The Story of Kiosk No 4


The K4 kiosk was designed by the Engineering Department of the General Post Office. It used the successful design of the K2 kiosk, by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, expanded to include a post box and stamp machine; it was an automated mini-Post Office. The K4 kiosk was enormous and was half as big again as the K2 kiosk. The K4 was introduced in limited numbers in Britain and production ceased within five years. Only 5 examples remain and are given Grade II listing status by English Heritage.


The K4 kiosk is constructed of cast-iron sections, standing on a concrete base. The footprint of the K4 is rectangular, with one axis half as large again as the other. In form the K4 is a cuboid with a domed roof. Each side has fluted architrave moldings at the outer edge. At the base is a blank rectangular panel with trim molding-surround. Three sides of the kiosk are glazed with six rows of three rectangular panes of glass, edged with reeded moldings; on the longer sides there is an extra panel with trim molding to break up the mass. The door is of teak, with a metal "cup" handle, and a weatherproofing drip cap. The back has a post box, with two stamp machines above, set below a panel with embossed 'GR' lettering. Above the main body of the kiosk is an entablature, finished with a crown-molded cornice, set back from the face of the kiosk. Each side of the entablature has slots for illuminated signage. On the longer sides the signs read 'Post Office', above the door 'Telephone', and at rear 'Stamps'. The roof of the kiosk is domed, formed by segmental pediments, with reeded moldings. The pediments carry a pierced Tudor crown for ventilation, except at the rear where a lamp is attached.


Almost as soon as the design for the K2 had been accepted following the Royal Fine Art Commission's 1924 competition the Engineering Department of the General Post Office produced plans for an enlarged K2 kiosk incorporating a post box and stamp machine. Plans dated April 1925 show a kiosk footprint half as big again as the K2. It took another five years for these designs to be finally put into production, which suggests there may have been difficulties either in construction, or more likely, of acceptance of the design within the General Post Office. Introduced in 1930 with some slight variations to the external decoration, the K4 proved a failed experiment. If the K2 was already considered too large to install outside London, the wisdom of the General Post Office in producing the K4 is open to question; the K4 was a monolithic addition to Britain's streetscape. The K4 was christened the 'Vermillion Giant' for its size by disgruntled pedestrians and motorists. But its sheer size wasn't the K4's only failing. The stamp machines were excessively noisy during telephone conversations and were were not weather-proof, which caused problems with the adhesive on the stamps. A single batch of only fifty kiosks were ever produced.

Heritage legacy

Between 1930 and 1935 only 50 examples of the K4 were installed. They remain a very rare sight. There are only 5 (10% of all K4 kiosks) separate listings for the K4 kiosk with English Heritage, and none elsewhere in Britain. These K4s are all outside London, in Bewdley (Worcestershire), Roos (East Yorkshire), Frodsham (Cheshire) and Warrington (Cheshire). Of the eight kiosk types introduced by the General Post Office, the K4 was the six-most populous type introduced, but the joint fourth-most populous type in terms of surviving kiosks.

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