The Telephone Box

A tale of a mausoleum, two famous architects, The Archers, and Haunton’s K6 rather than K9

There are only two Grade 1 Listed funerary monuments in London, that to Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetary, and that of Sir John Soane R.A., R.S.A., in St. Pancras Gardens.

So, is there is a link to Haunton ?

Sir John Soane, was a hugely renowned architect, of the late 18th & early 19thC, and Haunton is linked to the mausoleum that he created in Old St. Pancras’ churchyard, in 1816 following the death of his wife.

Haunton is also linked to another famous architect, of 20thC significance, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott O.M., R.A., amongst whose legacies are Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, Waterloo Bridge, Battersea Power Station, due to have a new life as an Apple Campus in 2021, and Bankside Power Station, which already has a new life as Tate Modern.

One of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s other legacies is to be found in Haunton..

The legendary Time Lord Dr. Who, is known to have had a “K9”, and has a Tardis, but Haunton has a “K6”, of no less significance and it is not unlike a Tardis.

These seemingly disparate, science fiction and architectural themes come together in Haunton’s iconic red Telephone Box.

Initially referred to as the “Jubilee Kiosk” this style of telephone box was commissioned  in 1935 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V, and was the third type to have been designed by architect, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott on behalf of the General Post Office (GPO).

Having created the first official, yet unpopular, telephone booth in 1920, the GPO succumbed to relentless pressure to introduce a replacement by agreeing to a design competition overseen by the Royal Fine Art Commission in 1924. The competition was won by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. He had recently become a Trustee of the Sir John Soane Museum, and his winning design appeared to have been influenced by the late architect’s mausoleum, and thus the K2 style of telephone box began to be erected from 1926. 

Sir John Soane’s Mausoleum

The “Jubilee Kiosk”, officially referred to as the “K6”,  (the 6th type to have been created, yet based on the K2 design) began to appear in 1936, inaugurating the iconic item of street furniture, installed for a continuous period of 32 years, at more than 60.000 locations throughout the UK, and recognised around the world.

8000 were erected as part of the “Jubilee Concession”, allowing towns and villages with a Post Office to apply for a kiosk. A year later under the Tercentenary Concession, celebrating the Post Office’s 300th Anniversary, a further 1000 were installed over 12 years for local authorities which committed to paying a £4 annual subscription for 5 years. This was replaced by The Rural Allocation Scheme in 1949 during which, kiosks were allocated to rural areas where recommended by local authorities, whether or not they would prove profitable.

It is not known when the K6 was erected in Haunton, but a subtle design change occurred after the accession of Queen Elizabeth II which provides a clue. The Queen encouraged official bodies to adopt the St. Edward’s Crown (as used at Coronations), as their insignia in lieu of the Tudor Crown used previously. The Tudor Crown is depicted on Haunton’s telephone box, therefore it would have been erected before 1955, perhaps under the Rural Initiative which commenced in 1949 ?

Where did it come from ? A clue is to be found in the “MF” cast into the door threshold and some of the other cast iron panels. A total of 5 foundries were contracted to manufacture telephone kiosks over the years, and “MF” indicates that our telephone box was made at the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow of Walter MacFarlane & Co..

K9 ?

The GPO didn’t quite get there, K7 proceeded no further than a prototype and the K8 began to appear in 1968. After privatisation in 1982, BT introduced aluminium and glass booths, known as the KX series, but not before outrage exploded as “red telephone boxes” began to be painted yellow to align with the new corporate colour when the GPO was rebranded BT in 1980, as preparation for the impending privatisation.

Although much fiction reflects life, the reverse is also true, and some fiction can be said to be propaganda. Following British Telecom’s introduction of its “Adopt a Kiosk” scheme in 2008, the BBC long running radio serial, The Archers, developed a storyline in 2009 to adopt their fictional telephone box, which undoubtedly introduced the Scheme to the wider world, and over 5000 telephone boxes are said to have been adopted by local communities.

The communities of the Mease Valley have joined the throng. Following the decommission of their 3 telephone boxes, the Parish Councils at Harlaston, and Clifton Campville with Thorpe Constantine, have chipped in their £1.00s to BT, under the Adoption Scheme, and hence Haunton’s iconic telephone box has literally become part of our community.

It is one of less than 12,000 that remain of the 77,000 that had been erected by the 1980s.

Thanks are extended to Ian and Linda Buckingham, and Roger Nicholls for the restoration work on our telephone box, and to Pete Bostock for the board that was used for the back of the display panel.