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BACKGROUND

I live near a very rare K8 telephone box which was damaged when a driver crashed into it, including damaging my work van in January 2023.

 

I am trying to get this important landmark and rare phone box restored and returned. 
 

SAVE THE KNOWLANDS K8 

TIMELINE

18t

31 31st January 2024

One year now since the crash happened. No progress from SBC.

 

18th October

SBC inform me that BT have 'disposed' of the box. Their Conservation Officer and legal team are now investigating. 

16th October

BBC Points West run a story online and on TV. Watch here

 

29th September

The further requirements requested were sent back to BT by SBC but they have not replied. My freedom of information act has been ignored.

 

15th August

Justin Tomlinson MP (My local MP) writes to Leader of SBC encouraging him to 'escalate with their planning (enforcement) teams'. He also plans to contact BT directly. 

 

3rd August

SBC say the matter has been escalated to a Conservation Officer.

I complete a freedom of information request to SBC asking for the BT report. (REF: FOI006226)

2nd August

SBC report "We have now received the report from BT which I will go through and update you accordingly. However, at this stage it is unlikely that the phone box will be replaced." 

24th July

SBC report BT has said “We have requested a structure report of the recovered kiosk, it being in a dangerous condition, from the onsite operatives”.

June

SBC give BT a deadline on a final answer of 21st June.

30th May

SBC report that BT have requested that the kiosk is removed from the listing register. This is due to the damage caused to the K8 kiosk and it not being repairable. They have advised that there are no remaining K8 kiosk in their inventory as all others are in a location.

19th May

BT finally collected the phone box. As you can see it was 90% complete. See video here.

1st February

I reported to Swindon Borough Council (SBC) that it needed to be repaired and replaced and informed Historic England. 

Jan 2023

A lady crashed into the grade II listed K8 telephone box, and my van, in Highworth. Pictures here

MORE INFO

A criminal act has been committed by BT. 

The following info has been supplied to me by a very knowledgable person who works in the UK urban planning field. Needless to say they understand the law far better than me. Due to the nature of their work they wish to remain anonymous.

Setup

In Wales, Hull and London, recent listings this year of the few K8’s that do remain have made national news.

This criminal removal of one of the Swindon K8’s should be bigger news than it is.
 
Of course, there are many things wrong with the country at present, issues affecting people’s health and finances make bigger news stories.

It is understandable that with the demise of the local media outlets that used to pick up on these things, national media has yet to pick up on this Knowlands removal.

To have removed the kiosk without permission of either the Local Council or Historic England is not only an immediate criminal offence by BT and their contractor (both of whom should be well versed in the law) but also very disrespectful cultural vandalism of Swindon’s designated heritage assets. The matter should be escalated to the highest levels within not just the Council and Historic England for Enforcement Action, but within BT themselves and flagged for the attention of the DCMS also.

The car driver who damaged the box and my van was insured and the repair costs could surely be recouped from the insurers. It was both illegal and unnecessary for BT to remove the damaged kiosk as the building was statutorily listed and any works to, removal of etc without the correct paperwork in place comprises an instant and immediate criminal offence under the powers of the Town and Country Planning Acts. The kiosk should have been closed off, with temporary Heras fencing and the necessary permissions secured from the Council BEFORE any works or removals were contemplated.

Why is the K8 so important?


Some context why the K8 is important. There are some 2,400 listed examples of the ubiquitous postcard phonebox (the K6). Until recently, there were only 11 K8’s listed on 10 sites. In March of this year 9 more were added to the protected list in Hull, and 4 in London. Prior to this the only listed examples in England comprised sites in the South East and West.

The C20th society campaigned to get this example listed and has worked to get the recent batch listed. This case is a good example of why listing protection isn’t sufficient on its own. Criminal damage can occur and needs to be acted on by the Council to prevent wanton destruction by BT. The Kiosk could have been repaired in situ. Experts who could advise on its restoration are alive and well and recently produced a paper on the matter (2020, Salford University, Prof Nigel Linge (Nigel Linge | University of Salford)

History of the K8 Kiosk

The K8 telephone kiosk was manufactured to a design by Bruce Martin, following a competition held by the General Post Office (GPO) in 1965.

The main requirement for the K8 in the GPO’s design brief was that it should be easy to re-assemble on site and easy to maintain and repair in the future. This condition was met by the use of cast iron and toughened glass. The brief also stated that the kiosk had to last for at least 50 years and be recognised as the next generation of telephone boxes in the UK, following on from it's predecessor, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's now iconic K6. Martin analysed Scott’s K6 meticulously. He simplified and reduced its high number of components to ones which could be used flexibly to suit the site of the kiosk. The final design had only seven principal components. Martin’s K8 respected the dimensions and form of Scott’s kiosk but offered simplified, contemporary styling, avoiding the explicit neo-classical references of the earlier design.

Mark 1 vs Mark 2
Two variations of the roof dome were made, a Mk 1 and a Mk 2, the latter generally adopted from 1976 in response to casting problems with the Mk 1. The Mk 1 had a cast lip framing the 'TELEPHONE' signs and the Mk 2 had a lip which ran over the top of the sign and continued around each corner of the dome. The K8 at Knowlands has the Mk 1 dome. The kiosks were manufactured by the Lion Foundry Company Ltd and the Carron Manufacturing Company. Approximately 11,000 were installed throughout the UK during its production run.

Other listed examples
Of these 11,000 K8’s, a very low number survive. The following examples have been listed :

  •  9 GPO Red (BT) kiosks in England (all in the South East and South West, Swindon being lucky enough to have three, perhaps because of reluctance from local staff to remove them quickly, or resistance from local communities. They were never replaced by the KX range. (listed Nov 2010) 

  • 1 in North Wales, so far the only one found still in its original GPO/BT location (Listed July 2022)

  • 3 in IOM (listed July 2021)

  • 4 in Scotland, two pairs, either end of the Erskine bridge, most likely survived as they are key lifelines on this suicide location (listed In 2023, just as this Knowlands K8 was being hit by the car.

  •     9 cream coloured K8’s were listed in Hull (unique because they were never operated by BT, KCOM being the local provider owned by the Council, but having been historically acquired from GPO stock) (Listed March 2023)

  •     4 K8’s listed on London Underground platforms (July 2023)

The Architect
Bruce Martin (1917-2015) studied engineering at the University of Hong Kong before qualifying in architecture at the Architectural Association.

He joined the Hertfordshire County Council architectural department and became part of the group that was responsible for the so-called 'Hertfordshire Experiment': a progressive approach to building primary schools using pioneering construction techniques, pre-fabricated buildings and child-centred design focus. Morgan’s Junior School in Hertford, designed by Martin, is listed at Grade II* (National Heritage List for England entry: 1119734).

Site Specific Details
 

K8 TELEPHONE KIOSK, Highworth - 1395511 | Historic England. Listed Nov 2010

K8 telephone kiosk, produced to designs by Bruce Martin for the General Post Office from 1968.

This example is/was a Mk1 model, pre-dating 1976 (Mk 11968-1976)

DESCRIPTION: The kiosk is painted red. It is square in plan and has six cast iron parts: a floor plate, a roof dome and four side panels. The panel to the rear is solid cast iron, the two adjoining panels each hold a large pane of toughened glass in a rectangular frame with rounded corners, and the fourth holds an aluminium door, glazed to match the side panels. The roof dome is a Mk 1 design, having a continuous cast lip. It is flat on top and has softly squared corners. Each face carries round-cornered rectangular panes of toughened glass, the one over the door bearing the word ‘Telephone’.


The reason why Knowlands was listed as Grade II in 2010 is given by Historic England as :
“It is a rare survival of this type of once common telephone kiosk, first introduced in 1968. * Its design by Bruce Martin for the General Post Office displayed innovative construction techniques resulting in an interesting translation of Scott's iconic design for the K2 and K6, and is the last in the series of red telephone kiosks.” AND “It contributes to the understanding of the historic development of the telecommunications industry and the use of public telephone kiosks before the introduction and widespread use of mobile phones.”

 

Why the Council should formally enforce the K8’s repair and

reinstatement to the site
The very fact that the reason for listing is the Kiosk’s rarity should mean that the phone box is not eligible for de-listing. BT destroyed and scrapped over 10,900 of the K8. The handful that remain are very very important. Historic England have recently deemed the K8 so rare as to consider examples not ever used as public payphones on the London Underground (staff use only) as qualifying for listing status. The reason, set against further threats of removal from TfL was that the kiosk type needs protection in situ where ever it is found. Not just on BT sites. A private K8 in a campsite is listed on the South Coast. Threats to remove surviving K8’s from their sites were a reason for listing the K8’s in 2010, and again in 2011, 2021, 2022, and 2023 (in the locations summarised in the above bullet points). There are already no K8’s left in Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney or Gibraltar because no one acted fast enough.  TfL have removed 4-10 K8’s from their network in just the last 5-10 years. The K8 is disappearing rapidly and the nonchalant responses from BT bely the fact that they have acted unlawfully and criminally in removing the Knowlands K8 without the correct listed building consent.

The Swindon examples, including the Knowlands kiosk still house working payphones and BT were well-aware of the fact that the structure was listed as they would have been consulted at the original time of listing in 2009-10, and been responsible for its ongoing maintenance.

 

Next Steps
Regular sets of parts and kiosks for renovation appear on ebay and other salvage websites for private sale. There has been a K8 in pieces on sale for at least 8 weeks at the time of writing. BT themselves know exactly whom they sold off their surplus stock to – a company than now refurbishes them and sells them on at marked up prices for profit. It would be easy for BT to obtain parts to rebuild the kiosk’s damaged section. Indeed the whole point of the K8 was that it could be repaired in this modular way. To claim it is not possible, when for a few hundred or thousand pounds the panel could be purchased and restored, is a very disingenuous  approach by what is a multinational telecom giant. BT is a private company who’s profits were partly made off the back of people paying for telephone calls in kiosks. BT has form in removing heritage kiosks, which is what led to the C20th society leading the charge in 1985 in their keystone campaign to make kiosks legally eligible for listing status at a time when BT was seeking to all examples and replace them with the GKN KX steel and glass models. The K8 is as important culturally and architecturally as the K6 and other kiosks before it and deserves proper protection..

What BT should be doing
BT need to submit a Listed Building Application to undertake restoration works to the kiosk, and to reinstate it. They will need to prepare a heritage statement to submit with their submission and ensure all the parts they proposed for repair are genuine salvage components suitable for use on the Mk1.
 
What Swindon Borough Council can be doing.
BT remain liable for criminal damage and the Council can choose to caution anyone involved and prosecute them using the powers from the various Planning Acts. A local MP should be asked to take this up with the DCMS, so that they write to the Council asking them how they intend to resolve the matter.

If BT refuse to submit a listed building application, then it is for the Council to determine whether it will issue an Enforcement Notice against BT for the unauthorised works, and set out measures that need to be taken to rectify. If BT refuse to do this, they would have to appeal – meaning they have to submit a planning application by default and pay any necessary fees and the whole thing would be referred to the Planning Inspectorate. The decision would then rest with a govt appointed inspector.

If, at this stage, the Council does nothing it weakens its own case against taking action against other people who damage listed buildings, as it will not be able to show a consistent approach. This will leave itself open to criticism on any appeals by other appellants accused of having damaged heritage assets, undermining its authority. The Council normally has 4 years from the breach to take action, but as the works to a listed building comprise an immediate criminal offence I am not sure there is a cut off point for action.

 

In August 2017 a K6 phone box was damaged far worse than ours. Read this BBC report on it's restoration.

Sources

Selected Sources books and journals

British Telecom, , Britain's Public Payphones - A Social History, (1984)
Johannessen, N, Telephone Boxes, (1994)
Linge, Nigel, Sutton, Andy, The British Phonebox, (2017)
Stamp, G , Telephone Boxes, (1989)
'New Kiosk for 1968 - and 2018!' in Post Office Magazine, (August 1966), pp. 5-6
'The smallest building: The genesis of the Mark 8 telephone box' in RIBA Journal, (August 1969), pp. 320-325
Linge, N, Sutton, A, Hurley, A, Johannessen, N, 'In Celebration of the K8 Telephone Kiosk -
Britain's Last Red, Cast-Iron Phonebox' in Industrial Archaeology Review, Vol 42, (21 October 2020), pp. 141-153

 

C20th Soc Articles
2007 - The K8 Kiosk – Last of the Great Red Boxes – The Twentieth Century Society (c20society.org.uk)
2021 - C20 Society welcomes Ofcom’s Move to Protect Telephone Boxes – The Twentieth Century Society
2023 – Rare K8 phoneboxes listed as postwar listings surpass 1K – The Twentieth Century Society (c20society.org.uk)
2023 - Hold the line: Four more K8 kiosks listed – The Twentieth Century Society (c20society.org.uk)


Contacts
Prof. Nigel Linge: Salford University, Newton Building Room 258, Please email for an appointment.
ORCID (Published Papers)
In Celebration of the K8 Telephone Kiosk – Britain’s Last Red, Cast-Iron Phonebox
n.linge@salford.ac.uk   +44 (0)161 295 4759


Catherine Croft, Director c20th Society, contact director@c20society.org.uk or phone 020 7250 3857 or 07808 168489.
Caseworker Coco caseworker@c20society.org.uk or Oli in Press at oli@c20society.org.uk   or telephone 020 3887 6243

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