On August 21 we received an appeal from Dover town councillor, Graham Wanstall:
“BT want to take away the phone at the Old Borough Arms, in a classic red telephone box, this is the last one in Rye.
“Please send your objections to Rother Council, you have only three weeks to do this. I am trying to save phones and boxes for the future, I live in Dover but have a great interest in this.”
The familiar red telephone box is disappearing from the streets of Britain. It has become so little used in this era of mobile phones that it is now judged by BT to be redundant. Over 90% of them have been scrapped. Rye has managed to keep its two public telephone booths, one at the foot of Conduit Hill and the another outside the Old Borough Arms at the bottom of Mermaid Street.
The former was decommissioned some 20 years ago but retained by BT as a result of local pressure. Now the second one is to go out of service and a consultation process has commenced for its disposal.
These telephone boxes have, in the public mind, a similar status to the red London buses; they are visually important items of street furniture, with their connotations of familiarity reinforcing the sense of place in one’s home town or village. Recognising this, Rye Town Council has entered the lists under the BT ‘Adopt a Kiosk Scheme’. As town clerk Richard Farhall confirms: “Yes, we are first in the queue – but BT has to go through this consultation before the transfer to us. We are also seeking the kiosk in Conduit Hill.”
The K2 kiosk (as it is called) was designed by the famous architect Giles Gilbert Scott, who created Liverpool Cathedral amongst many other landmark buildings. It was the winning design in a competition sponsored by the Royal Fine Art Commission in 1924, in response to public dissatisfaction with that proposed by the General Post Office. For those interested, more information can be found here.
Much ingenuity has been exercised in finding new uses for these iconic installations. They have been converted into a mini book store, a memorial box, even a beach shower box in the British Virgin Islands. Any ideas anyone for the Rye telephone boxes?
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .