The Story of the Police Post PA3
Alongside the well-known TARDIS Police boxes the Metropolitan Police service's network of call boxes included the smaller Police Public Call Post. Designed for the narrower streets that characterise much of London's historic centre, the story of the Police Post is overshadowed by that of its larger, more famous counterpart. The Police Posts were installed in relatively small numbers, and today only a handful of survivors can be seen by London's residents and visitors.
The Police Public Call Post is constructed of cast-iron and its general form is a rectangular box. The post is topped with arched roof. A light finial is affixed to the top of the roof. Some examples, as illustrated, have the finial attached to a pylon to increase its visibility. The finial comprises four columns topped with a shallow pyramidal cap. The light is a large, globe-shaped red glass bulb. The shorter sides of the post have an inset panel, with glass signage inscribed with white 'Police' lettering. The front of the post has three compartments, each with separate hinged doors. The lowest compartment is the largest. The middle compartment opens at the top, while the bottom and top compartments are side-opening. The top compartment door includes an information plate, which containing instructions on use for the general public. Inside a telephone is fitted, connected to the Police service. Above the top compartment is a rectangular panel inset with a glass sign, inscribed with white 'Police Public Call Post' lettering. The correct colour is the light-blue scheme, as illustrated. In the past a number were incorrectly painted in the darker blue of the large Police box.
Prior to today's modern radio communications systems used by the Metropolitan Police the service relied on a network of fixed call boxes at strategic locations across the city. These varied in size and construction, from wooden kiosks to the more famous Police boxes introduced in 1929, and featured in the BBC's Doctor Who series. These TARDIS boxes were particularly large and heavy, as they were manufactured from concrete. There was a requirement for a smaller call box, that wouldn't obstruct the streets of London. The solution was the Police Public Call Post. The first nationally-installed Post, the PA1, was not seen in London. Instead a slender, rectangular box constructed of cast-iron, the PA2, was introduced in the mid-1930s. It was fitted with a telephone, a compartment for a first aid kit, and a large light attached directly or using a pylon to the top of the post. A later version based on the same design but of lighter construction, the PA3, was introduced from 1958. A small number of the original 73 examples remain in-situ in London, with their telephones removed. Today, these posts carry a notice advising members of the public to use a nearby payphone, however even these are disappearing as mobile phone ownership increases.
Around 73 examples of the Police Public Call Post were installed by the Metropolitan Police service, just a small part of a wider network of 750 kiosks and posts. The majority have been removed from 1969 onwards, and surviving examples are a rare sight. Despite earning lasting fame in the BBC science-fiction series 'Doctor Who' there are no original TARDIS boxes remaining on London's streets. Instead it is the Police Posts survive. There are only seven examples listings with English Heritage, with a handful residing in museum collections across the country.
- Bunker, John (2011) The Rise and Fall of the Police Box Studley: Brewin Books