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Preserved kiosks
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As the older К series boxes were replaced by the new KX models, there was a surge of nostalgia for what was about to disappear. To some extent the arguments for the retention of the red box had been rehearsed when British Telecom experimented with the use of yellow, but this time it was a matter of the boxes themselves disappearing forever. There would be no going back and the two sides in the battle that ensued - for that is what it became - were as polarised as they could have been. The preservationists would grasp any opportunity to support their cause and British Telecom, for its part, was not beyond turning out at dead of night to remove an old box and replace it with a new one.

The stand-off did not last long, and agreement was soon reached that about 2000 red boxes would be declared 'listed buildings'; in this special case the rules were altered to allow for structures as young as thirty years to be listed. At the time about one in twenty K6s were not old enough to be listed but, as age was difficult to determine, this fine detail was generally ignored. However, no K8s could be listed. Of the remaining red boxes, many have been left as they were: the economics of replacing an old housing simply for the sake of it are much as they have always been, so, for the foreseeable future, rather more than just the 2000 'listed' boxes will remain in service.

The rest - and by far the most - were sold off, mostly as largely complete units, but in some cases for scrap. Public auctions were held and recycled boxes began to appear in yards and gardens throughout Britain. Many were bought by dealers, some of whom amassed fields full of boxes to be restored and sold all over the world. Often the idea has been to restore the boxes to their original glory, with period interiors. Others have been converted to uses as varied as gatekeepers' lodges, cocktail bars, book shelves and fish tanks. Some have found use in nightclubs and restaurants as housings for payphones!

Meanwhile, many of the preserved boxes were spruced up and, in the process, some were changed from grey to red. Where grey was once the only acceptable colour in places of special beauty, red is now the required colour. It is odd, too, that many K6s now sport gold-painted crowns, a feature that is entirely new, yet in many areas ВТ has not been allowed to put 'Phonecard' signs in them, on the grounds that this is not an original detail.

Perhaps the strangest twist of all has been the re-installation of recycled K6s, a process which ВТ began in 1993 with an extra sixty or so in Westminster. About half of the 'new' red boxes replaced KX units, but the remainder were on new and highly prominent sites, where previously the idea of any telephone box had been unthinkable. It was a marriage of civic aspiration and commercial logic, and the idea proved so popular with local authorities and the public that it was repeated elsewhere. ВТ tried to prevent other operators using the K6 - a reasonable commercial move - but in the autumn of 1998 New World began its own programme of K6 installations, its boxes being distinguished by a fine black livery. The combined effect is that some places have more K6s than ever - and the number is still increasing!


Preserved kiosks

A 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.


Preserved kiosks

A fine example of preservation in situ. This 1931 vintage K2 can be seen in Austin Friars, London EC2.


Preserved kiosks

Most kiosk groups developed as the years passed and bulk installations were not routine until the 1960s. This group, adjacent to the old Stratford Town Hall, in East London, probably dates from around 1950 and is unusual in that all three appear to have been installed together.


Preserved kiosks

The К1 Mk234 at the National Tramway Museum, Crich, Derbyshire. It has the later Mk236 roof sign.


Preserved kiosks

Already gone, but not forgotten. This Mercury housing is one of the exhibits in the National Telephone Kiosk Collection at the Avoncroft Museum.


Preserved kiosks

A fine set of mid-1960s K6s, near Marble Arch in London. Although originally in the grey 'heritage' livery, they are now in the currently favoured all red.


Preserved kiosks

Two incorrect details to look out for: many K6s carry signs with the wrong style of lettering, a consequence of lax transcription when production drawings were reissued, and many K6s now have their crowns picked out, usually in gold. What would Giles Gilbert Scott have thought? (The lettering, at least, is corrected when new signs have to be installed.)


Preserved kiosks

Not all kiosks have been used for public telephones. Some have been bought for use as telephone cabinets on factory sites. Others have been used on railway stations as announcers' booths. This K8 owned by London Underground (in pale yellow) is on Whitechapel station.

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