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Red Telephone Boxes

Home > London > Fun Things To Do
by Julie McNamee (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in North London. Visit my blog at www.quirkytravel.com.
Published May 2nd 2012
First K2 telephone box
First K2 telephone box at the Royal Academy - Courtesy o thelondonphile.com


They are fewer in number now, but to add a splash of colour to your life, there's nothing better than red telephone box-spotting in London.

The very first boxes can be seen in the entrance to the Royal Academy. One is Gilbert Scott's wooden prototype, and the other the first iron box. These boxes were called K2s as they replaced an original concrete, cream coloured version K1. The boxes went all the way up to the relatively rare K8 (11,000 of them UK-wide) - by far the greatest number installed in the UK were the K6's (pictures of both on this page).

They began to be phased out in the 1980s in favour of open, sleek, shiny, modern things that just didn't have the same character. It's anachronistic that we still have many phone boxes in all these days, with the ubiquity of mobile phones, but thankfully in the 1990s councils in London took note that for tourist value alone, it's worth reinstating some of them. And a great number of these are listed buildings.

They can be found in Smithfield Market:

Red telephone boxes Smithfield Market
Smithfield Market (waymarket.com)


Fleet Street:

Red Telephone Box - City of London (author's own)

Broad Court, Covent Garden:

Red telephone boxes Covent Garden
Covent Garden (wikimedia commons)


St Paul's:

St Pauls red telephone box
St Paul's (panoramio.com)


and in many more London-wide locations. There are two outside the Wellington Bar on the Strand.

Inspiration for the design of the telephone box came from Sir John Soane's (architect of the original Bank of England building) tomb at St Pancras church graveyard near the station of the same name. More on that in this telephone box article.

There's now a scheme whereby a community can "adopt" a telephone box. So far they have been used as community book exchanges, housings for defibrillators, and an art gallery.

And there are excellent companies out there who have purchased old and unwanted boxes and are refurbing them, and news has just come through in the last week that BT will be selling off a lot of K6's - fancy a telephone box toilet, anyone?

Red telephone box toilet
Telephone box toilet (telegraph.co.uk)
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