Designed by Thomas Winterburn, one of the ten Post Office architects associated with the Festival of Britain movement, this building is an iconic example of 1950s industrial architecture and functioned as a busy working Post Office and telephone exchange for several decades. Saxmundham has a rich history as a hub of connectivity for the East Suffolk coast, and the building has long been an economically and socially significant part of the community. At its height, the telephone exchange employed up to fifty people, many of whom lived and still live in Saxmundham.
The equipment you see on the ground floor worked in conjunction with switchboards and manual exchange equipment that was housed on the first floor of the building. As technology decreased in size and the need for people manning the exchange was surpassed by new digital technologies, the role of the building became unclear. The last telephone operators left the building in 1986, but part of the ground floor continues to host BT’s broadband fibre servers.
Digital artist Henry Driver has installed a selection of works and will be creating a new piece in response to the space itself and to the wider themes of connectivity, communication, technology and the rural environment. Emily Godden also presents her work 1858 DUNWICH-ZANDVOOT CABLE FT. CPT-2, part of a project exploring electronic environmental heritage and our relationship with archives. Sound artist Loula Yorke will be running a workshop with local students to engage with the development of communications technology and oral historian Belinda Moore is interviewing former employees and engineers to capture and share their stories.
This exhibition has been made possible thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and in partnership with BT Adastral Park and Saxmundham Museum.