Good call as red phone box returns

Take it as red: Chris Gardner of Armthorpe one of the first to use the new phone/cash machine installed in Hall Gate, Doncaster.
Take it as red: Chris Gardner of Armthorpe one of the first to use the new phone/cash machine installed in Hall Gate, Doncaster.
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They’re back! After a quarter of a century the traditional red phone box is making a welcome comeback on town centre streets in South Yorkshire.

The historic boxes – originally designed by the same family of architects who drew the plans for Doncaster Minster in the 19th century – have replaced two more modern stainless steel kiosks back in the town, in High Street and Hall Gate.

Both streets are within the town centre conservation area and BT came under pressure from Doncaster Council to improve the streetscape.

But the boxes are not quite what they may appear from a distance.

Those who can recall the solid clunk of the cast iron red phone box door closing behind them and the strength needed to open it again might be a little disappointed.

Despite their retro look, the reconditioned boxes have been adapted for the needs of modern trends.

Instead of the black telephone and battered directories being on a shelf inside, the metallic phone is attached to one of the four external sides and another is taken up by an ATM cash dispenser, so the interior of the box accommodates the machine’s electronic equipment.

But the return of the iconic street furniture has been welcomed by passers-by questioned by The Star.

Michael Griffiths, from Thorne, said he was old enough to remember when they were commonplace.

“I’ve always thought they looked better than the newer ones so I’m pleased to see them again. They’re much more attractive.

“At first I thought they were just phone boxes but when I got closer I realised they’d been altered. I just hope they don’t get vandalised.”

Workman Paul Jenkins, aged 27, from Pontefract, was equally surprised to see them.

“I sometime see these in old villages in the countryside but I can’t recall seeing one in a town for a long time. I like them because they’re very British.”

The first red public telephone kiosk, designated K2, was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1920s and is still a familiar sight in places like Malta, Bermuda and Gibraltar. The colour red was chosen to make them easy to spot.

The later K6 design dates from 1935 and by 1980 there were 73,000 across the country before the stainless steel ones began to take their place. Many of the redundant ones were sold off as garden features or in some cases shower cubicles.

The village of Letwell, near Rotherham, has kept theirs as a mini-library.

A spokesman for BT said the two in Doncaster were reconditioned originals.

“We originally installed the more modern type but because they are within a conservation area we were requested by the local authority to replace them with a more traditional style. When this was pointed out we installed what is now in situ.”