There are few things so intrinsically linked with old-fashioned British culture as the red telephone box.
These became synonymous with paths all over the country during the 20th century but inevitably the introduction of mobile phones led to its decline from the 1980s onwards.
After decades of abandonment – with many boxes left in a derelict state – action is being taken by a local restoration company that set up the nation’s largest ‘telephone box graveyard’ in Merstham in Surrey.
Unicorn Restorations proudly restore these iconic boxes back to their former glory following a period of them rusting away.
Staff spend up to 30 hours stripping each old kiosk, repainting them in the identical shades of red once stipulated by the General Post Office and putting in new glass to complete the look, at the site just outside Redhill.
Once rejuvenated, they sell for a variety of prices ranging from just under £4,000 to as much as £20,000, with the price being higher for the older designs.
These include the three classic models of red telephone kiosk: the K2, the K6 and the K8.
The K6, which was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V’s coronation in 1935, is largely identified as THE red telephone box. 60,000 examples of these were installed across Britain, which is why the K6 has come to represent what many regard as the typical red phone box.
The classic red telephone box is a much-cherished symbol of British culture.
But inevitably, they have departed many of our local streets with more disappearing all the time. So where do they all go?
Left in a battered, rusting and flaky state, the abandoned kiosks find love once more thanks to Unicorn Restorations, who own the largest phone box graveyard in the country.
And it’s tucked away right here in Surrey.
Located near Merstham, Redhill, rows and rows of derelict red telephone boxes stand side by side at the ‘graveyard’ – which creates quite a strikingly sad image.
But rest assured these decommissioned symbols of Britain, as iconic as fish and chips or the Queen, have not been sent to die or decompose but rather they are restored back to their former glory.
Some of the revamped boxes have been placed in famous places, such as the Olympic park and Trafalgar Square, all thanks to Surrey’s expert restorers.
Scroll down for fascinating images showing the task the restorers are faced with as they attempt to rejuvenate a lost British classic
Once rejuvenated, they sell for a variety of prices – ranging from just under £4,000, to as much as £20,000, with the price going up for the older designs
he type of telephone kiosks that they repair are the three classic models: the K2, the K6 and the K8
Today, there are reportedly only 21,000 left around the UK
(Image: Ian T (@Officially_IT))
The K2 is deemed as the original phone box having been created in 1926, while the K8 was introduced in 1968 and was a radical change to suit the mood of the Sixties in a more futuristic design; this was the last of the red kiosks to be produced and very few are in service.
The restoration experts are also able to redesign the interior of these kiosks and offer the ability to personalise the dial centre to carry your current number but with the old exchange or with a memorable number from the past.
As stated on their website, they supplied the landmarks that you see across the UK and the heart of London such as in Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, The Tower of London and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
They also carried out many prestigious kiosk restorations for BT, The Corporation of London and English Heritage.
The phone boxes were originally planned to be painted yellow before the iconic cherry red was chosen (Image: Unicorn Restorations)
Their handiwork has even been showcased on the big screen having supplied period pieces for film and TV productions such as Harry Potter, Paddington and the John Lewis Christmas adverts.
The necessity for these landmarks may have become non-existent in the modern era, but it’s perhaps reassuring to know that they’re going on to enjoy a second life.
During a 2016 interview with the Daily Mail, photographer Nicolas Ritter stated how he visited the yard back when he was just starting out as an assistant in 2012.
He said: “Being at the telephone graveyard was a great experience for me. It felt like a journey back into the history of the country as the phone boxes are such a unique symbol of British culture.”
These easily-spotted, brightly coloured boxes were once adored by Brits; by the time the 1980s rolled around there were more than 73,000 dotted around.
Sadly, those numbers started to dwindle shortly after, with just 21,000 reported to be left standing today.
Thanks to Unicorn Restorations, though, t’s clear to see that British people still have a great fondness for the old-fashioned phone box – just maybe not for their original, intended purpose.