Parish Telephone Kiosks

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Ilsington Telephone Boxes

 Unfortunately it seems that the recent proliferation of mobile phone technology has started to have serious implications for the familiar roadside telephone kiosks that since 1936 have served communities in towns and villages so well. The iconic cast iron red painted box with its distinctive small window design, crown and telephone panel, was the idea of noted architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.  He was commissioned to design the box in order to commemorate George V’s Silver Jubilee Year, which heralded a policy to install the so called ‘jubilee kiosks’ into every town or village with a post office (Johannessen 1999). The design, which built upon various prototypes from the 1920s became known as the ‘K6’and soon became a welcome sight at the roadside across the United Kingdom.  Whilst most were painted red for distinctiveness, there are examples of dark green, black, white and battleship grey boxes across the country.

 

Nowadays in the infant years of the 21st Century, the Parish retains just 5 of these important street furniture artefacts, with a much later KX 100 design opposite Liverton PO at Exeter Cross.  The real danger is that British Telecom may start to remove the booths if they are not used enough meaning they will be lost forever from the roadside.  There are several examples of this happening in other parts of the county most recently and locally at Bickington outside the old PO, which is now a private dwelling.  However BT have started to convert some of the payphone K6s to provide additional e-mail and text messaging services. One such box in Moretonhampstead has recently been upgraded. English Heritage have been alerted to the plight of the K6s within the Parish Boundary and hopefully they will be given due attention.

 

Moorland House (ex Hotel)

 Perhaps the best known of the Parish telephone boxes can be found strategically placed on the grass verge outside the old hotel above Haytor Vale on the B3312.  Unfortunately although a kiosk has been at this point for many years it has on occasions been the target of vandals. The best-known and most notorious case occurred in 1993 when an explosion completely destroyed the box.  To this day the reason for the attack is a mystery but there have been many theories including a gang after the contents of the coin box.  After the incident BT took nearly a year to replace the box and at one time threatened a glass fronted KX 100 that was resisted by parishioners until another K6 was sited.  However, not long after the new box was in place it too suffered the injustice of having its door ripped off in another attack.   Today, the K6 remains an important and familiar part of the Haytor scene and is used by walkers, visitors and locals alike.

Ilsington (Hillcrest)

 The only telephone box in the village stands at Hillcrest outside Pigeon Cottage, greeting travellers as they come up the hill from Liverton. It adds in no uncertain terms to the picturesque scene. The box continues to be used by villagers, although as with most other phones of this design usage is less than it was.  Behind the box is an old and unusual ‘Post Office’ sign with arrow pointing towards Haytor.  It is very important that the box continues to be used to justify its ongoing existence in the village.  Its loss would be a great disappointment.

 

Liverton Village

 Another vulnerable K6 stands in Liverton on the left hand side of the road coming from Exeter Cross it is tucked beside a small pull in, in a shady spot.  Once again as with the box in Ilsington lack of use may one day be its downfall.

 

Sigford

 To find a bright red telephone box in a fairly remote hamlet is an unusual sight, yet this is the case in Sigford .  The box is tucked just off the road in the lee of Littledown Cottage and often has vegetation growing across its top in summer months.  The box itself is a great comfort to locals who should be especially proud of their own piece of telecommunications history in their midst.  Clearly whilst the box is well worth preserving, sometimes it is those that are the most isolated that can be the first to be removed, deemed as redundant.  The old adage ‘use it or lose it’ still applies. 

 

Trago Mills

 The still functional K6 within the grounds of the extensive shopping centre of Trago Mills recently survived the great fire of 2004 and continues to stand in the main part of the mall that was extensively rebuilt over the earlier months of 2005.  During reconstruction the telephone box was hidden away behind scaffolding and yet incredibly had little more than a few sooty marks and minor scorches from the inferno.  A couple of the telephone panels seem to have been replaced but other than that there is no real change to the exterior.  Its toughness stands testimony to the workmanship of the era.  The box is an interesting and unusual feature in an otherwise busy vibrant shopping centre. Whether it has been here since the inception of the store in the 1960s, who can tell, but it is nevertheless a long-term survivor.  It is unlikely that this box will ever be removed as the owner obviously respects historical artefacts having decided to retain it following the rebuild. 

 

Liverton PO Exeter Cross  

 A KX 100 glass fronted phone box stands across the road from the Post Office on the old A38.  British Telecom became ‘BT’ in the early 1990s and logos across the glass were changed from the old ‘T’ to the BT piper. The box design itself actually dates from c1985.  The Liverton KX 100 probably replaced a K6 at the site although there seems to be space enough to suggest that at one time two boxes stood here.  The KX design was perceived as being more resistant to vandalism and theft.  It also had a number of other advantages including, better lighting, easier door opening and for BT the use of stainless steel and aluminium edging meant that there would be no need for periodic repainting.  Indeed all that is needed to maintain the box is regular cleaning.

 

For further information on telephone boxes and their history please consult the following:

 Jenkinson T (2003) The Red Telephone Boxes of Dartmoor-Part of Devon’s Heritage Dartmoor Magazine no 70 Spring

 Johannessen N (1999) Telephone Boxes Shire Album 303 Shire Publications Ltd Buckinghamshire

 Timpson J (1989) Requiem for a Red Box Hamlyn Publishing Group London   

   
Thanks to Tim Jenkinson of Liverton for submitting the information and pictures for this page.

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