Whitley Bay's rare listed phone box set for community refurbishment

The rare three-in-one phone box in Whitley Bay will be refurbished by the community. Credit: Local Democracy Reporting Service.

A rare phone box which is one of only 50 built in the UK is set to be refurbished, with dreams of turning it into a community asset once again.

The listed phone box in Whitley Bay, known as a kiosk number four (K4), was erected outside the town's metro station in 1928 as part of an experiment to replace post offices.

The phone box acted simultaneously as a post box and stamp dispenser - but they proved unpopular due to the noise generated by the stamp dispenser disrupting phone calls, causing annoyance to users.

Only around 50 such telephone boxes were built and operated across the UK, many of which are now in museums after the experiment failed.

Over the years, the experimental three-in-one facility has become worse for wear and the subject of vandalism.

Now, the Whitley Bay Big Local has adopted the piece of historic street furniture and has community-focused plans for it.

Sarah Sutton, Whitley Bay Big Local’s community engagement manager, said: “The plans are to refurbish it to how it would have been in 1928 and to become a museum piece involving locals. It is all about preserving not just the heritage of this site but also the whole history.

“We want people to get posting again. Lots of young people don’t use postal systems anymore.

“We want to see pen pals between local schools and schools in areas with other K4s.

“We have an art project with Barnardo’s, creating glass panels that could be installed in the phone box. There aren’t many panes of glass in it at the moment.”

The Whitley Bay Big Local is looking to secure funding to help bring the novelty phone box back to its former glory. They are also working with the post office to keep it as a functioning post box.

Whitley Bay councillor John O’Shea said: “I am really pleased that the Whitley Bay Big Local has secured permission to upgrade this iconic phone box. I am very hopeful that funding can be found to do a grand job on its restoration.”

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