Isle Of Wight Anniversary For Invention Of Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell and Queen Victoria

It changed our society forever, and today (Sunday) the telephone marks a major anniversary. It is 140 years since it was first demonstrated to Queen Victoria at Osborne on the Isle of Wight.

SS Glenary, cross-channel cable being pulled ashore from ship

On January 14, 1878, Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his invention to the monarch at her holiday home near East Cowes, just two years after he first called his assistant by telephone.

He made the UK’s first long-distance calls to be witnesses by the public, calling Cowes, Southampton and London. 

Queen Victoria liked the telephone so much she wanted to buy it.

Osborne House

David Hay, BT’s head of heritage and archives, said: 

“This first demonstration of the phone to the Queen by Alexander Graham Bell is a significant moment in telecommunications history. Her approval and enthusiasm would have been an important step forward for a service which was still in its infancy.”

The range of a telephone exchange was once limited to five miles from the centre of a town, but in August 1884, the Postmaster General withdrew the restriction. It meant companies could apply for licences to work in the UK and create exchange areas, allowing more people access to the telephone.

Today there are more than 26 million residential phone lines in the UK and billions of phone calls are made every year.