In praise of the telephone kiosk

It is likely that the telephone kiosk will gradually disappear from our streets, as every man, woman and child now possesses and uses a mobile phone. Maybe we should remember, however, that the British phone box, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and now in use for exactly 80 years, has been one of the architectural gems of the telecommunications industry. It would be a shame to see these disappear; already some have been removed and replaced with uninteresting structures. Even if their communications function must now decline and probably fade away, their preservation as part of an architectural heritage should be secured.

I took this photograph of two of these kiosks in London last month.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's masterpiece

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6 Comments on “In praise of the telephone kiosk”

  1. Vincent Says:

    I’m sorry but I disagree. These are the last hangover in the UK of an attitude of visible class structure that die-hards have now to visit Ireland to experience on a wide scale. There are of course isolated pockets but the last hurrah was marked by Betjiman.
    Only people that have never spent long either inside with that very particular aroma of stale piss and dead insects or outside waiting in a queue being reefed asunder by wind borne sleet which began its horizontal journey over Svalbard to make a call so expensive that God himself wouldn’t have the change to feed the thing.
    And have a thought for the poor fecker that had to clean the glass. If those fiddle-y-arsed little panes wasn’t a statement of continued class servitude, what was.
    Good riddance, I say. And the silver tea service along with it.

    • Anna Notaro Says:

      Vincent, your comment resonates with me, in fact the red telephone box brings back memories of poor student days in cold Sheffield and weekly, frustratingly expensive calls home, still personal memories aside this is an iconic piece of design that deserves to be preserved as part of the national heritage, in it modernism and traditionalism coalesce in the best of British tradition, it is a representation of Britain in miniature for everybody to recognize and identify with, powerfully symbolic and somewhat reassuring.

    • no-name Says:

      …and the very thick coating of that sticky substance (composition unknown and best left that way) that covered all of the telephone. Yuk. Still, the old red ones look nice. From the outside.

  2. Paul Donovan Says:

    One of three beautiful kiosk designs by Gilbert-Scott. They were painted red, not on the architect’s instructions, but on those of the Post Office, who wanted them highly visible in emergency situations.

  3. upmg Says:

    I once passed through a remote Yorkshire Village (at least 10 years ago now) whose main street was overflowing with telephone kiosks.It was like some sort of strange convention; I presume some local entrepreneurial spirit was buying them up to flog on or convert into shower cubicles?

  4. cormac Says:

    I once saw an excellent research proposal to add electric chargers for mobiles to all phoneboxes…superb idea, often wondered what happened to it

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