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  • Writer's pictureCarol Harris

Telephones on the Titanic

Read all about 'The Motor Horn Which Warns But Does Not Worry', the latest radio speakers and other delights made at the St Andrew's Works, Crofton Park's first major employer from 1890s-1920s.

Alfred Graham and Co and the St Andrew’s Works From 1894 until 1928, the largest employer in Crofton Park was the electrical engineering factory of Alfred Graham and Co., which began by designing and making loudspeakers and telephones for shipping. Graham’s was at the forefront during these early days of the telecommunications industry. By 1911, the company was advertising ‘Alfred Graham and Co’s patent loud-speaking naval telephones, as adopted by the British Admiralty, many foreign governments and the leading steamship lines.’ Graham's Navyphones were used on Britain's new Dreadnought class of battleships, and the new Australian Navy's heavy cruiser HMAS Australia. They were also installed on luxury liners such as the Olympic and Titanic. Phones in the liners' cabins could be supplied silver plated. The factory address, found on much of its equipment, was St Andrew’s Works, Crofton Park, SE4 – the site is the turning off Crofton Park Road which today is known as Ladywell Heights. By the outbreak of the First World War (1914), Graham’s specialities were ‘loud speaking telephones, exchange switchboards and other apparatus for communication on board war and mercantile vessels, for use in power stations, mines, collieries etc.’ The arrival of the motor car presented another opportunity for innovation and soon the company was producing the Graham Electrical Autohorn which, their advertisement promised, ‘warns but does not worry’.

In 1920, records and the radio began to replace the piano as home entertainment. A new company, ‘Graham Amplion Ltd.’ was established with the same Crofton Park address, producing loudspeakers for wireless sets, gramophones and radiograms. By this time, 300 staff were employed at the St Andrew’s works. At the 1922 British Industries Fair, the company exhibited as manufacturers of ‘Gramophones of quality and distinction (Algraphones); Spring Motors; "Sonat" Sound Boxes; Record Filing System; also Gramophone Components and Accessories. ‘ The company continued to innovate throughout the 1920s, developing public address systems and, especially, introducing the Totalisator (Tote) to British racetracks. Given their pioneering reputation, it is no surprise that Alfred Graham was one of the early shareholders in the British Broadcasting Company – the forerunner of the BBC.

In 1928, Graham’s moved to another, much larger factory, in Slough, Berkshire, and the St Andrew’s Works was put up for sale. A surveyor’s report In May that year remarked on the prime location of the one-acre site, ‘about five minutes’ walk from Crofton Park station with its electric train service…buildings of good modern construction, substantially built brick and slated roofs. The works comprise several spacious and well-lighted workshops; the whole premises having floor space about 30,000 square feet..,The offices are commodious and well fitted; excellent lavatory and sanitary accommodation is provided, both to offices and factory. ..... . Included are two dwelling houses. Nos. 94 and 96 Crofton Park Road.’

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