As technology moved on in the 1980s and 1990s use of the traditional red public telephone box was declining but they continued to be a life line for many and worries about losing the service all together were very real – changing the old red box for an ugly tinny new one seemed like a step in the wrong direction and the protest began.
It wouldn’t be until much later in the 1990s that mobile phone technology meant that we all began carrying our phones around with us; the decline of the public phone box was more about everyone having landline phones in their own homes, so that they became more of a service available to visitors and in emergencies – the business argument was declining …
And so, the iconic red telephone box began disappearing from communities – often without any warning. Fortunately, when the lorry turned up to remove the phone box from close to the Bridegate junction on Main Street it was spotted by the village Postman, Ian Woolley (also Chairman of the Parish Council) – Parish Councillors and villagers piled in (literally) to stop its removal.
There was debate about the safety of the old phone box, it would be replaced by a grey and glass modern version but, on one of the hottest days of the year, the phone box was occupied for hours and hours whilst negotiations continued – including the intervention of the police. Eventually, it was agreed that the red phone box could stay and it was re-installed.
Public telephone boxes are now largely a thing of the past and further attempts would be made over ensuing decades to remove it; each attempt was met with the same determination to keep it until finally it was bought from BT for a nominal fee and it was put to an alternative use. These days it houses a defibrillator (echoing its emergency function from the past) and is kept clean and painted by the Parish Council – all over the country iconic red telephone boxes survive as massive plant displays, book exchanges, community noticeboards and all kinds of other ingenious functions, whilst some of those that were removed have found resting places in gardens instead of in the scrapyard.
After all, it really is a thing of beauty!
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