Monday, October 31, 2005

History by Phone Numbers: The Clapham Sect

There's an ongoing trauma involving connection (or, more specifically, the lack thereinof) to a super-fast 24 meg broadband service in our house at the moment. The upshot of this is no internet - or WoW! - for me at home at the moment.

Shoddy service from Be has led to an interesting little local history lesson, however.

Connection speed on ADSL is partly dependant on your distance from your local exchange - the longer the copper wire from the exchange, the more noise, and the worse your connection. Our housemate looked at a diagram of the dropoff rate and emailed me to let me know we're a mere 802 metres from our local exchange - which is Nine Elms.

I'd been wondering where our exchange was - partly, to be honest, because I'm a bit geeky about London Exchange mnemonics. I know there's a Battersea exchange too, so wondered if the housemate had the right one.

So - first stop is the list of London Director Exchange Names to check out if Nine Elms exchange matches our phonenumber. Lo and behold, Nine Elms, like my old Putney number, is one of the strangely named ones: MACaulay - my phone number starts 020 7622 - the 622 corresponding to M-A-C on an old dial phone. So I'm definately on Nine Elms... but why the funny name?

My first stop for local info is Google - a search on my postcode for Macaulay might give something away. There's a school and a road named Macaulay - so there is some local connection to the name. And it's related to Clapham Common northside, rather than the more Vauxhally area of Nine Elms itself. So, a quick google on Macaulay and Clapham brings up the local school's site - no information about where they got their name from on there. But a bit further down is this article - it turns out that Zachary Macaulay was a member of the Clapham Sect - a group of social reformers responsible for the abolition of slavery.

He was the father of Thomas Babington Macaulay - another abolitionist, and author of the Indian Penal Code. He also wrote history books - including Lays of Ancient Rome.

It seems that whoever decided on the strange Director Exchanges in the London Phone system had a small weakness for classsical history.

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