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The Saga of the Easington Telephone Box; “And in the beginning, there was nothing.”

The village without a telephone box, taken around 1905
The village without a telephone box, taken around 1905; the telephone box was put in place in 1936 by the G.P.O.

The telephone box continued to be in the ownership of the General Post Office, until in 1969 it became nationalised and became The Post Office. In 1981 the Post Office split into two distinct businesses; the Post Office and British Telecommunications.

Sometime around 2017, British Telecom’s decided in their wisdom to decommission and scrap the telephone box in Easington, as its use had been in decline for some time. The Parish Council put up an argument that due to the remote position of the village and the poor mobile phone reception in the area, the telephone box was an essential link for any emergency calls that may be required. This put them off for a while but later with an improved signal in the area, the inevitable was to happen.

In 2020, B.T. informed the Parish Council, that due to the lack of use of the telephone box, (it had only been used 10 times in the previous year!) the service was to be withdrawn. They gave three options:

I persuaded the Council to opt for the latter option and that if they adopted it, I would paint it as I live directly opposite the telephone box and it has been annoying me for some years. It was looking particularly shabby and neglected and they never painted the crown on the box – it should be gold but was just glossed over in red, I assume to save time. The Council went about sorting out the paper work for the adoption. Also, SKEALS offered to continue with future maintenance of the telephone box and an agreement was drawn up. To retain the telephone box was also important as it is situated within the Conservation area of the village.

On the 15th June 2020, an engineer arrived and disconnected the phone – this particular box has been on its present site since 1936, end of an era!

Before work starts
Disconnection in progress

Before describing the renovation process, a small word about the history of this iconic structure that has been a part of British history for so many years.

George V Silver Jubilee

Produced in 1936, some 8,000 were erected that year;

As of January 2020, there are approximately 8,000 red telephone boxes left in the country. Over 2,000 of these telephone boxes are classed as listed buildings.

This particular kiosk in Easington was produced by Walter MacFarlane & Co. Ltd. at the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow. Basically made of cast-iron with a teak door and glazed on three sides with 24 panes of glass in each side, 8 large and 16 small. It has a moulded crown set in the upper segment on all four sides.

But, enough of that, back to the refurbishment.

I first started chipping off as much paint as possible as there were many coats of paint applied over the years.

As can be seen from the photos, the phone box was in a pretty run-down state, with paint flaking off, the telephone header sign un-readable, and the windows badly discoloured.

The rear side of the phone box and below the identity plate of the foundry
The interior of the phone box, not much better
The interior light fitting

After chipping off as much paint as possible, then giving it a rub down with sand paper, a coat of red oxide was applied to all the surfaces.

The telephone lettered signs were removed as they were barely readable. Also the interior light was isolated and removed as this did not work even with new tubes. The light fitting was so brittle most of the plastic inside had broken – it was last serviced in 1992! No spiders were harmed during this restoration, although a few were severely frightened!

A coat of red gloss was applied to bring the telephone box back to life and a coat of white paint applied to the roof interior.

After re-lettering the telephone sign with stencils, they were refitted. The crown symbol was painted gold, as it should be – this gave the box an air of authority!

The incoming fuse box was repainted.

The holes were filled up on the backing board.

The backing board with a coat of paint

The interior shelf was removed and repainted.

The floor inside was re-levelled with cement

All the large polycabonate windows were removed and cleaned, this being a temporary measure as it was hoped to replace with new.

A project was started for people to make a donation of £12.00 each. This was to cover the cost of replacing the large polycarbon windows that were badly marked and discoloured. The price included the cost of the windows, the rivets to retain them, sealing tape, mastic and a new interior light. For any one who donated, their name would be put onto one of the windows and also listed on a sheet inside the box suitably mounted in a wall frame.

This project escalated and many people came forward to give a donation. It was decided to upgrade to toughened glass windows instead of polycarbon, as these would suffer the same fate in years to come and become semi-discoloured again due to the sun and weather generally.

The new glass, fittings and light arrive
The new frames
Out with the old, in with the new
Glass and the new door sign going in
The new LED light fitting installed
The shelf goes back in and final signage fitted

A brief history of the K6 box was also framed and a painting of a telephone box by a local artist placed inside, along with the names of everybody who gave a donation towards the cost of the refurbishment.

Fixing the name tags on to the windows
A final coat of paint to the floor

This telephone box has played an important role in the lives of many village people during its lifetime.

It has been used for calling out emergency services for whatever situation occured be it doctor, ambulance, fire brigade or the police. Many contractors who have worked at Easington, particularly on the gas terminals, used the box to call home to family on a daily basis.

There was often quite a queue of holiday makers from the caravan site eager to ‘phone home. (I don’t think E.T. ever used it!)

Many a romantic conversation has been made from this box leading to courtship and eventual marriage.

Many a bet was made to the bookies on this telephone – one chap always parked his bike against the telephone box whilst he placed a bet.

You could even ring up to find out what time it was with ‘TIM’, the speaking clock (fancy not having a watch or a smart phone!)

Also years ago you could phone up Teledisc, and listen to that week’s number one record in the pop charts.

How many children (and adults) could not resist popping in to the telephone box and pressing button B to see if any non-returned coins had been left in!

One trick was to ring up a Mr Smellie who was listed in the telephone directory for Hull. When he answered, they would say “is that Mr Smellie”, when he said “Yes”, they would reply “Phew” and put the ‘phone down. He must have got fed up with this, (I think I would have changed my name by deed poll!)

This photograph shows the re-creation of an incident from many years ago. A certain lady in the village was often plagued by youngsters, particularly on Mischief night (November 4), she would come down to the telephone box to ring for the police. One year she was lured down to the telephone box and whilst she was in it she was tied in! At least the police knew where she was when they came down to investigate!

At some point in the early 1960s, the local policeman from Patrington, would always park his police car outside the telephone box. I began to think that I was under survelliance, so one day I asked him why he always parked there. He said “I will let you into a secret”. This was the absolute limit at that time for them to reach him on his police radio. He demonstrated by taking his handbrake off and rolling the police car back past the telephone box towards the Square – the radio cut off immediately! “There you are, you have learnt something” he said. “If ever you are up to no good, as long as I am past this telephone box, they cannot contact me!” Valuable information when you are a teenager!

After all the work was finished, the ladies from Easington in Bloom placed two troughs with flowers each side of the phone box to further enhance its appearence. So now during these dark nights, with winter approaching and the new light within the box, it is like a beacon shining out to give some pleasure and solace in these uncertain times.

The phone box at night

The company that I purchased the glass and frames etc. from, are called X2 They are carrying out a project to try and list every red telephone box still in existence in the world – we are now included on the world map along with two photographs!

Your life has been patient and long,
So farewell to ‘phone box Spurn Point 241.

Mike Welton, 2020