K2 Phone Kiosk Eltham High Street

Ever think about where the nearest telephone box is? Probably not but the iconic red phone boxes are still there, well they are in London. Since they were listed by English Heritage on 6th August 1986 they will continue to be part of the street scene. The K2 was the original red telephone box, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1923. His design won a competition held by the General Post Office. As an architect of many fine churches it’s no surprise that Scott’s winning design also included a dome. Made of cast iron, steel and teak it was built to last.This model of kiosk was mainly used in London as it was too costly to roll out across the country.

I found an example of a K2 at the top of Eltham High Street, close to the bus stop and Christchurch. It was in remarkable good nick and had no signs of vandalism or graffiti. Stepping inside was a different matter and I gagged on the strong smell of urine. This is one of nine K2s in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, there is also a K6 kiosk at Cutty Sark Gardens. The K6 was a later mass produced model. In the mid 1980s the boxes were almost lost to the nation.

British Telecom took over from the GPO in 1984 and soon introduced a modernisation programme to make the nation’s pay-phones fit for the 21st Century. They clearly hadn’t anticipated the digital revolution. As part of the modernisation they replaced the red kiosks with glazed boxes of anodised aluminum. People, well some, were ‘up in arms’. The Twentieth Century Society led the campaign to keep the red kiosks and gained support from some London Boroughs.

Saved for the nation and looking more anachronistic they desperately need a new purpose or they will continue to be used as public toilets. Not an easy task and perhaps worthy of another competition?

Sites of the other K2s

Charlton Church Lane
Grand Depot Road
Greenwich High St
Lee Road
Queenscroft Road
Whitworth Place
Woolwich Road (outside 201)
Junction of Wyndcliffe Road and Charlton Road