/ The London Traveler
London — By Andrea Kirkby on June 7, 2010 at 1:33 pm
Filed under: featuredarticle, History & Information, london curiosities

Blast from the Past – the Police Telephone Box

Nowadays everyone’s got a mobile, even if not quite everybody’s got an iPhone. Even the standard red telephone box is becoming a rarity. But even rarer are the svelte blue telephone boxes that gave direct access to the City of London Police.

As the photographer says, it would have to be bigger on the inside than the outside...

Back in the days when possession of a domestic phone was rare, and your phone number might be ‘Mayfair 317′, or ‘Whitehall 1212′ (ah yes, that was the number for Scotland Yard), the police phone was a godsend linking the public with the police station. The first city in Britain to introduce them was not London, but Glasgow, in 1891 – London didn’t follow suit till the 1920s.

Now fans of ‘Doctor Who’ probably recognise the TARDIS as an ancient police box – the standardised design created for the Metropolitan Police by Gilbert MacKenzie Trench. That was the big version; they dotted London throughout the 1930s and 1940s, and were only taken out of use in the mid 60s. You can still see one of these in London -  at Earl’s Court tube station – though believe it or not, it’s almost new – it was set up in 1996!)

The little call posts like the one in the photo are more common. Most of them carry the coat of arms of the City of London, with the red cross; the light on top, as with the larger boxes, would flash to alert any officer on the beat who came that way that he was needed, though I suspect these call posts are too small to have the fitted sirens which were installed in the larger boxes.

You can see one of them outside the Guildhall [map], the traditional heart of administration in the City. There’s another at St Martin le Grand [map], which Wikipedia points out should not be the regulation dark blue – City police painted their boxes a fetching light blue, instead. There’s one outside St Botolph’s church Aldgate, too [map] … I did look on the internet to see if I could find out how many are still left, and I couldn’t. I may have to start a proper count!

Please do let me know if you’ve found any new call boxes – it might be quite fun to organise a walk around them some time.

Photo by Loz Flowers on flickr

Related places:
  1. A
    Gresham Street, Barbican, Greater London EC2P 2EJ, United Kingdom
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  2. B
    St Martin's Le Grand
    St Martin's Le Grand, City of London, UK
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  3. C
    St Botolph C Of E Church
    St Botolphs Vestry, Aldgate High Street, London EC3N 1AB, United Kingdom
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Tags: featuredarticle, History & Information, london curiosities

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