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Two K8 telephone kiosks to east and west of carriageway at south end of Erskine Bridge

A Category B Listed Building in Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank, Renfrewshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9172 / 55°55'2"N

Longitude: -4.4696 / 4°28'10"W

OS Eastings: 245759

OS Northings: 672106

OS Grid: NS457721

Mapcode National: GBR 3H.0C03

Mapcode Global: WH3NS.9JWM

Entry Name: Two K8 telephone kiosks to east and west of carriageway at south end of Erskine Bridge

Listing Date: 5 July 2019

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407197

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52515

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Erskine

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank

Parish: Erskine

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

Description

Two K8 public telephone kiosks located at the south (Renfrewshire) end of Erskine Bridge. The K8 kiosk was designed in 1965 by Bruce Martin for the General Post Office and was in production until 1983. Two further K8 kiosks (listed separately) are located at the northeast end of the bridge.

The kiosks are of cast iron construction with an aluminium door with recessed handle, all painted in 'Red 539'. Three sides, including the door, are glazed with large single sheets of toughened glass in rectangular frames with rounded corners. The solid back panels are molded to conform to the dimensions of the glazing. Each kiosk has a cill ring between the main body and the flat roof section. The corners of the roof sections are tilted back slightly and illuminated TELEPHONE signs are set into each face. The doors are fixed with brass hinges and leather straps. Each kiosk has 'pay on answer' telephone equipment and an integrated shelf unit.

Statement of Interest

These two K8 public telephone kiosks (and the two at the opposite end of the Erskine Bridge) are exceptionally rare survivals of this kiosk type in Scotland.

The K8, the last version of the red telephone box in production, was an inventive modernisation of Gilbert Scott s iconic K6 design. Approximately 11,000 were installed across the United Kingdom between 1968 and 1983. Less than 20 are known to remain operational in the public realm as of 2019. As an essential service for users of this major piece of infrastructure, the surviving group of four K8 boxes at Erskine Bridge is of special interest in the context of the building type.

These later red kiosks contribute to our understanding of the historic development of telecommunication services in the UK and the use of public telephone kiosks before the widespread use of mobile phones in the early 21st century.

Historical development

The K8 was the last of the red telephone box designs in the United Kingdom, superseding the classic K6 dome-roofed kiosk of 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

The K8 telephone kiosk was designed for the General Post Office (GPO) by Bruce Martin in 1965/6 as an inventive modernisation of Scott s iconic design. Martin (b.1917) studied engineering in Hong Kong before working for the architectural department at Hertfordshire County Council.

Martin initially proposed a fully aluminium box but the GPO decided to continue with cast iron as it was cheaper to produce. The majority of the boxes were cast in Scotland by the Lion Foundry Co Ltd, Kirkintilloch. Aluminium was used for the door on account of the material's relative lightness. Only slight modifications were made to the design during the 18 years of production. The roofs of earlier examples, for example, feature a decorative embossed ridge around the illuminated signage.

Approximately 11,000 of the K8 kiosks were installed across the United Kingdom from 1968 until production ended in 1983. Most were replaced or removed after the telecommunications section of the General Post Office was privatised (as British Telecom) in 1984.

While the four K8 kiosks at the Erskine Bridge are contemporary with the bridge's construction in 1967-71, they are understood to have been installed at the bridge during the early 1980s.

Architectural interest

Design

The main requirements of the design brief for the K8 were that it had to be easy to assemble, maintain and repair, should last for at least 50 years, and be recognisable as the next generation of the red telephone box.

The large plate glass panels of the K8 were a further innovation to improve visibility while reducing the number of component parts. This feature of the design was supported by a higher level of illumination inside. New brighter bulbs were used so the box could be seen from further away and the inside of the canopy was painted with white enamel to reflect light downwards.

The K8 has 183 individual component parts compared to the 450 used in the K6. Unlike the K6, the K8 could be assembled in four different ways with the door, side and back panels placed in any position, to reflect the needs of the site. The position of the door and hinges are adjustable to optimise accessibility, and a gap was deliberately left beneath the door for ventilation. These innovative aspects combined to lessen many of the issues associated with the earlier box types.

The Erskine Bridge telephone kiosks are largely intact and retain their external form and appearance. As a prime example of modern infrastructural design, the K8 boxes are complementary as ancillary components to the contemporary modern bridge. The operational telephony equipment (2019) of a later type, introduced after the K8 kiosk ceased production in 1983.

Setting

The kiosks are located at the northeast end of Erskine Bridge (LB52482), listed at category A) and two others are located at the south end (LB52515). Together, the kiosks are functionally and prominently located at the four corners of the bridge, two on each side of the road to allow ease of access. They also form a historic group with the category A listed bridge of contemporary date.

The Erskine Bridge is a known 'location of concern' – a place defined as 'a specific, usually public, site which is frequently used as a location for suicide and which provides either means or opportunity for suicide' (NHS Health Scotland, 2016). The telephones within the four kiosks are maintained in permanent working order as a preventative measure and to assist those with suicidal intent.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

The K8 version of the red telephone kiosk is exceptionally rare in Scotland. Eight are known to survive (2019) including the four at Erskine Bridge. The other examples are on the islands of Easdale and Seil in Argyllshire and on Flotta and Rousay in the Orkney Islands.

Approximately 11,000 of the K8 kiosks were installed across the United Kingdom between 1968 and 1983. Less than 60 of these kiosks are recorded as surviving in the public realm, and less than 20 are known to remain operational (2019).

Social historical interest

Red telephone kiosks are an internationally recognised emblem of British street furniture design. The K8 was the last of the red phone box designs in the United Kingdom, superseding the classic K6 dome-roofed red telephone kiosk in 1968. The K8 kiosk contributes to our understanding of the historic development of telecommunication services in Britain during the 20th century, and the use of public telephone kiosks before the widespread use of mobile phones in the early 21st century.

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