Souvenirs from London, United Kingdom
The story behind London’s popular Red Telephone box, one of its iconic trademarks, is one of progress and nostalgia. The public telephone kiosks have been created by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1920s and can now be found not only across United Kingdom but also in the former British colonies to celebrate British influence around the globe. Throughout decades, the telephone boxes changed their role and design and have been the object of public competitions and controversy. Tourists all over the world photograph the small red toy like boxes which give the City a special charm and a resin fridge magnet is a perfect souvenir to mark any visit to London.
London Red Telephone Nostalgia
The first design of the standard public telephone kiosk was manufactured by the UK Post Office in 1920 and it was a concrete kiosk called K1 (Kiosk No.1). Only a few K1 items are left today (one is located in Kingston-upon-Hull and it is still functional). Its later version was imposed following a 1924 competition to design a telephone kiosk that would suit the London Metropolitan Boroughs criteria, a reaction against the Post Office’s campaign of introducing the K1s throughout the streets of the City. After a long selection which also involved the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Academy the winning design was Giles Gilbert Scott’s classic style box K2. Made of cast iron and painted in red, K2 was delivered outside London too. The 1929 telephone box prototype K3 was built of concrete and painted in cream like K1 and one of its surviving examples can be found at the London Zoo. The most original telephone kiosk was the 1927 K4 which also included a post box and machines for buying stamps; however, despite its seeming practicality, only 50 items of this model were ever created.
K6 Telephone Box from Silver Jubilee to Popularity
After K4 and K5 improved designs and functionality, the 1935 K6 telephone box created to celebrate King George V’s Silver Jubilee was the most prolific telephone kiosk in the history of UK. It was largely used outside London and its iconic red look quickly became a British trademark throughout the decades. K6 was initially controversial and its red color was often a topic for local debates. Still, according to official statistics, by 1980 more than 70,000 kiosks have been placed around the country and the picturesque boxes underwent several changes which illustrate the modernization of the state itself. In 1952 the new Queen Elizabeth II replaced the decorative 'Tudor Crown' as the royal symbol and chose to use the more representative ‘St Edward's Crown’ which decorated the K6 telephone boxes despite regional variations. Furthermore, the 1959 telephone box model K7 was never put into practice and in 1968 Bruce Martin’s newly designed new box imposed the Poppy Red color for all standard telephone boxes throughout the country.
The Telephone Box between Tradition and Modernity
In 1987 British Telecom’s decision to replace the old fashioned telephone boxes with modern designed ones was extremely unpopular. Many nostalgic fans of the Ks decided to buy the old kiosks (and most of them used them as unconventional shower cubicles). Westminster Council was the first to reinstall the red telephone kiosks in the late 1990s in a successful tourist strategy: a typical visitor’s photo always has the old fashioned red telephone box in the background whether it’s a standard one or a famous kiosk such as Giles Scott's K2 original wooden prototype located at the entrance to the Royal Academy of Arts.