BT puts hundreds of traditional phoneboxes in Yorkshire up for 'adoption' by their communities

It could be the best £1 you've ever spent.

The repurposed phonebox in Patrick Brompton, near Bedale
The repurposed phonebox in Patrick Brompton, near Bedale

Over 300 phoneboxes in Yorkshire have been put up for adoption by BT as their use dwindles in the age of mobile and digital communications - including the last of the remaining traditional and quintessentially British red design.

They are available for community groups or organisations who are able to pay just £1 to acquire a box and convert it into an alternative function such as a library or miniature exhibition space.

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The Adopt a Kiosk programme has been running since 2008 and 443 boxes in Yorkshire have already been transformed into facilities such as museums, art galleries and book exchanges.

The History Box on Scarborough's seafront

Modern glass boxes can also be used to house defibrillators.

BT Enterprise unit director Sarah Walker said: “With most people now using mobile phones, it’s led to a huge drop in the number of calls made from payphones. At the same time, mobile coverage has improved significantly in recent years due to investment in masts, particularly in rural areas.

“We’re currently rationalising our payphone estate to make it fit for the future, and the Adopt a Kiosk scheme makes it possible for local communities in Yorkshire and the Humber to retain their local phonebox, with a refreshed purpose for the community.

“Thousands of communities have already come up with a fantastic array of ideas to re-use their beloved local phonebox. Applying is quick and easy and we’re always happy to speak to communities about adopting our phoneboxes.”

Patrick Brompton parish council chair Brian Whitehead shows off the defibrillator unit

Successful conversions include the traditional red kiosk in the village of Patrick Brompton, near Bedale. The parish council paid their £1 adoption fee to turn the box into a defibrillator unit.

Chairman Brian Whitehead said: “As a council we were really keen to adopt our red phonebox and we didn’t want to see it go. It’s a fact that no-one really uses payphones anymore, but they look quite iconic, especially in rural areas like ours, so we wanted to retain it from a heritage perspective.

“The defibrillator we did have in the village was behind the 18th-century schoolroom, so we’ve moved it to the phonebox and think it’s a much better place for it.

“Thankfully, it’s never had to be used but it’s reassuring to know it’s there in case we ever need it in an emergency.”

Scarborough Maritime Museum purchased the last remaining red box on the town's seafront.

Chairman Mark Vasey said: “With the help of local people, and grants from the county council and businesses, we restored the phonebox and turned it into the world's smallest heritage centre. It is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year and has a recorded five-minute history audio commentary triggered upon entry.

“The phonebox also features many images of Scarborough Harbour in its fishing and shipbuilding heyday. We are very glad to have played our part in restoring this red kiosk, giving it a renewed purpose as a tourist attraction for our local area."

The areas of Yorkshire with the highest concentrations of remaining redundant boxes are rural districts such as Richmondshire, Harrogate and Ryedale where mobile phone network coverage was poor until recently. A recognised public body such as a town or parish council can adopt a box, as can a charity or an individual who owns the land the box is built on. BT will continue to provide power to the box free of charge.

The kiosks on the market

Barnsley - 5

Bradford - 13

Calderdale - 6

Craven - 27

Doncaster - 3

East Riding of Yorkshire - 28

Hambleton - 11

Harrogate - 47

Kirklees - 20

Leeds - 13

Richmondshire - 35

Rotherham - 6

Ryedale - 64

Scarborough - 16

Selby - 7

Sheffield - 17

Wakefield - 4

York - 6