The Telephone Kiosk Story - NOW the Purton Stoke Book Exchange
BT announced that they were going to remove the telephone and Kiosk at the entrance to Purton Stopke. However they also indicated that if a local community wished to retain it they could do so on payment of £1. It was called the "Adopt-a-phone box scheme." We had previously been looking to have an entrance feature and had set aside £500 for this. This seemed the ideal combination of owning a striking feature of the village landscape but also one that had been with us for over 70 years. And so it was that at the AGM in 2009 it was proposed that we look into the possibility of joining the scheme. BT needed to sign off the sale with a Parish Council so we contacted them and told them our interest. They agreed to contact BT and deal with it. It took a year for BT to confirm. At the AGM in 2010 our interest was confirmed. And so it was that Helen of PPC got in touch in May and told us that we had been accepted. At a meeting of the Purton Stoke Committee we agreed to sign a contract with the PPC that we would take responsibility for its maintenance. Now read on...
However I feel the need to have a preamble about the design and history of the Kiosk before going into the renovation project – so here goes.
Non-geeks can skip this bit.
The National Telephone Company was formed in 1880 and a mixture of telephone booth styles were used during their lifetime. It was nationalized in 1911. The new Post Office Telephones decided to standardize the style and chose one that had been used in Birmingham. WWII intervened however and the first K1 was introduced in 1921.
K1 Mk 234 It was made of concrete panels with a wooden door and window panels.
K1 Mk235 The window panels were made of metal.
K1 Mk236 1927 Deeper window frames and revised signage.
K2 1924 Designed by Sir Gilbert Scott as a competition entry for the Commission on Fine Arts. The idea for the shape of the telephone kiosk came to Giles Gilbert Scott when he saw the Soane memorial in Old St Pancras Churchyard. The kiosk was spacious and imposing, made of cast iron and weighed 1 ton, and cost over £50, and only installed in London and Oxford, in 1926. All are “listed”. Some still exist in private collections.
K3 1929 Compromise K2 design in concrete. 12,000 installed. All except 2 were replaced.
K4 1927 Modified K2 to include stamp machines and a post box. Weight increased to 1.5 tons with clear access at both ends. Only 50 made. 10 survive, 4 in public use.
K5 1934. Introduced as a knock-down call office. None survive.
K6 The Jubilee Kiosk to mark the Silver Jubilee of George V. He didn’t live to see them installed. Again designed by Sir Gilbert Scott as a compromise between K2 and K3. It is the definitive British Kiosk. There are 4 Tudor crowns at the top of each side. These were replaced in 1952 with Elizabethan crowns. (and in Scotland with the Scottish crown.) There are 18 cast iron sections held together with 200 screws. They weigh 0.75 tons 70,000 were installed between 1936 and 1965 with 4 design changes.
K6A Door opposite back panel hinged left. Purton Stoke model.
K6B Door opposite back panel hinged right.
K6C Door fitted on left panel hinged left.
K6D Door fitted on right panel and hinged right.
2,500 have been granted Grade II listings. Less than 14,000 remain.
K7 1959 Architect Neville Condor designed it but only six prototypes were made.
K8 July 1968. Designed by Bruce Martin. 11,000 were installed with a different brighter “poppy red” colour – now the standard colour. Only 12 remain - 4 in Swindon.
For photographs of the designs and more see:
Red telephone Kiosks installed
1925 - 1000
1930 - 8000
1935 - 19000
1940 - 35000
1950 - 44000
1960 - 65000
1970 - 70000
1980 – 73000
Swindon Council has submitted 7 to English Heritage for listed status. Following a recommendation by English Heritage, the final decision as to whether they are included on the statutory list rests with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
Some communities will just leave the boxes to serve as a bygone symbol from the 20th century to show how communication methods used to be.
BT has removed 30,000 phone booths across the country since 2002.
End of history lesson and start of project.
Monday 10am on 21st June Jim Caslaw and Howie Ockwell started the renovation of the K6 Phone Box at the entrance of the village.
The first task was to assess the condition of the box. In general it was in a good state with just a few signs of rust. It was clear that it had been painted a few times and hadn't been rubbed down first. This meant that there were thick layers of paint, and most of the final layer was peeling off. There were spots, bobbles and streaks everywhere. Other renovators have stripped the boxes down to the bare metal and repainted them. Should we do this for the sake of authenticity? We concluded that it must have been in its present state for many years, so we decided to clean it, rub it down to remove the majority of the surface defects and give it an undercoat and a two top coats. After due deliberations we concluded that part of the charm is the thick irregular finish which represents the numerous paintings over decades. The overall effect would look shiny and new for many years to come. We will carry out this procedure on the back of the box before repainting all of it. The paints, undercoat costs about £40 / 5 litres and top coat RED 539 costs about £60 / 5 litres.
We cleared the soil from around the base to find out if it was on a concrete plinth. It wasn't. At the rear there were some wires sticking out of the ground. They looked like the connections to the phone that had been removed. Should we cut them off? We would have to take advice from BT. * Why not bury them - so we dug a little hole and covered them up. Problem solved. The power cable was still there covered with a layer of concrete. That would have to remain. At the front the base was covered with tarmac pavement so that would have to stay too. It appeared that the base had been painted black but most of it had peeled of revealing a red finish. We decided to paint that red.
Many of the boxes have had their "glass" panes replaced with plastic. Fortunately ours was glass. Some of the rivits holding the frame for the glass were missing and one large pane was loose. It fell out on inspection but fortunately didn't break. The rivits were a mixture. Some were double headed, some were single with a retaining clip and some just single. We decided to replace them with stainless nuts and bolts. Eight would be required. The leather straps holding the door were in good condition. A clean and oil would bring them up like new.
The door closure was working effectively and would just need a clean (and paint maybe).
The backboard where the phone etc had been fixed was filled with holes where they had been attached. Two poster holders were removed and could be part of our displays. We haven't decided to cover the backboard yet. it may become neccessary.
There should be four semi-transparent 4mm plastic inserts at the top of the box with the word TELEPHONE. On our box one was missing. The others had faded apprecable with age. We need to get 4 new ones? They would cost about £60. We will check the cost of getting them made up locally - it may be preferable to have PURTON STOKE instead. At the bottom left of the back of the box there is a conduit where the phone wires were concealed. We may remove that but will have to take the back board off first. We can check the cover for the powere cable on the right at the same time. With luck we could make them a lot neater without interfering with the electrics of course.
The floor is concrete. We think this could be made much more attractive with tiles or mosaic. It could even be carpet or linoleum! The size is 80 X 80 cms and so 16 off tiles at 20 X 20 cms would be ideal. We will decide on the colour scheme later.
Saturday 26th June. Washed the top of the box today. It came up well and will just need a rub down before repainting with uc and tc. The flaking paint on the inside top was also cleared and washed doen. Again this will come up well. A litre of white paint will be required.
The back board was attacked and after a bit of a struggle was removed. The phone wires condiut was then removed giving a much neater appearence to the back wall. A convex plastic cover on the right was in place. This too was removed to reveal the fuse/switch panel. We will repair the plastic cover and put it back. It may be better however to replace it with a rectangular wooden or metal cover. We will decide later. The back board was put back on covering the fuse/switch box until that has been resolved.
On the back wall there is a moulding - No 6 GPO FL 37/1. Could this refer to the K6 design and the date of manufacture/installation of January 1937? I later found out it referred to the first quarter of 1937. On the outside the moulding is - Lion Foundry Kirkintilock. (A total of 5 foundries were used to produce the cast iron Kiosks.)
Wednesday 30th June 10am We did some more rubbing down and cleared the base of the concrete which was covering the base at the rear. I did this very carefully because we weren’t sure if the power cable was there. I uncovered an unattached earth wire plus a jumble of telephone wires. They will be cut or buried where they are too deep to remove. Fortunately the power cable is not there. This is deeper and goes underneath the base and surfaces inside the Kiosk.
We have noticed that the light is sometimes on and sometimes not. I have read that it is on a timer and that may be in the box by the switch. We haven’t investigated that. The fact that the light is on during the day suggests that the timer needs adjusting.
11am Howie and I went to Dunfield near Kempsford to look at the Kiosk that the village had renovated. We met Carol and Richard Rouse who were team members, were invited for a cup of tea, to their house, not the Kiosk, and discussed the trials and tribulations of their project. All of the villagers were involved (22 houses) rubbing down, paint stripping, undercoating and top coating (2X), and enjoyed a champagne celebration on completion. They haven’t decided what to do with the inside yet. Their Kiosk has an Elizabethan crown ie post 1952, and they painted that gold. The Parish Council gave them a grant for their materials which they obtained from www.redtelephoneboxe.com. www.unicornkiosks.com also supply materials.
Monday 6th June 10am. Howie and Jim continued with the preparation of the Kiosk. We cleaned the windows and removed the last remaining wires and rough concrete from around the base. It’s beginning to look cared for. Jim ordered the paint from Unicorn – a company that renovates Kiosks and sells them for £1200-£1800 each.
The Paint finally arrived from Unicorn Kiosks.
Monday 26th July 10am. Roger Jack joined the project. The paint had arrived from Unicorn so we set about washing the outside of the Kiosk with white spirit and applying a rust inhibitor in the few places necessary. We then began the undercoat. It was red oxide, brownish red in colour and very thick. It dried almost immediately. Howie painted the top and back and Jim and Roger the sides and front. We finished about 12 noon.
Monday 2nd August 9am. We rubbed down first where the surface was uneven and put a second undercoat on the outside of the Kiosk, and finished about 11am. From a distance the Kiosk looks great, albeit an unusually reddish brown colour.
Monday 9th August 10am. This is it. We filled in around the door where there were gaps and put on the undercoat. A first top coat was then applied to the outside and suddenly the Kiosk came alive. It’s a vibrant red colour again. Some local communities have gone green and painted theirs to blend in with the landscape. Am I unusual in finding this a contradictory and bizarre idea?
Tuesday 10th August. At our Committee Meeting we discussed the four panels at the top of the box, one of which was missing. It was agreed to replace them initially with "Purton Stoke" as it is no longer a telephone box, and change them at infrequent intervals. We also decided that we would approve the cost of two wooden planters beside the Kiosk and Matthew Scott has volunteered to make them to our design (when he gets a free moment).
Monday 17th August. Work again. Roger spent his time inside the Kiosk, rubbing it down and washing it ready for the undercoat. It was another warm sunny day and so he was able to put down the undercat on the ceiling. He was tempted to paint it blue and include a few stars but resisted that and painted it white. Howie and Jim completed the outside with the final top coat. Next week we intend to pick out the crown in gold.
Monday 23rd August. Another day and another layer. Roger continued on the inside of the Kiosk with the first undercoat. There wasn't enough room for anyone else so Howie started applying the undercoat to the inside of the door (with the door open of course). Meanwhile Jim put the first coat of gold paint on the Tudor crowns. He managed three of the four crowns before rain stopped play. We discussed the back board and decided we could replace the current one with a larger one - 1.8 mtres X 80 cms and bring it forward about 50 cms to clear the electrical switches. It would look less bitty and more integrated than the BT arrangement. Colour? Black was decided. Material 18 mm plywood.
Tuesday 24th August. Meanwhile Richard Williams had been trying to find a suitable lock for the door and finally "The Locksmith" came up trumps and fitted one today.
Tuesday 31st August. Another sunny day. Jim and Howie continued their work on the Kiosk. Howie put the first top coat on the inside and jim finished painting the gold crowns. We also finalised the measurements for the installation of the new back board.
Saturday 4th September. The Kiosk has taken on a new look now that Matthew Scott has installed his two planters on either side (picture to follow). What a splendid entrance to the village it is now.
Sunday 5th September. We had the weigh-in of the Potato-in-a-bucket competition (35 entrants) and used the surplus soil to top up the Planters.
Tuesday 7th September. Howie and Jim spent the morning, apart from chatting to the passers-by, measuring, drilling etc to get the back board in position.