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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 November 2007, 03:51 GMT
Millions of phone numbers online
Writer Evelyn Waugh's number is among millions online

British phone books dating as far back as 1880 are to be published online for the first time.

More than 280m names, numbers and addresses in 1,780 British phone books will be online following a 26-month project by Ancestry.co.uk.

The editions were published between 1880 and 1984, and include famous figures such as former prime ministers, writers and composers.

The first phone book was published in 1880 for 248 London subscribers.

One for the whole country was published 19 years later, covering 81,000 entries in a single volume of just 1350 pages.

A century or so later, the phone book had grown to 145 editions and 47 million copies were distributed.

FAMOUS PHONES
Leeds phone book
1904: David Lloyd-George - Phone Balham 136 (living at 179 Trinity Lane)
1932: Sylvia Pankhurst - Phone Buckhurst 2463 (living at West Dene Charteris Road)
1934: T S Elliot - Phone Paddington 8630 (living at 68 Clarence Gate Gardens NW1)
1958: John Betjeman - Phone Wantage 150 (living at The Mead)

Among the millions of names and numbers online are prime minister Harold McMillan at his cottage in Chelwood Gate, composer Edward Elgar at his estate in Warwickshire and writer Evelyn Waugh at the home in the West Country where he wrote Brideshead Revisited.

The first phone book contained no numbers and callers were put through by the operator.

The first person listed in that book was J.W. Alt at 14 Queen Victoria Street, East Central - a building no longer around after the remains of a Roman Temple found nearby were moved to the site and renamed Temple Court.

Early phone books offered tips on how to use the receiver - "the lips should be almost touching the mouthpiece and there is rarely need to shout" - and to "announce your identity at once upon receiving a call".

The managing director of Ancestry.co.uk, Simon Harper, said the phone books would help people researching "late Victorian, 20th century family or social history as they provide solid evidence of where people lived during any given time in this period".

The online phone books can be searched for a monthly fee.



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