The red telephone box (officially called a kiosk) was a familiar sight in town and country until recent years when their numbers started to be reduced. The advent of mobile phones and the internet mean that they are little used nowadays. There have been a number of designs over the years as follows :-
The first standard public telephone kiosk introduced by the Post Office was produced in concrete in 1920.
This was the result of a competition in 1924 to design a kiosk that would be acceptable to the London Metropolitan Boroughs which had hitherto resisted the Post Office's effort to erect K1 kiosks on their streets. The winning design was by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and the Post Office chose to make it in cast iron.
Introduced in 1929, again designed by Giles Gilbert Scott. It was similar to K2 but was constructed from concrete and intended for nationwide use. Cheaper than the K2, it was still significantly more expensive than the K1 and so that remained the choice for low-revenue sites. The standard colour scheme for both the K1 and the K3 was cream, with red glazing bars.
Designed by the Post Office Engineering Department in 1927 and incorporating a post box and machines for buying postage stamps on the exterior. Only a single batch of 50 K4 kiosks were built. Some contemporary reports said the noise of the stamp-machines in operation disturbed phone-users and the rolls of stamps in the machines became damp and stuck together in wet weather.
This was a metal-faced plywood construction introduced in 1934 and designed to be easily assembled and dismantled for use at exhibitions. It is not known how many were produced and there is little evidence they ever reached more than prototype stage.
In 1935 the K6 kiosk was designed to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V. It was consequently sometimes known as the "Jubilee" kiosk. It went into production in 1936 and was the first red telephone kiosk to be extensively used outside London. Many thousands were deployed in virtually every town and city, replacing most of the existing kiosks and establishing thousands of new sites. In 1935 there had been 19,000 public telephones in the UK: by 1940, thanks to the K6, there were 35,000. The design was again by Giles Gilbert Scott and was essentially a smaller and more streamlined version of the K2. It was intended to be produced at a considerably cheaper cost and to occupy less pavement space. The K6 has since become a British icon but it was not universally loved at the start. The red colour caused particular local difficulties and there were many requests for less visible colours. The Post Office was forced into allowing a less strident grey with red glazing bars scheme for areas of natural and architectural beauty. Ironically, some of these areas that have preserved their telephone boxes have now painted them red.
In 1959 architect Neville Conder was commissioned to design a new kiosk but the K7 design went no further than the prototype stage.
The K8 kiosk was introduced in 1968 designed by Bruce Martin. It was used primarily for new sites and around 11,000 were installed, replacing earlier models only when they needed relocating or had been damaged beyond repair. The K8 retained a red colour scheme but it was a different shade of red; a slightly brighter Poppy Red which went on to be the standard colour across all kiosks.
In 1980, in preparation for privatisation, Post Office Telephones was rebranded as British Telecom (BT). In 1981, it was announced that all the red telephone boxes would be repainted yellow, which was BT's new corporate colour. There was an immediate public outcry and BT dropped the idea. After privatisation in 1982, British Telecom introduced the KX100, a more utilitarian design, which began to replace most of the existing boxes.
Around the same time as the KX100, this new wheelchair-accessible open-sided kiosk was introduced.
Around the same time as the KX100, a triangular-footprint kiosk was introduced.
Introduced in 1999 to give internet access.
Introduced in 2007 to give a more modern look.
In Shropshire, 38 of the iconic red K6 phone boxes have been classed by English Heritage as listed buildings and are thus protected. Nationally British Telecom has removed 33,000 kiosks in towns and villages over the last decade because mass use of mobile phones has made them obsolete. At one time there were nearly 500 phone boxes in Shropshire, of which 159 were red. British Telecom commented “Due to the huge reduction in payphone use alongside the massive rise in mobile phones, BT is able to remove any kiosk that has another one within 400 metres. If there is no other kiosk within 400 metres we will first need to consult with the local authority.”
The gazetteer aside only includes those K6 kiosks that are listed. A number of other boxes have been bought by individuals and appear in gardens, etc.
One at Coreley near Ludlow was bought by local residents for a nominal £1 and has been converted into one of the world’s smallest libraries. People can now visit the box and take books home at their leisure. The only rule is that if a book is taken it must be replaced with another title, thus ensuring a full quota of about 50 books.
Gazetteer of Listed Telephone Boxes
Alcaston - 40m east of Manor Farm (SO45788713)
Atcham – near Old Smithy (SJ54200928)
Bishop’s Castle - High Street (SO32368884)
Bitterley - Bitterley House (SO56317742)
Boraston - 45m north of Lower House Farm (SO61466995)
Bridgnorth - Bridge Street (SO71809297)
Boningdale - near St Chad’s Church (SJ81060261)
Bromfield - 60m north-west of Clive Arms (SO48257699)
Bucknell - Dog Kennel Lane (SO35457403)
Bucknell – north of St Mary’s Church (SO35477405)
Burford - north side of Swan Hotel (SO59566868)
Chapel Lawn (SO31617632)
Cheney Longville - 20m east of Pumphouse (SO42068487)
Chesterton - adjacent garden wall of Chesterton Farm (SO78579721)
Church Stretton – east side of High Street (SO45329376)
Clee St Margaret - opposite the old Post Office (SO56548446)
Cleobury Mortimer - High Street (SO67297573)
Cleobury Mortimer - junction of The Hurst and Lower Street (SO67487592)
Clun - The Square (SO30088088)
Ellesmere - Lee Street (SJ40503242)
Greete - 50m south of Brick House Farm (SO57647083)
Hodnet - Marchamley Road (SJ61302866)
Holdgate - 5m south of Holy Trinity Church (SO56178955)
Hopesay - Hopesay Farm (SO39038332)
Hopton Cangeford - opposite The Cottage (SO54738036)
Hopton Castle (SO36477815)
Ironbridge - 3, Belmont Road (SJ67660356)
Knighton - Kinsley Road (SO29047244)
Ludlow - Castle Street (SO51067463)
Ludlow - near Gatehouse Castle Street (SO50987462)
Quatt - High Street (SO75568823)
Rushbury – south of St Peter’s Church (SO51379182)
Shrewsbury - adjacent to 54-59, Abbey Foregate (SJ50031243)
Shrewsbury - adjacent to Abbey, Abbey Foregate (SJ49761245)
Shrewsbury - Castle Street (SJ49381276)
Wistanstow - adjacent to Holy Trinity Church (SO43218556)
Worfield - Main Street (SO75879565)