Prototype of first red phone box gets enhanced protection

The prototype of Britain’s first red public telephone box is to receive enhanced protection in recognition of its status, the Government has announced.

The K2 kiosk in London’s West End has been upgraded from a Grade II to a Grade II* listed property, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said.

Created in 1924 by the renowned architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the timber prototype formed the basis for the design of future phone boxes across the country.

It was originally designed for a competition launched by the Royal Fine Arts Commission at the request of the postmaster general, to find an alternative to the unpopular concrete K1 boxes.

The K2 kiosk was first displayed at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square alongside four other entrants.

It was subsequently moved to the entrance of Burlington House, the home of the Royal Academy, where it remains today.

Scott had intended the design to be made of steel and painted silver with a blue-green interior, but the General Post Office opted to have it made from cast iron and painted red.

The K2 kiosk was first displayed at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square
The K2 kiosk was first displayed at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square (DCMS/PA)

More than 1,700 were installed, mostly in London, before it was replaced in 1935 by the more streamlined K6, also designed by Scott, which went on to be used throughout the country.

Culture Minister Helen Whately said: “The red telephone box is an internationally famous British icon and I am delighted that we are able to protect the first of its kind.

“In an increasingly digital world, it is important to preserve structures, like the K2 prototype phone box, that have played a part in our nation’s industrial story.”

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