In 1884, The Postmaster General authorised the telephone companies (plural!) to establish "public call offices"; the largest company was the N. T. C., or National Telephone Company - however, their activities were naturally focused mainly on London and other large cities.
Over the years, "call offices", "silence cabinets" and "kiosks" sprung up in shops, railway stations, and other public places. Some boxes had an attendant who would dial the required number for members of the public who were still unsure of the new technology. There was a great variety of design and style, with local government opposing standardisation. A recognizably national telephone kiosk was still a long way off.
The idea for a telephone booth is credited by some to Thomas Watson, Graham Bell's assistant. Apparently he felt that greater privacy was needed by primitive technology which relied on raised voices and almost bionic-hearing!
In 1912, The Post Office took over from the National Telephone Company, and other companies.
In 1927, With the introduction of Kiosk No.2 (the design had won a Post Office competition three years earlier in 1924, leading architects were invited by the Royal Fine Arts Commission to submit designs for a new cast iron kiosk), Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960) definitely started something.
The cast iron Kiosk, Number 2, was a breakthrough. It's distinctive domed roof and all-over red made it the prototype of the classic phone booth that we still find in Rishton, which was introduced nearly ten years later. Ventilation was provided via the crown in the roof section - it was made up from small, round holes! However, this kiosk was mostly restricted to the London area, and therefore not a truly national kiosk. Not only did it feature a proper ventilation system (through its perforated, domed crown) but it was painted in, for the very first time, the unmistakable bright red that the public has come to recognise, even love.
This is the design classic that, along with Bobbie's helmets, bowler hats and double decker buses came to symbolise everything that was British. Having said that, its introduction in 1926 was restricted mainly to the centre of London and to some large provincial towns.
Legend has it that the dome was Scott's homage to the 18th Century architect Sir John Soane, R. A. (1753-1837) whose family tomb is surmounted by a very similar feature. Mind you, Thomas Watson's first proper booth, which was wooden, also featured a domed roof!
Unlike the tops of modern British phone booths, Scott's Soanian dome is a proper roof, dealing effectively with rain and litter while also being aesthetically pleasing.
Kiosk No4, left, introduced in 1928 was more ambitious. Intended as a 24-hour post office-cum-phone box, post box and stamp vending machine all in one it was designed for day and night use in city centres and for locations where cost prevented sub-post offices being opened.
They were not a success. The noise of the stamp machines disturbed people who were on the phone at the time and the rolls became soggy in damp weather.
Less than 50 had been installed when they were withdrawn in 1935. Kiosk No 5, left, was then designed as what was virtually a wooden flat pack.
Few were made, however, with the K2 and K3 reigning supreme until the Silver Jubilee of King George V, which itself provided the inspiration for a worthy successor.
1936 This is the true all-time "classic" telephone kiosk. It's the one the tourists expect to see, along with Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace; and is the phone booth mainly found in Rishton. It's the model for countless money-banks and other souvenirs, including postcards (usually pictured beside Highland Cows or London bobbies); it's the one you find housing public telephones in youth hostels and British-style pubs world-wide; in short, this design says, "telephone box", more than any other!
With his classic design for the Kiosk No 6, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott produced in 1935 what has since been acclaimed as the world's best known piece of street furniture.
Designed, yet again, by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott - not only to update the call-box design, but also to commemorate the jubilee celebrations of George V - this was the first truly national, or nationwide kiosk.
The windows afforded greater visibility than the previous design by Scott, and, for night use, there was an interior light (on a timer!). K6 also featured a writing shelf and, according to British Telecom, "combined a smaller exterior with a roomier interior" - now, what does that remind you of?
Thankfully, some at least have survived as listed buildings, while others do so only as garden sheds or ornamental features for those who can afford to buy one of the many that BT ditched.
Interestingly, the K6 saw such long service, that the approximate age of a box can apparently be judged from the design of the embossed crown, ranging from George V to Elizabeth II.
It was on the 4th June 1936, that the clerk to the Council was instructed to make an application to the post-master general for the provision of a telephone kiosk at Harwood Road corner. The request was turned down when A letter was read from the Post Office Telephones on the 18th June 1936, that they could not see their way to provide a public telephone kiosk at the junction of Harwood Road and High Street, as there was a public call office in existence within 300 yards of the proposed site.
The K2 had never been accepted outside London but the "Jubilee", as it was often known, became the first universal kiosk simply because it was to be installed throughout the whole country.
By the outbreak of The Second World War, 20,000 of Scott's monument had been erected. Even today, with 16,000 red boxes in use (2,400 of which are listed buildings), BT carefully preserves them, installing the up-to-the-minute payphone equipment with the high level of service and choice that modern customers have come to expect.
The ubiquitous K6 could be erected in a single day, despite the 675 kilo weight of its cast iron frame and teak door. All the fittings were standardised and included a writing shelf, a place for parcels, even an umbrella hook. Unless they were situated near a street lamp, interiors were illuminated by a light controlled by an automatic time switch.
Predictably, there were some objections to the red colour scheme which the Post Office had insisted must be used everywhere and, in the true spirit of British compromise, exceptions were made. This meant that at some natural beauty spots, boxes were toned down by painting them battleship grey. The K6 had now become an established institution and the phrase Press Button B and Try Again Later a national catch phrase. As for the colour, most people today would be shocked to find it in anything other than red.
Most K6's were installed after the second World War. The peak was in the early 1950's when they were one of the few means the government had of extending the telephone service.
Red is not a colour that is easily missed, a fact which the K6 demonstrated perfectly. Once people came to associate red with public telephones, they could pick one out at a glance.
On the 11th May 1944, the attention of the Telephone Manager was drawn to the state of disrepair to the telephone kiosk on High Street.
On the 10th January 1946, Attention was drawn to serious complaints against the services given by the Exchange and to the report that the Exchange was not manned from 11 p.m. until the following morning. The Council Clerk was instructed to forward a very strong letter of complaint to the appropriate authority.
Throughout the 50's, Scott's kiosk remained popular and its supremacy was not questioned until the "hip" 60's when it was beginning to be thought of as a little outdated.
In fact, as early as 1959, the Post Office had approached the distinguished architect, Neville Conder, for an up-to-date kiosk design. He responded imaginatively.
Away went small windows and glazing bars: Kiosk No 7 featured the kind of solid, almost floor-to-ceiling panes seen in modern office buildings.
The bold all-round glass design provided maximum visibility and allowed it to be positioned to suit the individual lay-outs of different streets and open spaces. At a height of well over two metres, Kiosk No7 was some 35cms higher than previous models. Naturally, it boasted the very latest payphone dialling equipment.
When the first of the new kiosks was launched in Central London in 1962 amidst a blaze of TV and press publicity, it carried a notice inviting users to write in with their opinions.
The result was positive: they agreed that the modern design was not only functional but also extremely attractive.
In October 1937, The post master general submitted an application for telegraph poles to be erected at the rear of 35 School Street and 60 High Street, these were approved by the urban district council.
It seems this was this time that the telegraph poles around the back streets of the town were erected, not much notice is taken of them, they simply carry peoples telephone cables.
The postmaster general submitted an application for telegraph poles to be placed at the rear of 15 and 25 Harwood Road, and 31 and 47 Commercial Street on the 21st October 1937. The council refused permission, and a protest was forwarded to the engineering department against the erection of posts in there present numbers. In January the following year, The Post Office Engineering Department withdrew their application for telegraph poles to be placed at the rear of Commercial Street and Harwood Road, although the posts have been placed there since and are still there today.
The clerk received a letter from the Trades and Labour Council, in December 1937, calling attention to the absence of a doctors surgery below the canal bridge, and to the inconvenience caused thereby. The clerk was to communicate with the doctors in town on this subject and with the post office telephone department regarding the possibility of the erection in that district of a telephone kiosk.
In January 1938, the council received their reply from Dr J. Ross who wrote a letter with reference to provision of a doctors surgery below the canal bridge, and after an interview with the Post Office Telephone Department, a kiosk was to be placed on Hermitage Street. The council resolved that an application should be made for the provision of a kiosk at the corner of Holt Street and Hermitage Street.
An application was received from the Post Office Engineering Department for consent to the placing of telegraph Poles at the rear of 72 Hermitage Street, and Hanson Street adjoining 104 Hermitage Street on the 5th May 1938. The council protested against the erection of telegraph poles again, and the surveyor took the matter up with the PO engineer.
An application was received by the local council, from the post office to lay underground cables near to Sand holes on Blackburn Road. This was approved in March 1939. A month later in April 1939, Another application was submitted by the post office engineering department for the laying of an underground cable for a distance of approximately 16 yards in Sussex Road. This was also approved.
The Post Office submitted an application to place 10 poles and telegraphic line, along the North-East side of Wilpshire Road from the junction of with Lee Lane to a point about 90 yards North-West of Close Nook, on the 11th January 1940. Consent was granted by the Rishton Urban District Council.
The Council Clerk submitted an application from the Post Office Engineer for consent to erect a Telegraph Pole at the rear of 49 Commercial Street on the 9th January 1941. The application was approved by Rishton Urban District Council. There was previously an application made for a telegraph pole here in October 1937 (see earlier), so it took the post office 4 years to finally get their telegraph pole in place. This post was still being used 60 years later.
A Direct telephone line to Accrington Fire Station was to be installed at the Fire Station by connecting the line from the Harwood Road Call box on the 17th April 1941.
Consent was given to the Postmaster-General for the placing of one post and telegraphs in the back street at the rear of No. 1, Victoria Street on the 17th April 1941.
On the 12th June 1942, Consent was given to the postmaster-general for the placing of:—
- (1) One Post and Telegraphs on the South side of the back street at the rear of No. 30, Hermitage Street, Rishton.
- (2) Four Poles in Cutt Wood, Blackburn Road, between Cutt Lane and Woodlands Cafe, subject to an annual payment of 1/- per pole.
- 3) Underground Telegraphic Lines across the footpaths at points (1) on the West Side of Harwood Road, Rishton, approximately three yards North of the entrance to Norden Farm, and (2) on the North side of Lee Lane, Rishton, approximately two yards West of the entrance to Tottleworth Lee Farm.
Consent was given to the Postmaster-General on the 10th July 1942, for the placing of an overhead telegraph line along the north-east side of Lee Lane, Rishton, from a point alongside Tottleworth Lee Farm in a north-easterly direction for a distance of approximately 230 yards.
On the 13th November 1947 The Postmaster General was desirous of the consent of the Council to lay an underground telegraphic line along A.678 and A.6064 to the respective boundaries, and it was Resolved That such consent was granted.
On the 31st May 1951, The question was raised of the necessity for a telephone to be installed in the Tottleworth area particularly in cases of emergency, and it was resolved That a communication be forwarded to the Post Office telephone Manager putting forward a strong case for early consideration.
In 1959, the Post Office commissioned the architect Neville Conder to update the design of the British telephone booth. K7 was the result.
First appearing in Central London three years later, K7 echoed the bold and modern office architecture around it. Interior visibility was improved with all-round glass panes, and it also featured an easy-to-use door handle.
Although it maintained the easily-identified red motif of GPO boxes, its aluminium shell was considered unsightly once subjected to the British weather and K7 was discontinued.
In the 1980's, a new company - British Telecom - took over the running of UK telecommunications from the Post Office. A revolution on Britain's highways and byways ensued. Not only did BT seemingly wish to disassociate itself from the GPO pillar-box red, but, after half a century of service, the much loved Gilbert Scott kiosks were to be almost completely replaced with a new generation of phone box - the KX range.
Functional and durable, with improved interior visibility, the new boxes were also wheelchair friendly. Their construction allowed that the sides need not reach the ground, so litter could not accumulate inside.
The supporters of the KX range were largely those who generally favour "the new" in architecture and style, while others felt that while the Gilbert Scott booths enhanced their surroundings, the new kiosks on the block did the opposite. In Europe, perhaps, the new boxes would not have been so contentious. Of course, one can admire the new kiosks while regretting the almost iconoclastic elimination of Kiosk 6 - sometimes being removed and not even replaced with a modern box!
There were 6 phone booths in Rishton, 4 of them were K6 red boxes, one was a KX box, and the other is an open kiosk, much like a shelter.
They are situated at the junction of Cutt Lane and Blackburn Road, Cliff Street, Harwood Road outside West End garage, The Roebuck on High Street, on the railway station platform, and at the junction of Holt Street and Hermitage Street.
In October 2003, it was announced by BT (formally British Telecom), the owners of ALL the public phone boxes in Rishton, that they were to cut 18 boxes from the Borough of Hyndburn. The Company was blaming the increased use of Mobile Phone technology for the demise in the use of the call boxes. None of the boxes in Rishton were removed.
In early 2004, the same call from BT was raised again, this time they said that they were going to remove a lot of payphones from all over the country as pay phones were no longer profitably due to the ever growing mobile phone market.
In April 2005, the red K6 phone box was removed by BT from the corner of Holt Street. BT had received one complaint about the removal of this phone box, which BT replied saying that one complaint wasn't enough to justify the phone box staying in place.
In July 2006, BT once again hit Rishton. They proposed to remove the phone box on the corner of Cliff Street and Danvers Street. This KX phone box was consistently being vandalised, the glass being broken on a regular basis.
During 2010 the phone box at the Roebuck also fell foul of BT and was removed forever.
History of BT payphones (now defunct - http://www.payphones.bt.com/2001/about/education/kiosk.html)
Rishton Council Minutes