The Story of Kiosk No 1 Mk 235

Summary

With the majority of the public telephone network under the control of the General Post Office, the organisation embarked on a programme to rationalise its assets and services. The kiosks it inherited were in a variety of different designs. The K1 Mk 234 had followed the pattern of these older kiosks, but in the 1920s it looked decidedly old-fashioned. The K1 Mk 235 attempted to resolve this, but the revised Mk 235 did little to modernise the appearance of the Mk 234.

Design

The K1 Mk 235 is derived from the earlier Mk 234, but with the essential structure of the Mk 234 remaining largely unchanged. The Mk 235 is constructed of pre-cast concrete sections bolted together, standing on a wide concrete base. Its general form is a four-sided rectangular box with a pyramidal roof. Three sides of the kiosk are half glazed above two rectangular panels. The windows comprise three rows, with two square panes above and below a central, single panel of glass, all set within reeded window frames. For improved security, thw window frames are of metal, rather than wood. The back of the kiosk comprises two rectangular panels beneath a single larger rectangular panel. Above the main body of the kiosk rise a series of tiered, projecting cornices, with a shallow pyramidal roof. The Mk 234 had no external signage, other than opaque white lettering painted on the windows. The roof of the Mk 235 was topped with a wrought finial and scrolls set above metal 'Public Telephone' signs on all sides. The lettering is a sans-serif style. Typically the exterior painted cream, except the wooden door, door frame and window frames, but other colours are used for the Mk 235.

History

With control over most of the public telephone network in Britain the General Post Office set about developing its fledgling public telephone network. Installing a kiosk on a street required the permission of the local authority. However, local authorities were less than enthusiastic about the K1. Public telephone kiosks were still an unfamiliar sight, and often seen as obstacles for pedestrians. More importantly for the history of the telephone kiosk in Britain, many local authorities disapproved of the K1's design. The Metropolitan Boroughs, who controlled much of central London, were particularly hostile to the K1 since its design drew heavily on kiosks designed in the Victorian era. The General Post Office started design work for the K1 prior to the First World War but it appears no opportunity was taken to significantly alter the K1 when it finally entered service in 1921. The K1 Mk 234 was revised within a year, emerging as the Mk 235. Essentially the changes were limited to some additional decorative features. However these failed to alleviate the criticisms levelled at the K1. Dissatisfaction with the K1 would eventually led to the introduction of the K2, but it wasn't the end of the K1. In 1927 there was a stay of execution for the K1, the Mk 236.

Heritage legacy

The K1 kiosk is Britain's national telephone box, but it was installed more widely in rural locations than in cities. Since its first introduction in 1921 the General Post Office introduced seven additional types of kiosk, two of which can be considered direct successors to the K1. As these types were introduced they will have been installed as replacements for many older K1s. This has radically reduced the number of surviving K1 kiosks nationwide to just five examples of some 6,300 K1s introduced across all three marques.

Notes

Contemporary photographs show that the K1 Mk 235 was fitted with at least two different types of 'scrollwork' above the 'Public Telephone' signage. The above illustrations show one such example. Photographs also show the Mk 235 in a number of different paint schemes. As these are black-and-white photographs certain assumptions have been made about the colours used. Thus the above illustrations demonstrate a probable paint scheme.

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