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Campaigner Mike Sharman with red telephone box he is trying to save in Felixstowe - he is furious that people putting together Spa Gardens revamp wants to demolish this icon of English Heritage and one of the few surving in the country.
BY RICHARD CORNWELL, Felixstowe editor
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
FEW and far between these days, they are an iconic symbol of England, a link with the country’s tradition and past.
■ Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed the red telephone box – his design, chosen by the Fine Arts Commission from a range of ideas, first appeared in 1926.
■ Although Scott wanted them silver, red was selected as the colour for the public phone kiosks, made from cast iron, as it would make them easy to spot.
■ They were used not only on the streets of the UK, but also in Malta, Bermuda and Gibraltar.
■ By the 1980s there were 70,000 of them around the country, but today there are just 11,000 still in use.
■ Some have been sold off to private owners, and others taken over by communities and preserved or even used as library or book exchanges or art galleries.
Red telephone boxes have virtually vanished from our landscape – killed off by the cult of the mobile phone, and sometimes by vandals, too, and more likely to be spotted in museums and gardens than in high streets.
Now Felixstowe’s last town centre box is set to bite the dust – unless campaigners can find a way to keep it.
The red glass-panelled box which stands at the top of Bent Hill is to be ripped out and consigned to the dump to make way for a grand entrance to the little-used Pram Walk and the new £2 million makeover of the seafront gardens.
Town and district councillor Michael Sharman is furious – and believes the phone box, part of the town’s heritage, should stay and be incorporated into the new gardens entrance.
“I am absolutely astounded that Heritage Lottery Fund money should be used to remove this box – it’s a total paradox using heritage money to remove an icon that’s part of our heritage rather than retaining it as something we should be proud of,” he said.
“It’s a pleasant recollection of our past for older people and a reminder of our past for young people and we should be trying hard to preserve it as an attraction.
“We are told people don’t know how to find the Pram Walk, the entrance they want to create to the gardens, but it would be easier to say it’s by the red phone box and make the box a feature.”
He suggested it could be bought, disconnected and its maintenance minimal.
Town councillors were told the Seafront Gardens Project Board had voted to remove the phone box, which has not been used in the past year.
Board member Andy Smith said the aim was to renovate the untidy top of the Pram Walk to create a new entrance into the gardens.
The resort has two other red phone boxes – one in the Adastral Close development and the other at Felixstowe Ferry.