Our disappearing telephone boxes

What’s happened to our telephone boxes? They’ve all gone. But has anyone really missed them?

And then were none. 2020 saw the last remaining telephone boxes in our area removed. This one, on Heywood Street, fronting High Street, went in November of that year. It’s pictured in 2016.

One thing that has dramatically changed in the last 30 years or so is our ability to communicate with each other. The use of the mobile telephone, with its access to the internet, has revolutionised the way we buy things and keep in touch with each other.  Who would have thought this possible twenty or thirty years ago?

Mobile telephone use has resulted in the removal of our last remaining public telephone boxes. As we remark in our Miscellany for 2020 (number 13); the village centre telephone box on Heywood Street, near its junction with High Street, was removed at the end of November 2020.

For many years the village centre box was situated across the road, near the post office and was of a much more traditional ‘red box’ Gilbert Scott design, used throughout the country. There was another call-box situated adjacent to the bus lay-by opposite the Ark Tavern – this went some years ago.

We think that all other call boxes in our area have also been removed. These were at Tapton (on Brimington Road, near the junction with Balmoak Lane), on Neale Bank (near the shops) and at Brooke Drive’s junction with Manor Road. We think these were also removed during 2020, but that the one on Neale Bank went some years earlier. And does anyone remember a call box situated in New Brimington? Another box now removed was on Station Road, near the park (we missed this off our Miscellany list!)

Here’s one we took earlier (in 1994 to be more exact). This K6 design box was situated on Neale Bank. We’re not sure when it was removed. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed the K6, which first went into production in 1936. Painted red they were once a familiar site up and down the country.
Inside the K6 box at Neale Bank. These boxes were installed across the country until replaced by a more modern design in the late 1960s. They are considered to be the iconic telephone kiosk design. In truth they could become rather squalid, if subject to vandalism and were also damp in winter. Though it’s hard to imagine now, at one time they would also contain paper copies of local telephone directories and a book listing dialling codes. The actual telephone mechanism itself was subject to periodic updating.

We are not sure when call-boxes first appeared in the village (or telephones for that matter). But a telegraph office is first recorded in the village (at the post office) in an 1870 directory. The Post Office had been given the monopoly of the telegraph service in January of that year. But it wasn’t until 1912 that the Post Office acquired control, from the National Telephone Company (NTC), of the country’s telephone system. (The NTC had itself been formed out of an amalgamation of three separate companies in 1889). 1981 saw the Telecommunications Act, when the Post Office and British Telecom began operating as separate organisations. The latter was privatised in 1984.

Now, not just queuing at telephone boxes (remember that?) has gone, but the once familiar sight of the boxes themselves has largely disappeared – gone altogether in the Brimington and Tapton area.

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