History of the Telephone Box

The United Telephone Company introduced the first freestanding call "offices". These were small wooden huts where a three-minute call could be made for "tuppence" (less than 1p). Not all of these had a coin box mechanism; some operated by a penny-in-the-slot mechanism on the door whilst others had a fee collect by an attendant. By 1906 these were operated by the National Telephone Company and were known as kiosks.

The Post Office took over in 1912 and, although they made improvements to the interiors, there was no standard format for the kiosks. In 1921 they introduced the first standard phone box. Kiosk No. 1 (K1), which was primarily intended for use as an open-air public call office in rural areas. It was similar in design to the old wooden call offices but was made up from reinforced concrete and the roof featured a wrought ironwork spear and scrolls. Although very elegant it was considered that a better design could be found.

In 1924 The Post Office organised a competition requesting leading architects to submit ideas for a new cast-iron kiosk. The winning design was by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960) who was responsible for the design of Liverpool Cathedral. The bright red colour of the K2 was first seen on the streets in 1926 but proved to be too costly to introduce nationwide. Only 1,500 were made which were restricted to London.

The Post Office needed a design that was economical enough to be used outside of London so Scott designed the K3 as a variation of the K2. This was made out of reinforced concrete and cost half the price of the K2. They were first introduced in 1927 and painted in cream, which was considered more in keeping with rural settings. More than 12,000 K3 kiosks were installed nationwide but due to their concrete construction these proved to be fragile.

Introduced in 1927, the K4 kiosk was designed by the Post Office Engineering Department and was intended to combine a telephone kiosk with a Post Office. There was a post box and two stamp machines behind the kiosk and these proved to be too noisy during telephone conversations. Only fifty of these were ever made.

The K5 was introduced in 1934 as an attempt to take the best of the design of the K2 and incorporate it into a more appropriate package. It was designed as a portable kiosk, which would be easily assembled as dismantled as required. Constructed from steel-faced plywood it was intended for use at exhibitions and other temporary locations.

In 1935 the K6 was commissioned to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V. Once again Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was called upon to design the new kiosk. Similar to the K2, the K6 was smaller and had less detail but still recognisable as a Gilbert Scott design. The "Jubilee Kiosk" appeared on the streets in 1936 and became the first standard kiosk to be introduced nationwide. More than 60,000 of these were introduced throughout Britain and they have become a much-loved landmark.

The K7 was commissioned in 1958 as an attempt to try out new materials. Initially, it met the approval of the public but could not withstand the rigours of the British climate.

Douglas Scott and Bruce Martin were commissioned to produce the design for the K8. The new kiosk was to incorporate all the best features from previous kiosks. It was made from cast iron with full-length toughened glass panes. This was to be the last design for the telephone box under Post Office ownership and approximately 4,000 were introduced


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