Our old phone boxes are getting a new lease of life

Our old phone boxes are getting a new lease of life

Back in the day when mobile phones didn’t exist, it was the phone box that so often proved a lifeline. 

Across the country more than two million calls a day were once made from them. Anyone remember doing a reverse charge call home?

However, these bastions of Britishness have far from exhausted their public use. Instead, many of the 47,000 phone boxes still on our streets have been given a new lease of life and are being used in all kinds of ways.

BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme, established in 2008, allowed charities and community groups to buy their unused phone box for £1. More than 3,500 communities took up the scheme, coming up with some inspired ideas to make good use of the iconic boxes.

Many people opted to use their old phone box to install life-saving defibrillators with the help of the Community Heartbeat Trust, while one phone box in Babcary, Somerset now houses vital sandbags in case of flooding.

Some phone boxes have found a new life providing life-saving AEDs

Some phone boxes have found a new life providing life-saving AEDs

Other phone boxes have been converted into mini lending libraries, ice-cream kiosks, coffee shops and even art galleries.

In Barningham, Teesdale, one rare green phone box has become a real talking point as its owner, villager John Hay, has installed a series of regular displays in the box, from a Christmas tree to a display marking the anniversary of the Somme. 

And over in the Cambridgeshire village of Shepreth, a redundant phone booth briefly became The Dog and Bone Pub when the local shut its doors. A carpenter built a triangular bar to fit into the box with a keg of beer underneath!

Now the latest project, set up by BT, is to replace some of the remaining phone boxes with sleek new kiosks that will allow users access to superfast Wi-Fi, calls and other digital services. Trialled initially in London, the kiosks will later be rolled out across the country.

A similar scheme planned for Edinburgh will see phone boxes turned into micro-offices including a printer, wireless mouse and hot drinks machine for on-the-go workers to hire for a monthly fee. 

The good news is that remaining phone boxes are still open for adoption so if you’re interested in adopting one, email payphones@bt.com 

Did you know?  

In 1924, architect Sir Giles Scott won a competition to design the modern phone box. He was inspired by the mausoleums in a local churchyard and wanted the boxes to be silver. He was later horrified when the Post Office insisted on painting them red!