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Wars of the Roses

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"K" for kiosk (part two)

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Windsor Castle

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Upper Booth Farm, Upper Booth, nr Edale, Hope Valley, Derbyshire

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Stone handaxe
THIS small handaxe is one of the most beautiful in the British Museum. It is made from quartz with attractive amethyst banding, a difficult material from which to make tools because it is extremely hard. The toolmaker would have had to hit with considerable force and accuracy to remove flakes. Such a high degree of difficulty makes the thin, symmetrical shape of this piece a masterpiece of the toolmakers’ art.
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You may telephone from hereNot all public telephones are in street kiosks. Many are in booths in railway stations, airports and other public places. This elegant 1930s suite was at Charing Cross station, London.
Preserved kiosksA much photographed set of preserved K2s, off Bow Street in London WC2. The group developed over time: the two on the right are dated 1926; the centre unit is 1930; the remaining two are 1931 and 1934 respectively.
Modern times (part two)The payphone service was in trouble. The widespread unreliability of call boxes through vandalism and failure to repair damage speedily was a major public concern and an acute embarrassment to the newly privatised British Telecom. In 1985 it announced a major programme to rectify the situation. Payphones were to be transformed, and one aspect of this was to be the widespread use of a new 'KX' range of housings.

British Telecom was enthusiastic about its new designs, describing them as attractive, functional and modern. For the company, the use of stainless steel and anodised aluminium meant the end of routine painting. Regular cleaning would be all that was needed to maintain their appearance. They were also expected to be more resistant to vandalism and theft and so easier to keep in operation.
Modern times (part one)The 1970s were a period of relative stability. Compared with the previous forty years, the number of new kiosks installed was small. Some new sites were opened, for which the K8 was used, and when kiosks needed moving or where vandalism became a serious problem the existing unit would usually be replaced with the current model. Around 4000 K8s were supplied.

The K8 was more resistant to attack than its predecessor, but the degree of improvement was not enough to justify replacement of all the threatened K6s. In many instances thePost Office took a dramatic approach and ripped out the original glazing frames before the vandals did, replacing them with K8-style single-pane windows, the portion up to knee height being filled with sheet steel. The toughened glass that had been used for many years was replaced by unbreakable polycarbonate.
"K" for kiosk (part fifth)It was soon pointed out that, contrary to what the new crown implied (and letter boxes announced in the cipher E II R), Her Majesty was not the second Queen Elizabeth of Scotland and that the new Post Office crest did not apply north of the border. The solution was introduced in 1955. Henceforth, K6 fascias were to be cast with slots, into which either the Queen's Crown of Scotland or the St Edward's Crown would be inserted before the roof was fitted, depending on where the box was destined to be used.

Between 1950 and 1955 about 25,000 new K6s were erected, an even greater rate than before 1939. The pace slowed thereafter, but they were still being installed at the rate of about a thousand a year in the mid 1960s.
"K" for kiosk (part fourth)In 1946, as the K6 again began to appear in significant numbers, and as town and country planning legislation began to proliferate, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England asked the Royal Fine Arts Commission to reconsider the insistence on the universal use of red.

This time the Commission relented. In areas of special beauty, dark grey or black could be used so long as the glazing bars were picked out in red. The dispute was not over yet, however. Questions were asked in Parliament and, within a year, the Postmaster General agreed to look at the issue yet again. Six kiosks were painted in different colours and placed on view for inspection. One was painted red, the others Deep Brunswick Green, Light Brunswick Green, black, Light Battleship Grey and Dark Battleship Grey. The five boxes which were not red had the glazing bars of their doors and of one other side picked out in red so that they could be viewed with or without the feature. The conclusion was that red should remain the standard colour for normal rural and urban sites, but that Dark Battleship Grey with red glazing bars could be used in places of exceptional natural beauty.
"K" for kiosk (part three)In 1935 King George V was to celebrate his Jubilee so, to mark the event, the Post Office commissioned a new 'Jubilee Kiosk' from Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It would be in cast iron, it would be red, and it was to be for use everywhere. Designated the K6, it arrived on the streets in 1936.

Hitherto, whatever the design of kiosk, many communities had found it very difficult to persuade the Post Office to let them have one at all. In very many cases, particularly in rural areas, the Post Office would install a kiosk only if the local council agreed to cover all the Post Office's losses in providing and operating it. But now, along with the announcement of the Jubilee Kiosk, came a 'Jubilee Concession', by which henceforth call offices would be provided in every town and village with a post office, regardless of financial considerations. This concession led to over 8000 new kiosks being supplied.
"K" for kiosk (part two)The Post Office intended to use the K2 almost exclusively in London and, as boxes in the first production batch cost over £50 each, it determined that other places would get them only in the most special circumstances. This policy was largely successful: of more than 1500 K2s, only a few dozen or so were installed on sites outside London.

The K2 was not only too expensive for general use, it was also too big. With these factors in mind, the Post Office decided to continue to supply the Kl, but in a dramatically remodelled form. Designated the Kl Mk236 and introduced in 1927, it had glazing reminiscent of Giles Gilbert Scott's design and was painted cream, with red glazing bars and a red door.
"K" for kiosk (part one)The concrete Kiosk No. 1, as introduced in 1921. It was made up in sections of rein¬forced concrete and fitted with a wooden door. The upper portion had glazed panels on the two sides and front. The three con¬crete sections fit into the base and top, all joints being filled in with cement. The first model, the Mk234, had wooden window frames. These were soon replaced by metal frames, in the Mk235.
The early yearsThis rustic-style box was in service near Blackburn. The photograph dates from 1907. Notice the coin-operated door lock. Coinboxes as we now know them were a later development.