Phonebox (a.k.a "Kiosk")

This classic red phone box is one of the most recognisable icons of Britain.

The British Post Office held a design competition in 1924 for a new kiosk, judged by the Fine Arts Commission and won by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Named Kiosk No. 2, or K2, it was deployed across London and other large cities in 1927.

In the same year, the Post Office Engineering Department designed the larger K4, based upon K2, containing a posting box and stamp selling machine: they were expensive, unsuccessful and subsequently cancelled in 1935 with only 50 produced.

In 1929, the K3 was introduced, designed also by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, and intended for scenic and special sites, and also general outdoor use in both rural and urban areas. It became the standard for rural areas in 1930. Whereas the K2 was built from cast iron, the K3 was made from concrete - which proved to be a poor material for this use and was not used for any later designs.

In the meantime, the K5, a transportable plywood version of the K3 was created for use at exhibitions and for other temporary needs.

The K6 was introduced in 1936 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George V. It was similar to the K2, and also designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. As a result of active deployment programmes across 1936 and 1937, over 9,000 K6's were installed all over the country making it the first genuinely standard kiosk, which continues to be recognised as a british icon to this day.

The K7 of 1962 by Neville Comber was a failure. The subsequent K8 of 1968 by Douglas Scott and Bruce Martin became the successor to the K6 for all replacements and new installations.

In 1985, the K8 was superceded by the KX100-400 series - the first truly modern designs - which reached total deployment of 80,000 by 1996. In 1996, the KX+ range was introduced based on extensive user requirements research: it reflected the character of tradtional K6 design, but incorporated modern materials, anti-valdalism and numerous other features.

By the late 1990's, the heritage value of the K6 had been realised, and a policy was developed to retain and reintroduce them where practical. By 1999 there were over 15,000 K6 boxes in heritage sites. Since 1997 the K6 trademark has been available for license to competitors provided colours other than red are used - largely as a concession to avoid problems with restrictive trade practices.

In sum, the work by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (incidently, whose grandfather was also a famous architect) illustrates the power of a successful design, one which can survive the test of time, and be reborn as a distinctive heritage artifact. Undoubtedly the K6 is recognisable across the world.

Adapted from: BT's Events in telecommunications history.

Further details: images at Telephones UK; history at BT Payphones, and connected earth; biography of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott at Wikipedia, and connected earth, and St. Paul's Church; philosophy at Soane in Budapest?.

Postbox (a.k.a. "Letter Box")

Although not as universally recognisable as the phone box, the british post box is nevertheless distinctive in style.

The first independent letter boxes (those not at a place of residence,nor at a post office itself) were installed from 1853, with the first London pillar box installed in Fleet Street in 1855. Initially coloured Green, they were changed to Red in 1874, but a further 10 years passed until older boxes were repainted.

They are tpyically found as pillar boxes (free standing), wall boxes (fixed into a wall such that only the front is visible) or a lamp boxes (attached to a pole or lamp post). The wall box (depicted) was installed from about 1857.

Further details: history at The Letter Box Study Group, and Paul's Unofficial Letterbox Pages, and Malcolm Smith's Post Box Pages.

close | home | print

Copyright (C) 2001-2008 Please read NOTICES for complete license.