British Telecom Kiosk No. 1

1884 telephone 1921 telephone
1884 saw the beginning of public call offices. The National Telephone Company charged 2d (or 1p) for a three minute call. Kiosk number 1 appeared in 1921 as the first standard telephone kiosk.
Bembridge, Isle Of Wight Kiosk 1 Mk235  - a Connected earth artefact, now at the Avoncroft Museum
Kiosk No. 1 was introduced, the first standard Post Office design and primarily intended for use as an open-air public call office in rural areas, later superseded by the No. 3.

It was similar in design to the old wooden-box call offices, but was made up from three sections of reinforced concrete and fitted with a wooden door with the two sides and front containing glass panels. Once the kiosk had been constructed it could then be painted any colour to meet local conditions. 

The most distinctive feature of this kiosk was the spear-like finial on the roof, and roof signs were added on certain obscure kiosks. 

An initial contract had been placed with Somerville & Company in March 1920 for the supply of 50 kiosks at a price of �35 each - this was reduced to �15 in following years because of demand.

Although the kiosk was quite successful, it was considered that a better design could be found. Eventually by 1931 the installation of the No. 1 in rural areas was discontinued.

The Post Office decidedto create a standard phone box that could be used across the country and the chosen design was the concrete Kiosk No.1.

Altogether some 1,000 or so boxes were rolled out across the country outside London. There were several versions of the box. The Mk.235 was the second and differed from the original Mk.234 in that it had metal window frames rather than wooden glazing bars.

Many local authorities were reluctant to give the GPO permission to install the boxes in their high streets. In an era before neon signs, flashing lights and hectic traffic, they were often seen as a vulgar addition to the roadside and there were many fights between aesthetics and practicality.

In Eastbourne two kiosks were installed only after they were given thatched roofs, but in London the design was never accepted and resistance from local authorities forced the GPO to develop the K2 kiosk.