Nottinghamshire, UK - In 2002 there were 92,000 red phone boxes, mainly K6s, in use in Britain, now there are 51,500 kiosks, including 10,770 K2, K4 and K6 red phone booths. British Telecom says payphone calls from red telephone boxes have declined by more than 80 per cent in the last five years and around 60 per cent of phone boxes lose money - the numbers of red and modern kiosks are set to continue to shrink, as BT cuts their numbers to match demand by selling off its surplus old red phone boxes - for the first time in more than 25 years. The company has teamed up with telecoms specialist X2 Connect to sell its old red phone boxes. BT last sold red boxes direct to the public in the mid 1980's when thousands of old K6s were sold off at public auctions as part of an extensive payphone modernisation programme.
The K6, also known as the Jubilee kiosk, was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and in 1935 to commemorate George V's jubilee these K6 red telephone boxes were set up in villages throughout the land much to the chagrin of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England which denounced them as eyesores complaining of the insidious intervention of red into its picturesque villages. The Post Office was supported by the Royal Fine Arts Commission and Sir Edwin Lutyens in support of the chosen red - now known as Post Office Red and given its own British Standard - BS538.
Fifty years on the red phone box had become a symbol of Britain, BT was privatised, and the first red kiosk to be given listed building consent was a K2 in London Zoo's parrot house. At the same time BT had been replacing the old ones with modern K7s and K8s and started auctioning off the old K2s, K4s, and K6s. In the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore wrote that the Scott kiosk could exert a civilizing influence in urban areas ruined by modernism and the welfare state - sending out a signal of hope in even the most dismal housing estate. The young Gavin Stamp, now an English Heritage commissioner, blamed the privatisation for the K6's demise and noted the design connection between Scott's phone box and the great Sir John Soane (see photo).
X2 Connect and BT are selling original cast iron K6 red phone boxes 'refurbished to a high standard' and finished in their original red and black livery. Prices start at £1,950. They have 60 to sell and apparently have a waiting list of 500. Of course, it is still possible to buy them for considerably less (and more). Pete Watson of Cox's Yard sold Lady Cobbold's historic old K6 in a reasonable condition at a recent Salvo Fair at Knebworth for a mere £350.
The K6 kiosk is made from cast iron with a teak door. It is 8 feet 3 inches tall (2.4 metres), 3 feet wide (0.92 metres) and weighs three quarters of a ton (762 kilograms). The K6 (kiosk number six) was the first red phone box to be used extensively outside London. Its growth, from 1935, can be seen from the BT archives:
1925 - 1,000 (K1 Only)
1930 - 8,000 (K2 & K3 Red Phone Boxes added)
1935 - 19,000 (K6 Red Phone Box introduced)
1940 - 35,000
1950 - 44,000
1960 - 65,000
1970 - 70,000 (K8 Red Phone Box introduced in 1968)
1980 - 73,000
Old red phone boxes continue to appeal
How the Red Telephone Box became Part of Britainís National Heritage by Patrick Wright
X2 Connect Ltd: BT sells red phone boxes for the first time in more than 25 years
Story Type: News