The Twentieth Century Society welcomes BT’s plans to update the iconic Sir Giles Gilbert Scott red telephone boxes to digital use (G2, 28 August) and trust that this will be carried out in a sympathetic manner. In 1984 BT announced plans to remove all telephone boxes designed by Gilbert Scott from across Britain. This prompted Gavin Stamp, founder and Chairman of the Thirties Society (which later became the Twentieth Century Society), to start its longest and most vigorous campaign to date to save these much-loved objects. The Department for Environment had previously declined to make a small change to conservation legislation to encompass street furniture so the only solution to safeguard the boxes was for the society to press for the statutory listing of kiosks as “miniature buildings”, which was achieved in 1986 with the listing of a rare example of a K3 box at London Zoo. Many more listings followed. The C20 Society also campaigned to save Bruce Martin’s K8 telephone boxes. It is thought only 60 of these still survive and many are listed. It is hoped that BT will also look at updating these for digital use too. The fact that many of these boxes have been repurposed as libraries, coffee shops and workshops, once again fulfilling an important role in the community, demonstrates the importance and longevity of good design.
Director, Twentieth Century Society
• My favourite red telephone box is in Lincolnshire. After a day’s cycle ride along the River Witham and then across the fens towards Nocton, I discovered a tiny isolated hamlet called Wasps Nest. The locals had turned their box into a tourist hub and information centre, with beautifully presented wall panels describing local history plus a small table with leaflets advertising local events. The finishing touch was a spider plant sitting daintily on a white tablecloth. The weary traveller can sit on a bench nearby and enjoy the broad sky and a long view across the green pastures of Nocton Fen towards the Witham flood embankment to the east.
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