Booths Begotten: The history of the telephone box

William Gray, in 1889, decided that when a man is about town he needs to be able to phone his friends and tell them about his fun. The solution? He simply designed the world’s first payphone and box.

These telephone boxes were placed in busy public areas, railroad stations and fancy hotels to lure in more callers and proved so successful that it took a mere four years before it crossed the Atlantic and found its first British home near Staple Inn in High Holborn in 1903.

In 1920 the UK Post Office introduced the first standardized telephone kiosk (inventively named the K1…). There was no messing about with this design as the models were cast from concrete.

Sadly, very few K1‘s still exist today due to the public’s dissatisfaction of these concrete monstrosities. The London Metropolitan Boroughs were in fact so upset that a competition organised by the Royal Fine Arts Commission was held to find a more acceptable design. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s design won and by 1926 the K2, in its familiar red splendor, dotted up in London.

Only three years later, Scott introduced the K3 – a similar in design but constructed out of concrete. The colour scheme involved a lot of cream and only dashes of red.

The K4, designed by the Post Office Engineering Department in 1927, even included a post box and a stamp-dispensing machine. What more could a Londoner ask for?

The K5, introduced in 1935, was made from plywood and had a rather short shelf live as the K6 appeared only a year later in commemoration of the silver jubilee of King George V and soon took over Britain in a wave of red.

Two, more modern versions, the K7 and K8 were used as replacements for faulty, older models.

This brings us to the KX (The 9 got skipped for reasons unbeknownst…). In 1980 Post Office Telephones were rebranded as British Telecoms and would be painted yellow. After a public outcry and a turn in Parliament, it was decreed that the Telephone Box remain red.

With the rise of the cellphone around this time, the sad demise of the telephone box was inevitable.

With the design of the Air3 however, a leaf was taken straight out of William Gray’s book and the decision was that a phone box was still needed. In the office. They came up with the Office Phone Booth – for all those private and confidential phone calls you need to make. It also doubles up nicely as a secluded little spot where you can escape the office antics and take a well-deserved moment of respite.


It seems then, that the phone box will live on!

Have a look here at the new Air3 meeting pod range.


Walter Koscielniak [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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