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The telephone companies were not the only bodies to provide telephone boxes: the emergency services and motoring organisations have also done so.

The Automobile Association (AA) and Royal Automobile Club (RAC) began their networks of boxes in 1912-13, when their strategically positioned patrolmen were provided with wooden sentry boxes to protect them from the weather. The AA quickly began installing telephones to provide a link back to headquarters and also to allow for members' messages to be passed on. The RAC followed suit in 1919 and soon both organisations were erecting boxes along main routes, principally for the benefit of passing members. There was no coinbox, as such. Local calls were free. An honesty box was provided for trunk-call fees.

The first boxes were simple wooden structures, although later models were rather more ornate. The AA's 'Super Tele-phone Boxes' installed in the late 1920s were 6 feet (1.8 metres) square and almost 13 feet (4.0 metres) high, with a further 10 foot (3.0 metre) long illuminated signpost pole on top! By the mid 1940s the two networks totalled over a thousand sites and, from 1947, members were able to use both systems. The move to pedestal-style call points began in the early 1960s, with trials of directly linked emergency telephones, such as had been installed on the new Ml motorway. Standard pedestal units, using fibreglass and steel, were introduced in 1968 and these and their successors now form the bulk of the networks. Forty or so of the older boxes still remain, mostly dating from the 1950s and almost all of them A A boxes.

Motorway emergency call points have never been anything other than pedestal booths. The first were housed in extremely primitive rectangular boxes designed by the Ministry of Transport. The unit in use in 1994, although still more functional than attractive, is a vast improvement.

Police call points allowed officers on patrol to keep in touch with the local police station in the days before personal radios. A light on the top would flash to attract the attention of a passing policeman. The public were invited to use the telephones, both in emergencies and for more routine queries. Styles varied, with some being specific to an individual force, although a degree of standardisation came about in the 1930s. The housings took two main forms. Most were simple cast-iron pillars containing a telephone and a separate lockable cupboard in which useful items like first-aid material could be kept. The other main style was a large kiosk, made of concrete, which gained fame in the Doctor Who television series as the 'Tardis'. The space inside was big enough to provide a convenient lock-up for villains awaiting transfer to the cells.

Several police call points have been pre-served, most of them in museums or at police training centres. Glasgow still retains several of the 'Tardis' type and Edinburgh has some of its own local version. The City of London retains some of its light blue pillars, and there are two in Metropolitan Police dark blue in the City of Westminster. One of these is in Piccadilly Circus, and it is not all that it seems. It is a former City Police box, disguised as a 'Met' one, the original listed box having been dug out of the ground and stolen at some time during the late 1980s.


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Not 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.


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Although AA boxes looked much the same as each other, it was not until 1956 that the AA standardised the design.


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A somewhat functional RAC box at Ellerbeck on the edge of the North York Moors, photographed in the mid 1980s.


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A 'Tardis' police box, pictured at South Mimms, Hertfordshire, in 1979. Boxes of this type were first erected in London in 1930. They were installed in the outer London districts; posts were used in inner London. The box was designed so that a person could stand inside. By 1953 there were 685 of these boxes, but with the introduction of personal police radios they were phased out from 1969 onwards.


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The City of London has preserved several of its old police pillars, although they have been 'restored' into the darker blue Metropolitan police colour scheme. This unusual unit, under restoration when photographed, is on a curve in Old Broad Street, EC2.


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Not all large police boxes looked like the 'Tardis'. This one can be seen in Almondbury, near Huddersfield.


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A splendid example of kiosk preservation, this K4 can be seen at Cranmore station, on the East Somerset Railway.


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One of BT's few non-red K6s is this black one in the Tower of London.


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The sculpture in Kingston-upon-Thames, by David Mach.

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