Cherry red and adorned with a striking crown marking it as wholly British, the red telephone box was once an iconic symbol of The Commonwealth.
The public telephone boxes once lined the streets of the UK, lit up the roads of Bermuda and Malta, and stood proudly on the corners of Gibraltar. Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the streamlined, brightly colored boxes were convenient, easy to spot, and much loved by the people. So much so that by the 1980’s over 73,000 were in use.
Like a lot of technology, what was once innovative and convenient can become clunky, expensive, and high-maintenance, seemingly overnight. By 1985, the telephone box had been deemed obsolete and more trouble than it was worth, and the kiosks had to find new homes now that they were no longer welcome on the city streets.
And find new homes they did. The iconic boxes still had many admirers who couldn’t bear to see the brightly colored booths go to waste. Repurposing ventures included turning them into shower stalls in homes, mini libraries, and of course a wide array of art projects. Those that weren’t lucky enough to fall into the hands of creative patrons were carted out en masse to rural storage areas, left to rust in messy stacks, the elements having their way with the formerly vibrant cherry red paint.
One of these rural “graveyards” is a small village in northern England called Carlton Miniott. Hundreds of decommissioned phone boxes lay in various stages of decay in what is part of an Imperial Service Station. One of many dumping locations for the boxes that weren’t adopted out to artists or benefactors, the fate of these telecommunication corpses is an eventual trip to recycling heaven.
Visit England withAtlas Obscura Trips
London Science Weekend: Medicine and Science in the Press
Join New York Times Journeys and Atlas Obscura for three days of scientific learning, special access and exploration in London. Accompanied by Times journalists and scientific experts, meet people contributing to the history of medicine and scientific journalism. This two-track program includes panels, exclusive visits and access to some of the best scientific minds available to concentrate on science reporting or medical history.