Home:  Exchange Equipment: GPO 5 x 20 DOLLS EYE EXCHANGE (SWITCHBOARD), 1950's


View all Exchange Equipment


Standard GPO design of manual type 'Dolls Eye' Switchboard.

Your comments:

  • Hi l worked on one of these switchboards at The British Red Cross Society on Hyde Park Corner London. Was there from 1967 to 1971 after leaving school at 15. Still remember so much about it an amazing machine.:-)
    .......... Jean Carter, Kidderminster Worcester England., 5th of May 2023

  • Great nostalgic memories of the dolls eye switchboard.
    In Wembley park offices in the 1950s I used to chat with
    the telelephonist receptionist in the lobby. In later years we were married for over 50 years so I had to buy a switchboard (which is my best possession ever) and
    the grandchildren loved to play with it after tuition from my wife who could still work it properly.
    I have fixed it so it works with incoming calls but still haven’t got it working outwards. I will get there
    eventually I hope.
    .......... alec antrobus, Raunds, Northamptonshire, 16th of April 2021

  • In 1962, I worked for the ACCA in Bedford Square in London WC!. I worked sometimes at the dolls eye switchboard and discovered how to connect two separately outside friends with me and the three of us had a chat together at lunchtimes when there were fewer people about. I also remember having my 21st birthday while working there.
    .......... Hazel Collins, formerlySmith, Calcot near Reading, 17th of July 2019

  • Worked one of these in the 80s when working with Graham Builder's Merchants in the East End of Glasgow, it was the best board I ever used
    .......... Morag, Cambuslang South Lanarkshire, 6th of December 2016

  • I worked a 10 + 50 PMBX back in the 1960s. Never had so much fun in my life and never had a job I enjoyed so much. I got a job with Baric computers in the early 70s using the new fangled electronic switchboard the GPO designed to carry the electronic signals from the stock exchange computer data link machines across to the machines at Baric computers. The share information was processed by the (huge) computer on the top floor in an air conditioned room then the information was relayed back to the stock exchange via data link machines connected to the stock exchanges via the switchboard. Great fun! I still have the operating manual for the PMBX 10 X 50 and the PABX1 I was trained on at age 15.
    .......... Chris Dailly, Salford, UK., 3rd of July 2016

  • I worked on this switchboard at Jarrold & Son in Norwich, Norfolk fresh from school aged 15 years old in 1956 and can still remember some of the extension numbers, not bad for someone aged 74 this year, happy memories!!
    .......... Glen Miller, Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K, 13th of September 2015

  • Absolutely loved using the dolls eye switchboard. ...I worked at the bank of scotland in London when I left school at 16.....Also used a telex machine.......wonderful time's
    .......... Sharon Paxman, Essex, 3rd of May 2015

  • Hi, I remember working on a dolls eye at the age of 15 in 1959, brings back memories, I worked for a Massey Harrison Tractors, distributor, in Suffolk, cranking the handle, horrible headset and chest speaker, then moved on to a 1A Lamp signalling, the supervisor used to poke us in the back with a ruler if you did not answer calls fast enough, try being polite when a ruler is jabbing you, those were the days,fond memories, U F Chapman.

    .......... Una Faye Marie Nee Chapman, Torre-Pacheco, Murcia Spain., 5th of February 2015

  • I also worked these boards in the mid 1970s at the international exchange. They were great fun. I found the GPO a bit strict for a young girl and I was another one of those girls who 'took the training and run'. I went from there to the Head Office of London Transport where I worked on a 12 position Dolls Eye for many years. Fond memories. I have searched from time to time to see if I could find one of these boards for sale but they seem to be few and far between.
    .......... Cally Lewis, Braintree Essex, 8th of May 2014

  • I started work in 1966 in Coventry and used one of these switchboards. I loved it. Several years later in the 1980's I went to work in a new company, just opening, and whilst they were waiting for a new switchboard they had one of these.I loved it, great fun to use.
    Been to the motor museum in Coventry today and they have one in an exhibition room there. Great memories.
    .......... Jane Barrett, Coventry, 20th of April 2014

  • I have one of these presently stored in my garage. It was bought from BT in the 1980s having previously served in a car spares business in Great Western Road Gloucester since 1936 (I believe). Back in the day as a Customer and Line Maintenance engineer I maintained such switchboards along with all of the usual subscriber kit - business and residential. Great days!
    .......... Chris Coopey, Hove, 22nd of February 2014

  • I have an almost identical GPO 5 X 20 Dolls Eye Switchboard.
    I purchased this item nearly 50 years ago, from the GPO who had just removed it from a hotel where I was working as an electrician.
    My switchboard has a night switch at the top front and the receiver hangs on a cradle front left.
    I also have the original circuit diagram and an official receipt from the GPO.
    I was told by the hotel proprietor that the switchboard was installed in 1948 and it does show some signs of modification which must have been done prior to installation.
    .......... David Ansbacher, Salford / England, 27th of December 2012

  • I trained with the Post Office at Faraday (?) exchange, just by St. Paul's cathedral, in the mid-1970's, as an "International Operator." I loved the work, I loved the switchboards (I wish somebody had thought to tell us that wearing some gloves would help to eliminate all the static shocks we received). Phoned in bomb scares purportedly from the IRA were frequent, and at first we all used to have to drop everything and walk the miles through the long narrow corridors, with very wonky floors, or the exchange, to evacuate the building, and gather on the steps of St. Paul's until the all clear was given, leaving many callers connected to their overseas calls for much, much longer than they had anticipated. Eventually we got tired of all the hoax calls, and were given permission to stay and continue working if we did not wish to evacuate.
    I was only a very young teenager, and saw myself surrounded by dozens of unmarried much older women, who had been in the Post Office telephone service nearly their whole lives, and were severely dedicated to their work, to the exclusion of much else. I became frightened by such a future looming before me, and I handed in my notice. The woman in personnel gave me quite a telling off, complaining about all the young girls who joined the P.O. only to acquire the excellent training, with no intention of staying on afterwards. (Interesting to note that she was one such elderly unmarried employee, nearing retirement after a lifetime of service in the exchange.) She told me that the Post Office did not give references, as the very fact that we were Post Office trained was reference enough. She turned out to be right about that, at least. I went on to temp all over London, able to instantly master any switchboard in front of me, thanks to my training. Once I had worked on the more modern, electronic ones, though, it was often with dismay that I would turn up to temp at a stuffy old-fashioned office, where very little money was ever spent on office equipment, to find myself working a 1930's Doll's Eye again. Often there were "Sirs", and "Lords", or just plain old chairmen, or Managing Directors of companies who over-estimated their own importance, and would furiously press up and down on their telephone receiver button, making the Doll's Eye clack up and down rapidly on the switchboard, sending the clear message that this was a person not used to being kept waiting!
    I would love to own a switchboard - of any kind - just for pleasure, in my home now.
    .......... Carol M. A. K., Cape Town, South Africa, 25th of November 2012

  • I was a PO maintenance man, grade Technician 2a, in Liverpool from 66 to 70. Not only were we still fixing thousands of these supposed 50s doll's eye boards, but the fitters were still installing them! The PO had tried to make them look more up to date by removing wooden mouldings, etc., but they still looked like something from a war film.
    A lot of gear looked like it had come straight out of a Wellington bomber. Things like headsets and plugs looked like they'd been designed when Victoria was on the throne. The whole system had a feeling of antiquity- you would sometimes find connection boxes, DPs, poles, etc., which still bore markings of the National Telephone Company. The NTC was nationalised in 1927 or so!
    .......... Tony, London, 14th of April 2012

  • OMG What memories, I used to love working these, I used to push 2 outside lines up and have a 3 way conversation (when no one was looking) Although this does look a little different from the one I actually used, it had the dialler on the desk on the right.
    .......... jan bush, Cambs, 17th of January 2012

  • Oh my goodness, such memories, having been trained by the British Railways originally, it was an important role to play within any company.

    I loved my job as telephonist, after a year or two, I worked as a "Temp" for the employment agencies, and worked for many firms, on a small switchboards such as this, to as big as 6 to 8 position switchboards for large companies such as Heinz and G.E.C., Where it would look like Blackpool Illuminations all lit up and busy.

    I had to wear white cotton gloves, due to terrific static shocks from the equipment, this did not happen to everyone. And the necessary pen with the black plastic ball on the end, which one used to dial the thousands of numbers each day on the metal dial on the switchboard.

    It was challenging in many cases, particularly during fire practices and bomb scares in the 6Os, as the switchboard operators were obliged to man the switch boards to the end, to ensure all departments called in to confirm they were empty before we were allowed to close it I remember.

    I close my eyes and can still hear the clicks of the dolls eyes dropping as the calls came in, and the clunking of the "Jacks" as they were thrust into the extensions, and the tttthhhonks as they dropped back into position until the next time they were required..... oh happy days, I still have a green plastic "Jack" in my memory box, which we would use to close an extension when out of service.

    I know I could sit down and quite confidently operate one today with pleasure.
    .......... Jan Spary, Northamptonshire, 8th of November 2011

  • My first job was in a small ad agency in Chelsea in the late seventies and I had to man the dolls eye switchboard while the receptionist took her lunch hour. I think it was there as a retro-chic thing - the rest of the agency was all chrome, leather and glass.

    At first the board looked alarming with the different coloured flexes criss-crossing the board, but once I learned who was on the end of which extension number it was fun and very easy to use. When calls came in you'd take the relevant cable and plug it into the extension requested (numbered holes on the vertical panel above). If anyone from inside the agency wanted to make an outside call, or speak to another extension in the company, the dolls eye would drop down and you inserted a plug to speak to them.

    One of the senior directors was rude and a bully in face to face situations. If he was vile on the phone I'd pull the plug out just enough to cut him off and then ram it back again and deny all knowledge...
    .......... Nell McMorland Hunter, London then, Somerset now, 23rd of October 2011

Add a memory or information about this object


©2007 The Museum of Technology, The Great War and WWII
Company registered in England No. 7452160, Registered Charity No. 1140352, Accredited Museum No. 2221