The St Peter in the Wood Telephone Exhange and the Falla
"Telephones were few and far in those early years. A small
telephone exchange had been established at Nico Falla's house below
the church at St. Saviours. In 1903 the States Telephone Committee
offered to train the eldest of Falla's ten daughters as operator if
she consented to run a bigger exchange at St. Peter's. They
constructed a building to house it adjoining the school at Les
Brehauts with accommodation for herself and her family. They called
the small building appropriately Ariel Cottage. As more and more
people applied to have a telephone installed in their homes Mrs
Lizzie Brouard (one of the ten Falla daughters) trained two of her
younger sisters to assist her. In those days all parish calls had to
go through this telephone exchange"
"St. Pierre du Bois", The Story of a Guernsey parish and its
people", by Marie De Garis.
"The country parish of St Peter's saw the next significant
expansion. The existing exchange had grown in importance as more and
more people from the surrounding area became subscribers. The
Telephone Council had to admit that the service to this area had been
'indifferent', and so it decided to build a new branch switch-room.
This work was carried out very quickly, and the finished building was
named Ariel Cottage."
"100 years of Guernsey Telephones"
In June 1901, the original plan I had formed for the
telephoning of Guernsey was completed by the opening of a switch room
at St Saviours. The operating was undertaken by Mr N falla who being
blessed with a family of numerous daughters continued in charge for
many years, the girls, as they grew up succeeding each other as
operators until in turn removed to other spheres of usefulness by
marriage. At last, in March 1924, Fortunata's quiver was at last
exhausted and no other family being available the Exchange was
amalgamated with that at At Peter-Wood, the wires being transferred
thither by underground cables.
The service given at St Peter-Wood being indifferent and the
Exchange growing in importance, the Council decided to erect a
cottage and put in their own staff. They bought a vergee of land from
Mr James and invited tenders to a design prepared by Mr JN Taylor.
The contract was let in October 1903 (1905?) to Mr J Bougourd for
£534 and a pretty and satisfactory little house which General
Mainguy named Ariel Cottage was speedily erected. A new switchboard
was supplied by James McMillan and Co was installed and has since
been extended until at the date of writing, March 1925, it
accommodates 262 subscribers, 7 public telephones and 12 junction
lines. A little branch switchroom at the Forest was now closed , the
wires being diverted to St Peter-Wood.
It may not be out of place to remark here that from the
beginning of the Department, marriage portions had been given to the
operating girls switching themselves on to matrimonial connections,
the amount depending on the length of service. This had occurred on
several occasions and the dot was much appreciated . the Council
continued the practice until the inauguration of the Departmental
Pension and Benefit Fund when the responsibility was transferred to
it. The Fund has already been called upon a few times for the States'
telephone girls have always married freely. Their reiterated cry of "
Ring, please" has evidently been taken seriously in more senses than
one by eligible young men.
During the war when many of the regular girls went to other
employments the service was carried on by operators who had married
and now returned temporarily to what one of them termed " the dear
old switch room". The Department had cause to be grateful for such
aid and subscribers too.
From " History of the States of Guernsey Telephone System
1895-1925" by Alfred Rosling Bennett
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A picture of Arial Cottage: