Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

Knocks and scrapes

Before we leave behind the subject of the red telephone box – admirably preserved and given a new use by the Henry Moore Foundation, as noted in the previous post – here's another red box picture from a few weeks ago. As more and more of these boxes disappear under the rising tide of mobile phones, it is more and more unusual to see the little groups of telephone boxes that used to be common in British towns and cities. One place where these boxes are preserved is at the excellent Avoncroft Museum, near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire. As well as a fine collection of rescued and relocated old buildings from the Midlands, Avoncroft is home to the National Telephone Kiosk Collection. Here are four K6 boxes, gathered together in the museum's phone box area.

It's good to see them well looked after (so many roadside boxes look rather dishevelled these days), their paintwork shining and red. When Scott designed the original K2 box, the slightly taller predecessor of these 1935 K6s, he intended them to be painted silver outside and "greeny-blue" inside, but it's hard now to imagine them any other colour than red.*

The vehicle is a Morris Minor Van of the type used by telephone engineers in the 1950s and for years afterwards. The Royal Mail used similar vans painted red, but the telephone engineers' vans were green and had black rubber front wings. According to the Morris Minor Owners' Club, Royal Mail red vans were allocated to specific drivers, who were trusted to look after "their" vehicles. The green engineers' vans were driven by many different drivers, who, it is said, were thought less likely to be careful with their transport. Hence the rubber wings, which were proof against at least some knocks and scrapes.

I'm pleased that at least a few red telephone boxes, and this van, are being protected from knocks and scrapes by the good people at Avoncroft.

* * *

* Unless you come from Hull in Yorskshire, where the telephone boxes were installed by the local council and painted cream.


worm said...

love the rubber van!!! why dont they do that more I wonder??

I really like the sound of silver boxes with bluey green interiors as well

Philip Wilkinson said...

I know, isn't it great? Scott's specification of bluey-green makes me wonder whether he was colour blind on the borders between blue and green, as I am.

Peter Ashley said...

I have just had to go and lie down. Telephone boxes and a Morris Van in the same shot. The colour, by the way, was known as 'mid bronze green'. Apart from rubber wings, they often had black patches on the roof, I think to prevent scuffing from the wooden ladders. But post vans also had them, which leads me to believe...(contnd. page 94)

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you, Peter. I do hope people read these comments. I enjoy them very much.

The mention of post vans has me remembering when I was at school and working for the post in the week before Christmas, as happened in those days to get the huge extra Christmas post delivered on time. I was taken from the sorting office to my round by one of the regular post men in a red van, and it seemed to be standard practice for the drivers to play a kind of dodgems with their vans in the sorting office yard before they drove off. If any group ever needed rubber wings it was them.

Evelyn said...

It will be sad to lose all those marvelous tributes to the British way of life. Come to think of it I can't remember the last time I saw the American version in the form of what we call a telephone booth. I don't think they were nearly as interesting to look at or so obviously visible since they were only steel and glass structures. Interesting read.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Evelyn: I think quite a lot of the traditional American telephone booths were replaced a while back with open-fronted facilities - partly because these are more accessible for people who use wheelchairs. There are also some of these open-fronted telephones in Britain, but there were never very many of them. Making public telephones accessible is now a less burning issue because of the wide availability of cheap mobile phones. But I do hope we manage to keep a few of each type - enclosed booths or boxes and open-fronted telephones - so that people can see them and use them when they're caught with a flat battery.

Kelly said...

Interesting post, I too love seeing the red telephone boxes around, and I've often visited Avoncroft Musuem.