Page 387. " Try every exchange in London "
French telephone (1924)
GNU Free Documentation LicenseFrench telephone (1924) - Credit: Tieum512

Jack Favell's facetious suggestion that they should try 'every exchange in London' would certainly have been a tall order! By 1934, the London telephone area had 147 exchanges within 12.5 miles of Oxford Circus, each of which was represented by a code related to its location.

For example, the code for the Abbey exchange (serving Westminster) was ABB; the code for the Hampstead exchange (serving Hampstead) was HAM; the code for the Museum exchange (serving Bloomsbury) was MUS; the code for the Mayfair exchange (serving Mayfair) was MAY; the code for the Trafalgar exchange (serving Whitehall) was TRA; the code for the Wimbledon exchange (serving Wimbledon) was WIM.  Telephone subscribers were given 7 digit numbers which included the exchange code, plus 4 further numbers; for example WIM 0576; HAM 1024. This system came to end in 1966, by which time there were 350 exchanges, and the possible code permutations to represent them had been exhausted.

When London is phoned from Manderley, the call has to be connected by an operator. However, in London itself, from 1927 onwards, calls to other London exchanges could be dialled directly using the Director System. Each number on the telephone dial (except 1) represented letters of the alphabet: 2 for ABC; 3 for DEF; 4 for GHI; and so on, to 9 which represented WXY.  So, if a Londoner wished to phone a fellow Londoner at the number WIM 0128, they would dial 946 0128. Callers from outside London would simply ask the operator for Wimbledon 0128, just like Frank asks the operator for Mayfair 0488.

Click here to see a vintage telephone with the number Whitehall 1212 (the number of Scotland Yard!).


Page 387. " that irritating monotonous note of a long distance call "

Long-distance telephone call?
Public DomainLong-distance telephone call? - Credit: Cropbot
A long distance call is any call made to a number outside of the local area. In Britain they used to be known as trunk calls.

Page 388. " 'It was the night porter from an address in Bloomsbury' "

Bloomsbury is an area of Central London in the London Borough of Camden, which is famous for its many garden squares and its educational and healthcare institutions, such as University College, London, and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

It is also renowned for its connection with the circle of influential writers, intellectuals and artists known as the Bloomsbury Group, important members of which were Virginia Woolf, Vanessa and Clive Bell, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, and John Maynard Keynes.


Google Map


Page 390. " 'Somewhere near Barnet, north of London,' "

Barnet, sometimes known as High Barnet or Chipping Barnet, is a London borough, situated about 10 miles northwest of Charing Cross. It was formerly part of the County of Hertfordshire.


Google Map


Page 395. " it will be a great thrill for you when the yellow Press gets going with your life story "

News of the World


The yellow press (or yellow journalism) is the type of journalism which thrives on provocative headlines and sensationalism, rather than a serious presentation of well-researched news stories. The term gained currency in New York City at the turn of the 20th century when the city's newspapers were engaged in a circulation war. Alternative terms which we might use today are the 'tabloid press' or the 'gutter press'.

In the period in which Rebecca is set, one example of the yellow press would have been the News of the World newspaper. It was established in 1843 and survived until 2011, when it was closed in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

Page 398. " Just the sort of thing a Communist would do "
Cartoon published in the 'Daily Worker' (c.1934)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCartoon published in the 'Daily Worker' (c.1934) - Credit: Jacob Burck (photo by Palosirkka)

 Communism as a political force developed from the mid-19th century onwards. The first clearly-defined Communist party was the Bolshevik party, which seized power in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was founded in 1920. Four members of the CPGB became Members of Parliament: two in 1922, one in 1935, and one in 1945, although the 1922 duo were, in fact, elected as Labour MPs. Support for the party declined from the 1960s onwards, and it was formally disbanded in 1991.

In 1930, the CPGB launched its own newspaper, the Daily Worker, which changed ownership in 1945 and was relaunched as the Morning Star in 1966. It is still published today.

Page 400. " two stout little wagtails "
Grey wagtail
Creative Commons AttributionGrey wagtail - Credit: Dan Davison
Pied wagtail
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePied wagtail - Credit: fs-phil

 Wagtails are songbirds belonging to the genus Motacilla. Not surprisingly, one of their main characteristics is that they just can't stop wagging their tails!

Species to be found in Britian include the grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea); the pied wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) and the yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava).