deployment on target to reach more than 200,000 homes and businesses by March 2019.

Today, Hull remains the only city in the UK where ultrafast broadband, delivered directly to homes and businesses via fibre cables, is being rolled out as standard.

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