The Group met on the 11th September 2018 to discuss the telephone Kiosk. The most iconic kiosk is the red K6, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George V in 1935 and every village that had a post office had one. That amounted to 8,000.
Our speaker for the month of September, Helen Crabtree, taught in Walsall and when she and a fellow colleague were driving in the countryside and they passed an unusual post box her friend asked her to stop. They were doing a project and she had to have a photograph of the said post box. This made Helen look at all the post boxes she passed and it soon became a hobby and then an obsession. She was soon invited to speak to various groups and amassed a large collection of artefacts and among the red ‘boxes’ there was a different type of box – a red telephone kiosk – and
there began another tale.
We learned something about the history of telephone kiosks from K1 to K8, the invention of mobile phones and the possible demise of phone boxes. (K9 appears in DR Who!)
With Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone in 1876 came exchanges, ‘offices’, licences for companies and in 1884 the Telephone Service and a variety of telephone boxes. Helen showed us many examples of different structures, made of wood and metal, and the different colours they were painted. Some became quite elaborate and luxurious with electric light, chairs, clocks, note- pads, pencils etc and were too attractive to itinerants or vandals. One design was needed for the whole country. There was a delay, due to World War 1, but in 1921 Summerville and Co. produced K1, a red and white structure, some of which were thatched. Two of these still exist; one on the Isle
of Wight and one in Dorset.
In 1923 a competition was organised to do K2 and was won by Giles Gilbert Scott, who came from a family of designers. These phone boxes were made of cast iron with a teak door and concrete or wooden bases and cost £40. They had to be painted bright red. Scott much preferred silver! Any of these that remain are listed buildings. There are two outside Burlington House.
K3 appeared in 1929. There were 12,000 made at accost of £11 each. Four survive and you will find one near the Parrot House in London Zoo. ‘Hello, hello!’ can often be heard in the vicinity. K4, the Vermillion Giant, contained a post box and stamp machine on the side. Fifty of these were made and cost just over £50. K5, made of steel and plywood, could be purchased for special events. The voice of Ethel Cain became well known in 1936 as the Speaking Clock and could be obtained by ringing 846 TIM – precisely!
The GPO wanted a new design, which saw the prototype form of K7 only. The jump to modernisation came in 1959 when Neville Conder was commissioned to design a new box, K8, which was mostly glass and at £100 each cost a lot to replace if vandalised. British Telecom announced that they would begin scrapping the red phone boxes in 1985 and it was then that a conservation group was set up to record and rescue as many as they could.
Helen had many pictures of these different kiosks to show us and artefacts from ear-rings to money boxes, models, table cloths and bags and if you want to ‘bag a place’ at one of our meetings, you will be most welcome. If the subject interests you, do come along. For four pounds you can listen to our speakers, meet other people, have some refreshments and the chance to win a raffle.
The name of the group will change in the New Year and will become THE BARN GROUP, which we feel is more inclusive.