Patented in 1876, the telephone revolutionised personal communications allowing the human voice to travel over distance. Attracted by this new technology, corporations developed networks of telephones that would criss-cross Britain.
The largest network was developed by the General Post Office, which introduced the famous red telephone box to the streets of Britain. At its height the GPO network totalled 92,000 public call boxes.
The Police Service saw how the telephone box could play its part in fighting crime and disorder, with 1000 examples installed. In 1963 the Mackenzie Trench Police Box first appeared as the TARDIS in the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who.
Britain’s pioneering motoring organisations, the Royal Autombile Club and Automobile Assocation, recognised the value of the telephone. A total of 1,300 boxes allowed patrolmen to keep in touch and members to summon assistance.
Advanced telephone technologies mean people no longer needed call boxes as their main method of making phone calls. They marked the beginning of the end for these networks. Only the GPO’s network survives in use today.