More red phone boxes adopted in Yorkshire than are left in traditional use

A SYMBOL of British tradition in cherry red, the classic phone box has long been a feature of the nation’s streets.

Martha Kennerley, 10, in the phone box in St Hildas Road, Harrogate. The Oatlands Community Group has submitted a planning app to formally adopt for 1
25 June 2020. Picture Bruce Rollinson
Martha Kennerley, 10, in the phone box in St Hildas Road, Harrogate. The Oatlands Community Group has submitted a planning app to formally adopt for 1 25 June 2020. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Now, amid advances in technology, it emerges there are more in Yorkshire that have been adopted than remain in active use.

Across Yorkshire, 410 phone boxes have now been taken over and transformed, into libraries, art galleries, museums and stores, with just 401 still traditionally taking calls.

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As neighbours have rallied around the adoption cause over recent years, they say its symbol still stands at the heart of communities.

Martha Kennerley, 10, and her mother Jane, and Holly Jones in the phone box in St Hildas Road, Harrogate. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“This is a part of our heritage,” said Holly Jones, in Harrogate, who is seeking to transform the area’s phone box into a library with backing of the Oatlands Community Association. “Adopting it will be of benefit to the whole community.”

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When it comes to adoptions, villagers in Marton cum Grafton were the pioneers, opening the first mini-library in 2010 with many more communities following suit.

Holly Jones and neighbour Jane Kennerley started an informal library in the community phone box a couple of years ago, and are now looking to formalise it as it's grown in popularity.

In Stutton near Tadcaster, the decommissioned box was converted into a Christmas card last year, passing on festive messages to neighbours and friends.

There is an art gallery in Settle, while York’s oldest phone box on Duncombe Place now houses a defibrillator.

The traditional red phone box is a K6 kiosk, one of eight styles introduced by the General Post Office between 1926 and 1983.

It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George V in 1935, with some 60,000 installed.

The world's smallest maritime museum in Scarborough.

World's smallest heritage centre

The phone box in Oatlands had started its journey to a library over two years ago, and now neighbours are looking to make it official with planning permissions submitted.

“We’re really interested in the community aspect, giving our area a focal point,” said fellow adoptee and neighbour Jane Kennerley.

“We haven’t got a village green. We’re really grateful that it’s available to us, and isn’t being sold off for someone’s back garden. It’s a lovely feature in our community.”

The official opening of what may be the world's smallest maritime museum in Scarborough.

In Scarborough, the seafront’s last red box was adopted last year, transformed into what may be the world’s smallest heritage centre for tourists to visit.

There are black and white photographs of the port’s seafaring and shipbuilding past, and an audio-commentary which talks visitors through its history.

“There isn’t a museum in Scarborough, but I think people are quite interested in the history of the town and how it came to be,” said Mark Vesey, chairman of the Maritime Heritage Centre.

"A lot of people know Scarborough as a seaside resort, but it started as a shipbuilding port. There is a lot of history here.”

The traditional red box is disappearing from the street scene, Mr Vesey says, and the prospect of those warning pips as the pennies ran out is now an alien concept to today’s generation.

“We took them for granted,” he added. “They do hark back to the past really. But much like London’s buses, the red phone box is iconically British.”

Adoptions by area

THE Adopt a Kiosk scheme was launched by BT in 2008, with 401 traditional red phone boxes still in use in Yorkshire.

The greatest number of adoptions has been in the East Riding, at 76, followed by Ryedale at 39 and Harrogate at 35. In Sheffield and Barnsley, just four apiece have found a new home.

Despite Ryedale being a big adopter, it still has the greatest number of traditional boxes still in use at 65, five times more than in the metropolitan district of Leeds.

Any recognised public body, including parish councils and charities, can adopt a phone box.


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