Along with black cabs, bowler hats, and cups of tea*, the traditional red British telephone box has become a symbol of the UK as well as a design icon. Its history begins nearly one hundred years ago, when a competition was held to choose the design of a telephone kiosk for London. It was won by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott; although he has a number of impressive buildings to his name—Battersea Power Station and Liverpool Cathedral being just two of them—it is the ubiquitous phone box that most people are probably familiar with.
The number of Scott-inspired kiosks multiplied across Britain over the next 50 years … until the 1970s and 1980s saw them replaced with modern, utilitarian designs or sold off as curiosities and shipped around the world. The subsequent growth of mobile phones meant that telephone boxes in general were viewed as unnecessary: many more were removed entirely or stripped of their phone and quietly left to moulder.
Today, it’s estimated that 8000 traditional red telephone boxes survive across the country. It’s not clear how many are still carrying out their original purpose, but some have been given a new lease of life by serving as community libraries, a place to house life-saving defibrillators, or even vertical gardens.
This particular phone box is one I am very familiar with. MrElaineous and I used to live across from it, and it was sad to see it fall further and further into neglect. It was one of the very first seeds I tossed out into the world from the Off the Ground blog … and I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone decided to run with the idea. I don’t know who has been responsible for keeping it decorated—flowers in spring, NHS-inspired rainbows during the pandemic, and a lit Christmas tree in the winter—but these efforts (and those of Chippenham’s army of natty knitters) have certainly help brighten the past few years.
On that note, I hope that all MissElaineous readers have a wonderful Christmas and very happy New Year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be more travel, more writing, and more photography to share with you in 2022.
Speaking of cups of tea, I am very pleased to point my fellow tea aficionados to Team Tea’s delightful advent calendar. MrElaineous and I have enjoyed sampling a new brew each day this month, and we now have a rather long list of new favourites to keep us caffeinated in the new year. It’s still available if you’re looking for a special treat for yourself.
Is the MissElaineous blog or Off the Ground website down or acting a bit funny? I’m currently in the middle of switching to a new, eco-friendly web host, so there may be a bit of turbulence while I sort everything out—I know just enough about the backend of a website to be dangerous. Thank you for your patience!