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Red Phone Boxes


In 2015, the red telephone box was voted the greatest British design of all time, ahead of London’s double-decker bus, World War Two’s Spitfire plane, the Union Jack flag and Concorde. Once an integral part of British life, present in every high street, there are now only ten thousand in existence. Just half of these are operational, while half are decorative.
The original phone box was designed in wood in 1924 by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott as a “miniature building” with the official name of Kiosk Nº 2. The version we see today is actually ‘K6’, introduced in 1936. By the 1960s, there were 73,000 in the UK. You can still see — but not use — the very first K2 phone box outside the Royal Academy in London’s Piccadilly.   
Then, thirty-two years after their introduction, the Government decided to stop production. It was time for a new design. Neglected, the boxes were vandalised or became unofficial public toilets or notice boards for sex industry ads. Campaigns began to try to preserve the boxes.
Red telephone boxes are part of a romanticised vision of Britain, along with Four o’clock tea and the Changing of the Guard.

Find out more in this month’s Speak Up!