Red phone box saved in Studland as another is lost in Swanage

Studland Parish Council is buying an old-fashioned red telephone box in the village after an iconic kiosk by the ferry was removed before councillors could save it.

The council is now negotiating with BT to purchase the red phone box at the top of Beach Road for a pound.

The Studland phone box is being decommissioned by BT

Removed earlier this month

The news comes as the phone box outside The Mowlem theatre in Swanage was removed earlier this month.

Mobile phones have rendered the old-fashioned phone box all but redundant. They are seen as costly to maintain and subject to vandalism and misuse.

Telephone box outside Mowlem
David Rawsthorn

Contractors arrive to take away the old red phone box

“Determined to step in this time”

Nick Boulter, chair of Studland Parish Council, said:

“We wanted to preserve our red phone box as an item of heritage.

“We were very disappointed when the iconic phone box down by the ferry was removed without our knowledge, so we were determined to step in this time.”

Studland Phone Box
Robin Boultwood
Studland Phone Box
Robin Boultwood

Picture perfect – the iconic phone box near the Sandbanks Ferry in Studland that was removed in 2020

Still to decide on its use

At a parish meeting in spring 2021, volunteers came forward promising to make sure the phone box was restored and kept clean.

The council hasn’t decided what the phone box will be used for yet, but possibly a book exchange or an information hub. The phone box in Corfe Castle now holds a defibrillator. Meanwhile, two in Poole Park have become flower boxes.

Corfe Castle phone box defibrillator
Corfe Castle phone box defibrillator
Burngate phone box
Kim Gallagher

Corfe Castle red phone box now holds a defibrillator, while the one at Burngate, Langton Matravers, has local information, and the two in Poole are now flower boxes

“The intent was clear”

The sudden removal of the surviving phone box outside The Mowlem has sparked concern that the town’s heritage is under attack.

David Rawsthorn, who lives in Swanage, said:

“I was at The Mowlem at about eight o’clock in the morning when I saw a flat backed truck with two modern, but used, glass telephone kiosks on the back.

“One of the crew got out and checked the red telephone box. I then had to leave but the intent was clear.”

Space where telephone box was removed

The space where the phone box used to stand

“Part of the town’s enduring charm”

He added:

“My concern is that if we lose our red telephone boxes in Swanage then another part of our characterful street scene is lost.

“Swanage is a very traditional resort and both residents and visitors appreciate this. It is part of the town’s enduring charm.

“As they say, ‘you don’t appreciate the value of something until it is gone’.”

Coloured lights on the exterior of the Mowlem for Christmas

How it used to be

BT says alternatives are nearby

He suggested that if action had been taken earlier the box might, at least, have been relocated to Swanage Station to add to the character of that location.

BT considers that phone boxes can be decommissioned if there are alternatives nearby like the ones outside the library next to The Anchor Inn.

Phone boxes outside library

Surviving phone boxes outside the library

Swanage Museum to save phone box

Meanwhile, Swanage Museum has launched a bid to preserve a phone box on the High Street, between the old Purbeck Hotel and The White Horse.

Kim Gallagher from Swanage Museum said there had been what appeared to be a successful move to keep the one at the corner of Ulwell Road and Whitecliff Road about three years ago.

Phone box in lower High Street in Swanage

The museum is stepping in to save the one near The White Horse in lower High Street in Swanage

“Important to do our bit”

Kim said:

“The Swanage Museum would prefer that all boxes are kept in place to preserve our streets and highways heritage.

“We felt it important to do our bit and, following consultation, have offered to take on our local telephone box on the High Street, for posterity, rather than have it removed.”

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