Adopt a kiosk


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 BT public notice in the telephone box

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 .

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  1. Looking at the link to the design of the kiosk outside the Old Borough Arms, it appears it was kiosk version 6 (the windows are the giveaway). The design was especially commissioned to commemorate the silver jubilee of the coronation of King George V. It is a magnificent piece of street architecture and the last of its kind before BT changed the style completely to become a’glass box’. Here’s hoping it can be found another use, not just to lean a bicycle against!

  2. Could the two kiosks be spot listed by Rother?
    They are much appreciated and photographed, especially by overseas visitors, when they return!

  3. Both the remaining telephone boxes are listed as K6 TELEPHONE KIOSK ADJACENT TO THE OLD BOROUGH ARMS HOTEL and on Conduit Hill
    Designation Type: Listing
    Grade: II.
    and are an essential part of the streetscape of Rye and must be preserved insitu.

  4. Good news Julian so the conservation society needs to get involved.
    I think a book exchange place would be wonderful like the little library going up Lion street.
    You can take a book and leave bks. I would be happy to keep an eye . It would need shelving and a sign outside

  5. Could turn one into an adult book swap and the other into Children’s books and games. The box in Beckley is used for this purpose and is very well received…

  6. On a recent visit, to somewhere I can’t remember, an old red phone box was being used for flowers. Glass panes had been taken out and the window boxes inside sprouted flowers all over the phone box. It really was spectacular.


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