The Story of Kiosk No 1 (1927)


In 1926 the General Post Office introduced the K2 kiosk, Britain's first red Telephone Box. However the K2 was largely limited to London by General Post Office policy due its cost and size. Without a cost-effective solution for rural areas the General Post Office turned again to the K1 and set about revising the original K1 design more thoroughly. The revisions extended to larger windows, but the essential form of the revised K1 was unaltered from the original K1.


The K1 (1927), designated internally within the GPO as the Mk 236, 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. Compared to the original K1s the sides of the K1 (1927) are three quarters glazed, with four rows of two squarer windows. Although the larger windows alter its appearance the overall design bears a strong resemblance to the original K1; the rear of the kiosk is unchanged and the kiosk is crowned with the same shallow pyramidal roof. Rectangular "Telephone" signs were fitted on the roof on each side forming a box-like structure, which was crowned by decorative metal scrollwork and a central spear finial. The "Telephone" lettering is in a similar serif style to the K2, introduced in 1926.


By 1923 general dissatisfaction with the K1 kiosk saw the Metropolitan Boroughs Joint Standing Committee and Birmingham Civic Society, independently, look at designs for a new kiosk. By 1924 the Royal Fine Art Commission had intervened and following a competition selected the design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott for the K2 kiosk. By 1926 the first K2 kiosks were installed in central London in Kensington and Holborn. However, due to cost - around £35 14s 0d per kiosk - the General Post Office limited installations of the K2 to London. This left them with a problem. The K2 was meant to be the new national kiosk, but it was too big and too expensive to install nationwide. There was little alternative but to revert to the K1, to provide a cheaper kiosk for use outside the capital. By 1929 some 1,581 K1 kiosks (across all marques) had been installed in London. Nationwide, the total number of K1 kiosks was 6,300. After two years the General Post Office looked for a replacement for the K1 a cheaper version of the K2 for use outside London: the K3.

Heritage legacy

The K1 kiosk was Britain's first attempt at a national telephone box, but its design was not appreciated by everyone. Following its introduction in 1921 the General Post Office introduced seven later types of kiosk (referred to as the K2 through to the K8). 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 around a dozen examples of some 6,300 K1s introduced across the GPO network.

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