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Articles of interest concerning Telephone Kiosks everywhere and our Telephone Kiosk endearingly referred to as 'El Tel'.

2014 - 'Thingist' Art?

Villagers divided over 'eyesore' tribute to Britain's traditional red phone boxes

From the Daily Mail

To many, the traditional red telephone box is a welcome sight and an iconic British design that ought to be preserved. But when three of the increasingly rare boxes suddenly appeared mounted 20ft in the air on a metal girder in their village, residents of Hurley in Warwickshire were horrified.

The bizarre structure is the work of Barry Robinson, who erected it without planning permission in a field opposite his home. Featuring Union flags attached to two of the boxes, he describes it as a work of art celebrating Britishness.

Kiosk Art

The Telephone Tree: Neighbours believe the artwork is an eyesore that should be torn down

Many his of neighbours disagree, however, and complain it is an eyesore which should be torn down immediately because it lowers the tone.

The tranquility of the rural village has been shattered amid the simmering row while the council decides if Mr Robinson should be allowed to make a retrospective application for his masterpiece, dubbed 'The Telephone Tree'. Mr Robinson, 65, put it up with the help of a crane at the weekend on a patch of green he bought at auction in 2002. Today he said: 'It's my land, why can't I do what I want with it? It's not hurting anyone. It's a tribute to the traditions and heritage of this country and I think it looks marvellous.

'The idea is to preserve the past for the future generations. Whenever people from abroad think of Britain, the first things that come to mind are red double decker buses, the Houses of Parliament and our red phone boxes. 'Yet we seem to want to do away with our heritage, red phone boxes are almost extinct in this country these days. They are all exported over to America or Saudi Arabia instead.'

Mr Robinson, an electrical contractor who has lived in the village with his wife Shirley for 33 years, started collecting old phone boxes four years ago and dotted them around his 150 ft sq patch of land. No one complained until the structure was erected. He said: 'I run a refuge for old phone boxes, they come to me battered and smashed and I restore them and give them a loving new home. 'I've a few contacts in councils around the country who sell them on to me, if I didn't buy them they would most probably end up in the dump.'

His creation features one box from Blackpool, one from Kings Lynn, Norfolk, and one from Rugby, Warwickshire. They are all K6 model boxes, which were designed to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and were the first to be installed nationwide. Campaigners have fought to preserve traditional red phone boxes in the face of their widespread replacement by modern glass-sided booths made of stainless steel. But seeing the traditional boxes displayed in Mr Robinson's structure is the last thing many in Hurley want.

Alan Charsley, 57,  whose home overlooks it, said: 'It's an eyesore. I don't really expect to wake up in the morning and open the window to see three telephone boxes stuck up there in a field. 'There's nothing wrong with people wanting to preserve British heritage, there's a time and a place for everything. But if he wants to preserve British heritage why doesn't he donate the telephone boxes to a museum?' Another local resident, who asked not to be identified, said: 'He says it is art, but the dictionary definition of art is not that. Three haphazardly positioned telephone boxes up a 20 foot girder is not art.' Planners at North Warwickshire Borough Council will now have to decide if Mr Robinson is allowed to keep his tribute to British culture.

A spokesman said: 'There have been a number of people contacting us about it. We will now decide if there will be an enforcement act issued to remove it or whether he will be invited to submit a retrospective planning application.'

Jubilee Year 2012

As the Jubilee gathers momentum, it seems as if the popularity of the red telephone kiosk is escalating on equal proportions. In my own story of our telephone kiosk I mentioned the 'urban myth' of a kiosk 'graveyard' in Hucknall - it may or may not be there, but there definitely is a collection point for derelict kiosks in Newark which is not that far away. Thanks to the Telegraph Newspaper, I am able to share these stories with you.

On the 26th of April the Telegraph ran this story:

BT puts red phone boxes up for sale for £2000

For the last four years people have been encouraged by BT to adopt their local red telephone box for just a £1 to save them from the scrap heap.

Telephone Kiosk Westmoinster

(BT has announced plans to sell off phone boxes for the first time in 25 years. Classic K6 telephone boxes can be bought for around £2,000)

But so popular has the scheme proved that now the telecoms giant has decided it wants to make some proper money from the cast iron designs and is charging £2,000 per box.

Under its “adopt a kiosk” scheme, communities were encouraged to turn them into everything from art galleries to libraries.

But now individuals interested in owning their own “K6” phone box will have to pay £1,950, plus VAT and delivery – which, given each box weighs three quarters of a ton - could amount to a lot. A third party company, X2 Connect, is handling the sales.

The K6, often dubbed the “Jubilee” phone box, was introduced in 1936 to mark King George V’s 25th year on the throne. It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, also architect of the Battersea Power Station and Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral, and became the first standardised phone box in Britain.

By the end of production in 1968 there were nearly 70,000 K6 boxes in operation, but these were phased out during the 1980’s in favour of kiosks which are safer because they are open and transparent. There are now just 11,000 of the old K6 boxes still functioning.

More than 1,800 boxes have been bought been taken over by communities for £1, and been put to a broad range of new uses. Some have been fitted with defibrillation units and cash machines and one was turned into a one-night only pub.

Inside the red phone box graveyard

On 9th May 2012 the Telegraph ran the story of the graveyard.

As the British design classic is given an Olympic spruce-up – and collectors pay thousands to own one – Sarah Rainey visits their secret resting place.

Newark Kiosks

K6 boxes weigh 750 kg and are fitted with cast-iron doors

On a deserted industrial estate in the commuter town of Newark, Nottinghamshire, there is a graveyard. But this is no ordinary resting place for the dead. Few know of its existence; even fewer come to pay their respects. Inside a draughty warehouse, the ground is littered with broken glass, scraps of metal and chipped red paint. Its lifeless inhabitants, their insides stripped out, stand in rows on wooden crates. Body parts are detached, cleaned and stored away in crates lining the concrete walls.

Welcome to the graveyard of decommissioned BT phone boxes. This warehouse, run by payphone specialist X2 Connect, is home to more than 150 of them – from a rare 85-year-old red kiosk to state-of-the-art three-cornered machines. When Britain’s phone boxes become damaged beyond repair, this is where they end up. Disembodied ''telephone’’ signs with faded lettering are scattered around the yard, where a flurry of workers are welding and hammering piles of scrap metal and wood, transforming them into shiny kiosks ready to go back out on the street.

Since last month, when BT announced plans to sell off 60 of its classic red phone boxes, X2 Connect has been busier than ever. For the first time in 25 years, private buyers have the chance to own one of the K6 boxes, designed in 1935 for King George V’s Silver Jubilee, for a starting price of £1,950 – and demand has been huge.

“The phones haven’t stopped ringing,” says managing director Richard Parker, “if you’ll excuse the pun. We’ve had over 600 calls from across the globe – Australia, America, the Far East – from people wanting their own piece of British heritage. Thirty boxes have been allocated already and there are 500 people on a waiting list for the next batch.”

But it’s not just the latest sale of K6 boxes that has meant business is brisk at X2 Connect. Earlier this week, BT announced plans to splash 1,500 litres of red paint on 400 phone boxes in London and Weymouth, Dorset, ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games, as well as restoring 1,300 of its modern grey kiosks in preparation for the flood of tourists to the UK. Rather than getting a new coat of paint every 10 years, the boxes will be refurbished continuously until the end of the Paralympics in September – and that means a busy few months for BT’s contractors.

“We took on remanufacturing all of BT’s kiosks 12 months ago,” Parker explains. “At first it was just to put them back on the streets, but the next few months are shaping up to be hectic. The K6 in particular captures people’s imagination because it’s such a traditional part of British identity, like a post box or Big Ben. When people come to this country, that’s what they want to see.”

There are 60 red K6 phone boxes on site in Newark, each weighing around 750 kilograms and fitted with a cast-iron door. They are stored outside – the mezzanine floor inside wouldn’t hold their weight – in a yard surrounded by a high fence and bolted gates to ward off metal thieves.

“We have to be careful,” admits Parker. “It’s a lot of valuable metal to have in one place.” The boxes arrive in lorry-loads, their concrete bases ripped up from street corners, and are meticulously worked on for weeks by the warehouse’s eight employees.

Sprucing up old phone boxes is no easy task. John Wood, operations manager, says only 75 per cent of kiosks delivered are in good enough condition to renovate – the rest end up on the scrap heap. “Some of them arrive in a terrible state: broken glass, physical damage, all manner of horrible things done inside. We start by taking the doors off, giving them a thorough clean and stripping out the internal fittings. Once all the glass is chipped out of the windows, we send them down the road to a farm to be shot-blasted and repainted.”

The repainting is one of the most important parts of the manufacturing process, as it is the K6’s eye-catching red colour that makes the telephone box so iconic. To ensure uniformity across the country, X2 Connect supplies pots of ''Post Office red’’ paint, the colour that was specially produced 77 years ago for the K6. “You become a bit of an anorak, doing this job,” admits Wood. “I can’t walk past a phone box now without noting what model it is and checking it’s painted properly.”

However, if K6 architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott had had his way, the classic phone box wouldn’t be red. “He wanted to build on features of the previous models but make the style quite contemporary,” explains Sian Wynn-Jones, heritage collections manager at BT. “While the Post Office liked red, Sir Giles didn’t think it was fitting for his design. He wanted them to be silver with blue and green on the inside, and dove-grey in rural areas.”

Letters from BT’s archives reveal a mixed public reaction to the red kiosks. A Mr Thornley, writing to his MP in July 1936, said the colour was “like an evil deed in a good world”, while John Gloag, a member of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, described the “vivid scarlet kiosk” as “a piece of agreeable punctuation”.

Areas that did not approve of the colour were allowed to paint theirs – some still remain in dark green and grey. The traditional boxes were very different to today’s models: each contained an ashtray, writing desk, notepad and mirror. “They were a real architectural marvel,” says Wynn-Jones.

Some 70,000 K6s were installed across Britain as part of the first nationwide programme of public telephone kiosks. Now, just 10,770 remain, including two in Normandy, France, that were installed for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings, and a few in Malta, Bermuda and Gibraltar. But as payphone use declines thanks to the spread of mobiles, 60 per cent of kiosks are losing money, with an 80 per cent drop in the number of calls made in the last five years. In 2002 there were 92,000 BT phone boxes on our streets; now there are 51,500.

“It’s a dying business, but interest in the kiosks is more alive than ever,” says Parker. “Everyone wants to own a red phone box because it’s a slice of British history, yet what they’re doing with them is very modern – like rejuvenating an old relic. We had one inquiry from a customer in Saudi Arabia who wanted to turn his into a shower.”

Since 2008, 1,800 kiosks have been bought by communities under BT’s Adopt A Kiosk scheme, which this month saw residents of Bucklebury, Berkshire, the childhood home of the Duchess of Cambridge, buy theirs for just £1. Last summer, locals in Shepreth, Cambridgeshire, turned a red phone box into a one-night-only pub, while others have been made into libraries, art galleries and even defibrillator machines.

In Newark, a new delivery of damaged kiosks has arrived in the yard. The tarpaulin of a huge van is pulled back to reveal piles of dented and discoloured red boxes stacked on their sides, their windows smashed and insides thick with grime. “Some of these are at the end of their life, but I reckon we could get most of them up and running again,” says Wood. “They’re thoughtfully designed – their brass fittings don’t corrode – which is why they’ve lasted nearly 80 years.”

BT’s contractors pride themselves in getting as many old phone boxes back on the streets as possible. But not all the red kiosks’ authentic features will remain. “We have to remove lots of literature left by ladies of the night,” grins Parker. “One of our workers removed the back board from a phone box and hundreds of calling cards fell out – enough to fill two litter bins. His eyes nearly popped out of his head. Customers can request certain fittings in the kiosks – but there’s certainly a limit to how 'authentic’ we’ll make them. We’re trying to make Britain’s phone boxes a better place.”

Picture of the Week

Reproduced below is the 'Picture of the Week' as featured in the 22nd July 2011 edition of the Hucknall and Bulwell Dispatch.

Picture of the Week

Christmas Tree has a Red (Telephone Kiosk) Rival

The Rival

Lighting up Linby Village - Christmas 2011 (oh yes, the Christmas Tree was on the other side of the road!)

Reproduced below is the article as featured in the 16th December 2011 edition of the Hucknall and Bulwell Dispatch.

Dispatch Article

And some of our pictures to show the Kiosk in its Christmas 2011 finery:

Linby Kiosk Lights Green BlueLinby Kiosk Lights Spooky

From left to right the Kiosk displays a red and green selection of lights which turn to blue and glow eerily but cheerfully in the dark!

The header on this page consists of the stamp design of the telephone kiosk as copyrighted to the Post Office and one of the winter 2010 views of our own 'El Tel' covered in snow.

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Page updated : 16th February 2016