With best wishes to all supporters of West Deeping Heritage Group for Christmas 2018 and for the New Year
The old empty telephone box in West Deeping has been bringing Christmas cheer to passers-by, especially when the sparkling lights come on at dusk. It’s even helped to slow the traffic down along King Street as people take photographs!
Historic England has given our phone box a Grade 2 listing, so when British Telecom disconnected the payphone last year, it could not be removed. It was agreed with the Parish Council that West Deeping Heritage Group would look after it.
It’s known as a ‘K6’ telephone box. The K6, one of the eight kiosk types introduced by the General Post Office between 1926 and 1983, was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George V in 1935.
West Deeping residents first put in a request for a public telephone at a Parish meeting in 1938. Despite several reminders to the post master, there was still no kiosk in 1942. The matter became urgent when the village Post Office was threatened with closure, which would have left the village without a telephone for public use.
The minutes for West Deeping Parish Council don’t say when our phone box was actually installed but it has probably been there for over 75 years. In 1987 it was proposed to replace it with a ‘modern’ glass version, but the Parish Council voted to keep the original one and have it listed as a ‘historic site’.
It was in frequent use over the years for both outgoing and incoming calls – on 01778 343109. (Has the number been re-allocated, we wonder!)
Who remembers having to carry 4d (old pennies) in case you needed to make a phone call? A Brownie or a Girl Guide wouldn’t pass inspection if she didn’t have the right money in her pocket! Does anyone still remember the procedure? (Once you’d put in the right coins and dialled the number, you waited to get connected before pressed Button A to speak, or Button B to disconnect and get your money back. The pips always went before you had finished the conversation!) Who, as a child, never passed a ‘phone box without pressing Button B to see if money had been left by the last caller? The cash box here was often broken into, until cards were introduced. Living opposite the phone box, the police called on several occasions to see if we had seen or heard anything!
Less and less callers used the public phone as mobile phones came into use. By 2017 use of payphones had declined, in the country as a whole, by 90%. When British Telecom proposed removal of many local payphones, the Parish Council had the option of buying our kiosk – for just £1! The Heritage Group saw their opportunity for a display space and offered to take on responsibility for refurbishing the phone box and putting it to use.
When we have got the approval of the Planning Department for our plans, we will have the door repaired, the inside fitted out with see-through display boxes and an information panel mounted where the telephone used to be. Watch this space! West Deeping no longer has a public ‘phone but it does still have plenty of heritage of which to be proud!