The unique ways red phone booths have been reused as 100th anniversary of iconic design approaches

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The iconic red phone booths were designed nearly a century ago in a competition

Just as fish and chips and a cup of tea are synonymous with Britain, so are some of the nation's unique and striking architectural and design achievements. And while this does include grand buildings and structures, it also includes something much closer to the ground - the iconic red phone booth.

These are found all over the UK - with around 20,000 still remaining - and while mobile phones have made them largely obsolete, people have come up with creative ways for them to be repurposed.

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The famous red phone box was designed by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott for a competition in 1924.

The number of phone boxes peaked in the 1990s at around 100,000, BT said, and dwindled with the rise of the mobile phone.

Among the most photographed of the remaining red phone boxes are the booths near Parliament Square in central London, close to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, as the popularity of the famous booths endures in the social media age before their 100th anniversary.

Ice Cream Phone Box © Robert Lloyd-Sweet, Historic EnglandIce Cream Phone Box © Robert Lloyd-Sweet, Historic England
Ice Cream Phone Box © Robert Lloyd-Sweet, Historic England | © Robert Lloyd-Sweet, Historic England

As celebrations for the landmark are prepared, NationaWorld takes a look at some of the creative ways these phone booths have been repurposed.

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Beach cafe

This phone box un Eastbourne was given an exciting - and delicious refit.

Red Box Coffee, located just near Eastbourne Pier, has a phone box fitted out with a hot dog machine, ice cream machine and tea and coffee facilities.

Everything you need for family beach day in one compact phone booth.

Housing defibrillators

K6 Telephone kiosks in new use as defibrillators © Victoria Thomson, Historic England (image on left) and Deborah Mays, Historic EnglandK6 Telephone kiosks in new use as defibrillators © Victoria Thomson, Historic England (image on left) and Deborah Mays, Historic England
K6 Telephone kiosks in new use as defibrillators © Victoria Thomson, Historic England (image on left) and Deborah Mays, Historic England | © Victoria Thomson, Historic England (image on left) and Deborah Mays, Historic England (images to right)

While many reuses for phone booths are fun and exciting, some serve much more important purposes.

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Many across the country have been turned around to become stations to house community defibrillators.

In fact, BT even runs a scheme which enables communities to Adopt a Kiosk, and work with Community Heartbeat to provide medical centres.

And with nearly all of us in possession of a mobile phone now, this clever solution ensures many also now have defibrillators within reach.

Library

A phone box book exchange has been set up in Little Hale, Lincolnshire (D.R. Dawson Photography)A phone box book exchange has been set up in Little Hale, Lincolnshire (D.R. Dawson Photography)
A phone box book exchange has been set up in Little Hale, Lincolnshire (D.R. Dawson Photography) | D.R. Dawson Photography

Another worthy cause for an old phone box. As others have, this one in Little Hale, Lincolnshire, has been converted into a little library so locals can exchange books.

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The phone box stood empty for several years in the small hamlet that lacks amenities. So, in honour of the Queen's Jubilee in 2012, it was converted into a facility to swap books.

Books are regularly donated and displayed for those thirsty for a new read.

Lee Copeland, of the Red Phone Box and Post Box Appreciation Society, which has more than 1,800 members on Facebook, said red phone boxes are “as British as fish and chips”.

The 52-year-old former serviceman from North Yorkshire, who has a red telephone box in his garden that is converted to a mini-bar with music and disco lights, described the kiosks as “iconic”.

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“Historically they were the lifeline for couples in love, so that they could communicate,” he said.

“Kids used to shelter in them from the rain, and 30 years ago children would make reverse charge calls to their parents.”

Mr Copeland said they “look as good today as the day they were built” and that booths are seen around the world, “snapped up by collectors wanting their own piece of nostalgia”.

Art

People take photographs of decorated replica K6 kiosk telephone boxes on display in Trafalgar Square in central London on June 15, 2012. (LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)People take photographs of decorated replica K6 kiosk telephone boxes on display in Trafalgar Square in central London on June 15, 2012. (LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)
People take photographs of decorated replica K6 kiosk telephone boxes on display in Trafalgar Square in central London on June 15, 2012. (LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages) | AFP via Getty Images

Perhaps most creatively, countless red phone boxes have been used as art exhibits.

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One big occasion was in 2012 in London's Trafalgar Square as part of the BT ArtBox campaign.

Another occasion was during COP26 in Edinburgh.

The K2 kiosk was Britain’s first red telephone box, with the K6 design following in 1936 – refined by Sir Giles to mark George V’s Silver Jubilee.

BT estimates that 98% of the adult population now use a mobile phone, and that with significant improvements to mobile coverage there has been a huge decline in the usage of payphones across the UK.

The beach shower at the British Virgin Islands (Facebook/ The Autumn Experience)The beach shower at the British Virgin Islands (Facebook/ The Autumn Experience)
The beach shower at the British Virgin Islands (Facebook/ The Autumn Experience) | Facebook/ The Autumn Experience

Beach shower

In the glorious British Virgin Islands, a phone booth stands imposingly on a small pier along the coast.

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At Virgin Gorda at Leverick Bay, the phone box has been converted to be used as a working beach shower.

Doctor Who TARDIS

We all know a Doctor Who who would love to do this if they had the time to spare.

The telephone box turned TARDIS in Titchmarsh (Johnston Press)

Back in 2013, this old red phone box in Titchmarsh was transformed into a TARDIS.

The work was carried out by residents John Gaskin and Liz Townson.

Unfortunately, it's not a working TARDIS. But it hasn't stopped locals from having their imagination captured by the structure.

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