The Independent London Newspaper
25th April 2017

Dial M for Mocha? Iconic red telephone boxes in Hampstead to be turned into coffee stands

    How the converted telephone boxes look in action

    Published: 12 June, 2014

    IS it time to dial M for Mocha? Iconic red telephone boxes in Hampstead are about to be turned into London’s smallest coffee stalls.

    The phone boxes are to be transformed after widespread mobile phone use left them largely unused and targets for graffiti and anti-social behaviour.

    To cut maintenance bills – without losing the popular flash of red on our pavements – British Telecom has allowed them to be given a new lease of life.

    Charitable trust Thinking Outside The Box has asked for council planning permission to convert two of the phone boxes, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, in Hampstead High Street. It has been told it can take over the running of the boxes for a nominal £1 fee.

    If granted permission, the Brighton-based charity will put coffee machines inside the boxes. It has pledged to donate a slice of the profits to homeless projects, and to offer training and work to unemployed people.

    In other areas the charity has turned red telephone boxes into ice cream stands and shoeshines.

    The Hampstead boxes, which date from the 1930s, are listed. 

    Scott, who grew up and lived in Hampstead, designed two versions of the phone box for the General Post Office but many have fallen out of use. He was a trustee of the Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and his phone box was inspired by the mausoleum Sir John Soane designed for himself, which is in St Pancras Old Church Yard in St Pancras Road. 

    Designer Miles Broe told the New Journal the charity had seen the abandoned phone boxes and began to think about new uses for them.

    “They are iconic pieces of design, wonderful pieces of architecture, and this will mean they have a new lease of life,” he said. “There are 9,500 Scott phone boxes around England and a lot of them are still used for things like wifi and have phone equipment inside. But large numbers are defunct – and BT still has to maintain them.”

    That is where the charity stepped in.

    Mr Broe added: “British Telecom is left with a large maintenance issue – they get people calling them and saying: ‘Can you come and clean out our phone box, or clear up smashed glass.’ We said we could take them on and put them to some other use.”

    Designs show a top-of-the-range coffee machine – like those in high street cafés – installed where a phone receiver and coin box once sat. Water holders sit beneath and the phone box is rewired for electricity. 

    The outside of the box is not changed in any way, so as not to break listing rules.

    The coffee shop phone box has already been introduced in Brighton – boxes near the famous Regency Pavilion and by the Palace Pier sell coffee and ice cream – while Bournemouth, Westminster, Leicester and Cheltenham are having boxes converted. 

    Mark Johnson, BT head of payphone operations, said: “Red phone boxes have become a focal point for all sorts of activities of real value to the community.”


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