click photo to enlarge
One of the poor decisions of the 1980s was that made by the newly privatised BT (British Telecom) to introduce a new design of telephone box (sometimes called a kiosk). The original designs were so well-liked by British people, and had become one of the symbols of the UK to non-natives, that any new design was bound to provoke a negative reaction. And so it proved. The sleek KX100 design, though it was undoubtedly cheaper to make, maintain and clean, was much reviled and vandalised. Such is the consequence of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.
We didn't know it in the 1980s, but the life of the telephone box was limited; the rise of the mobile phone has by now made them all but redundant. However, such is the affection that they engender, that many councils bought redundant boxes for a nominal fee, retained them in their original locations, and turned them to new uses such as information points and free "swap libraries". British Telecom kept some in strategic locations as phone boxes for heritage reasons. The other day we came upon a few in Smithfield Market in London.
The pair in the photograph above are two of the most common designs. On the left is a K2. There were 1,700 examples made of which just over 200 are still in place. This was the first type to be painted red. It was designed for the General Post Office (GPO) by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1924. The first examples were installed in 1926 and in 1935 it was phased out to be replaced by the K6, which is the model on the right. This was also the work of Scott. He designed it in 1935, the first example was introduced in 1936, and production finally ended in 1968. A grand total of 60,000 were manufactured of which 10,700 remain. It wasn't the novelty of finding some telephone boxes with phones still in them that prompted my photograph so much as the strident colours in the background of the "GPO red" paintwork. For more information about Britain's telephone boxes this site is a great resource.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Photo Title: K2 and K6 Telephone Boxes, Smithfield Market, London
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 16mm (32mm - 35mm equiv.) crop
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On