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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

Cable Work at Greenwich: Telcon Electrical Staff, 1890

The Submarine Cable Electrical Test Staff

Electrical Staff at Greenwich, 1890
Back row: Bill Hintze, F.A. Lovey, Redgrave, J. May, T. Clack
Sitting on buoy: J. Downs, Pinkerton
Front row: Tonking, Donavan, Dr Weatherall, Stevenson, Bob Lewis

From Telcon House Magazine No. 5:

The above photograph shows the Submarine Cable Electrical Test Engineers at Greenwich in 1895 [but note that the photograph is dated 1890 by hand], with the exception of Messrs. Clark (Chief Electrician), Todhunter and Wittrick, who were doubtless at sea, and also possibly of Messrs. Clifford and Riddle. Our correspondent is unable to say definitely whether the two last named were in this department or not.

In those days the duties of the Electrical Test Staff covered a wider field than they do now. The Company then ran its own steam-driven generators and, in addition to cable testing, these men were responsible for electric lighting and power, electric welding, and the telephone system. These latter duties are now undertaken by the separate Electricians' Department.

Many of the instruments then used were extremely delicate, and Dr. Weatherall had a great reputation for his skill in repairing not only these, but also all the sundry watches which had ceased to function properly. Rather an autocrat in his own sphere of work, he would brook interference from nobody.

Mr. Tonking was known as the inventor of the Tonking test key which is still in use to-day. Mr. Stevenson's stately progress through the factory on his daily tour of inspection was the signal for the youngsters (one of them our Mr. F. Foster) to scuttle away like rabbits and get very busy. Incidentally, Mr. Foster remembers that one of his duties was to run up the road every morning with a large medicine bottle and buy twopenny worth of gin for one of these gentlemen who shall remain unnamed.

The building seen in the photograph was known as the Oil Store and still exists near the Tape Slitting Shop and Enderby House. The old type cable buoys are also of interest.

Thanks to Allan Green for providing the scan of this photograph.

When the photograph was published in the Telcon House Magazine in 1949 it generated a number of comments from old-timer readers, and another photograph from the same period was printed in the next issue:

Frank R. Lucas, Henry Clifford, Chas. Crook,
Sherwin, Corder, Todhunter, London, Churchill


For more information on the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance
Company (Telcon) and cable making at Greenwich, see
Cable Work at Greenwich
A Photographic View of Enderby's Wharf in 2004 and
150 Years Of Industry & Enterprise At Enderby's Wharf

Copyright © 2009 FTL Design

Last revised: 29 January, 2009

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