Phone Box Renovation and Re-use.

 

June 2018.

There are three old and decommissioned K6 type telephone boxes in our parish and two of them have been adopted and now belong to Whitchurch and Ganarew Parish Council. (WAGPC)

 

Symonds Yat West phone box.
Symonds Yat West phone box.

Symonds Yat West phone box.

This kiosk is in a very shabby condition and is an eyesore.

There has been a considerable build up of soil washed down from the footpath over the years. This has buried the L H side of the kiosk to over the bottom window level and the back wall to a metre in depth. Soil erosion on the other sides exposed the base .

The other boxes are located in Crockers Ash, and G’t Doward. Their condition varied.

Crockers Ash phone box.
Crockers Ash phone box.

K6 Gt Doward

The kiosk on Gt Doward.

The History Society originally intended to undertake a general refurbishment of all three starting with the kiosk at Crockers Ash. Our aim was to eventually make them all suitable for public use as information points. They would contain information provided by us about local historical characters, local places of interest and perhaps provide directions for walks both in the immediate area and longer routes connecting to the other phone boxes. They will not be available for public advertising notices or business card display or book exchange. The Parish Council were not keen on them being used for this.

Whilst under the care of the GPO phone boxes were re-painted periodically with a modern paint on top of the original lead based paint. I don’t think they did a very good job, perhaps not cleaning it enough before adding another coat, because several layers have been peeling off. Using a wire brush on an angle driver all the flaking paint was removed before washing down to remove the last years of the dirt and grime before applying an undercoat \ primer and finally a cherry red gloss top coat. Paint to the original specification paint and all spares are still available from specialist suppliers.

It has only very recently transpired (September 2018) that the Great Doward kiosk still belongs to BT but there is a suggestion that it might be sold and transferred to Goodrich PC who no longer own a kiosk in their parish.

Sadly the kiosk on Great Doward can no longer be included in our plans.

Crockers Ash kiosk.

We have cleared excess soil from around the base and installed hard standing in front of the entrance. The kiosk has been thoroughly cleaned and all plastic windows and frames have been replaced with original type glazing and all paintwork cleaned, cut back and repainted with the approved base and top coat paint. Some rotting timber in the lower door frame has been removed, strengthened and made good. The owner of the adjacent property has removed the overhanging trees and replaced the old fence behind and the kiosk now stands proud and clear.

Although this kiosk leans very slightly, is standing firm on its foundations and is safe.

For some reason it seems to have been installed backwards with its windowless side facing the road but we cannot alter this.

The electricity supply still exists into the kiosk and is safe under a secure cover, ( This is normal for adopted kiosks) Electricity cannot be used as lighting as it is not going to be necessary.

We have installed  two secure notice boards inside, fixed to the original phone backboard and replaced the original top windows with ‘Information’ windows.

The finished Crockers Ash telephone kiosk is equipped with local information for the use of  visitors and locals alike. There are two notice boards inside, one with a unique and specially revised map of our area depicting local amenities and places of interest whilst the other contains short articles about some local people and places plus some leaflets detailing directions for some specially interesting local walks.

Crockers Ash kiosk
Crockers Ash kiosk finished.

Job done. Now this one is of some use again.

Symonds Yat kiosk. 

We intend that the Symonds Yat kiosk will be similarly equipped when permission is obtained and hoped that the work could commence this year. Inside the kiosk there will be a notice board displaying a local map detailing points of interest and other information for both visitors and local people.

Update May 2020.

The PC has cut down a small tree growing behind the kiosk enabling access and light.

This will grow again and need the root killing.

Before any work on the kiosk at Symonds Yat West could take place we had to establish ownership of the land upon which it stands. It is common for kiosks to be located on roadsides where the land is privately owned and where the owner had granted public access.

Whitchurch Parish Council records were not clear about ownership of the surrounding land but with the cooperation of the owners of the adjacent property it was established that the land under the kiosk is PC’s property but the land in front of the entrance is not.

With ownership established and permission and cooperation from the owners given, scope of work agreed with the PC work could proceed.

Our work on a phone box on public land with access to the public means that any work must be compliant. This phone box leans slightly and these two matters are to be addressed together.

The timber door frame is extensively rotten at the bottom and it would best to have a new timber door frame fitted which involves removing the door and fittings and with the  existing cast iron window frame with some new glazing. This would best be carried out off site in a better working environment.

There has been a considerable build up of soil behind and to the left of the kiosk. This has been swept down the adjacent footpath an steps over the years where it has been allowed to accumulate at the rear and L H side. It is less on the left side but it still covered the lower windows. A cable conduit rises from the road side and is visible before it is buried under the accumulation of soil on route to the BT pole behind. We will have to be especially careful here in case it is still in use. On the other sides soil erosion has exposed the base causing the box to lean slightly. It later transpired that this box had never been installed on a proper concrete base or hardcore but just on soft soil.

We needed to remove excess soil build up to expose the windows and base all round the box to allow painting, admit more light and improve the overall appearance, but this would involve retention walls to prevent further soil intrusion.  Being on public land next to a public footpath this will entail certain permissions and standards.

By now the winter weather was with us and it was agreed not to carry out any work at least until the weather improved. More recently came the covid 29 pandemic which has halted any work.

Update June 4th 2020.

With total lockdown now behind us work on the Symonds Yat kiosk can get going at last.

This week I cleared some soil from the L H side down exposing the base of the kiosk that had been buried beneath soil and stones for many years.

I cut paving slabs to size and cemented them in place clear of, yet covering the conduit, and at the same time protecting it from accidental damage whilst exposing the base of the phone box for painting and letting more light inside. The area immediately behind the phone box was about one metre deep in soil and become overgrown again. The tree was growing again and its roots were found to go right underneath the kiosk coming out on the road side. Although The P C cut down the tree for us. The root will have to be killed off later to prevent further growth and possible damage.

Other work will be to make good the exposed base and making a concrete access ramp.

On June 16th, I scraped away some soil from underneath the base in front and on the door side expecting to find the concrete base that read all the K6 boxes were supposed to be installed and bolted down on. To my surprise there is no base. I even hammered a steel rod all the way underneath and there is no concrete. Not even any hardcore. This box (and probably the one on Gt Doward) is just resting on soft soil. Some of the soil had eroded over the years leaving a small gap underneath two sides. There is a build up of soil to the rear of this box from what over the years had been washed down the footpath behind and judging by some of the debris I found, some had probably been dumped there as well. In the middle of this soil an ash tree was growing ( previously removed) its roots going right underneath the phone box. So not only had soil eroded from two sides, there was no firm foundation block underneath but the soil build up at the rear with a tree growing in the middle of it was detracting from what stability was left. No wonder it has a slight lean to the right.

Something had to be done urgently. I supported the three exposed corners on pieces of concrete slab and excavated some more soil and packed the whole void with concrete. This concrete was expanded further to improve its appearance and add to its strength.

Work in progress at Symonds Yat West kiosk.

Now painting could continue. All bare metal was primed and the small plastic windows replaced with the original toughened glass type.

Covid regulations prevented two persons working on the box at the same time. The door is heavy and impossible for one person handle.  The complete door was removed from site where the cast iron window frame and all window panes removed for easy handling on my own. The new timber door had to be tailored in order to accept the iron window frame but because of its weight it had to be rehung back on site without the frame and windows. Even so I had to rig a small ‘crane’ to suspend the door in exactly the right position to mark out and drill for and fit the old brass hinges.

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With the door frame installed the window frame was sealed and screwed in place before replacing the glazing. Next the final painting, a new and larger notice board and finally a concrete slab outside the entrance.

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Job finished July 19th.

Many thanks for the kind donations from Jamie Hicks and John Blows for the new timber door.

Peter Hunt.

 

Crockers Ash kiosk

 

Crockers Ash kiosk
Crockers Ash kiosk
Crockers Ash kiosk
Crockers Ash kiosk

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Crockers Ash kiosk.