Two hard-working volunteers were definitely on the right lines when they devoted hours of labour to restoring the traditional telephone box in Arundel to its former glory.
The K6 model kiosk was designed to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V and went into production in 1936. It was the first of its kind to be widely used outside London and across the country and many communities have campaigned to retain this much-loved British icon.
The one in Mill Road had been looking shabby and neglected for several years. Arundel resident Carol Jones was appalled by its condition and when she contacted BT, the company agreed to supply the correct paint, wire brushes, sandpaper and paint brushes for its restoration.
Arundel historian Mark Phillips was delighted to take the product on board and he persuaded Arundel Museum volunteer Adge Roberts to help him.
Mark said: “As Adge once worked as a coach painter, he was very much the day-to-day brains on the required tasks but had we realised just how many hours it would take, I suspect we would have thought twice about it.
“So far, we’ve spent about 22 hours over a number of days and still counting. Adge was very strict in the sequence of tasks. Wire brush and sand down. Dust and rinse. Apply anti-mould gel to most areas. Leave a couple of days, rinse off thoroughly until the water runs clear.
“All water had to be transported in containers of various sizes including a three-litre refillable beer pouch sourced from Arundel Brewery. Then, another wire-brushing and sanding to remove the dead mould and flakes the gel had loosened.
“The day arrived to apply the surprisingly pink primer that BT had provided. No sooner was the first brushstroke applied when the heavens opened. The first real rain for a couple of weeks or so.
“We returned a few days later and managed to apply all the primer, which was very thick and time consuming to work with. We stood back – the box looked like something out of the Teletubbies TV programme. It screamed bright pink and the comments from passers-by were very much a thumbs-down until we explained the top coat was to follow.
“Applying the bright BT red that we all recognise was an absolute joy compared to the primer – it took us less than half the time. We were questioning why we had taken on such a project in the first place but when we finally finished and stood back and viewed our work with the late afternoon sun shining on it, that question no longer needed to be asked. Compared to the box when we commenced this project, it looked stunning.”
Mark has since returned and painted the crest around the top in gold and will shortly be replacing a pane of glass in the door and a couple of ‘TELEPHONE’ signs to replace the two faded ones around the top. Contractors for BT have also promised to repair the door-closing mechanism.
“The box will continue to be a working telephone as we are informed it still takes money and the it is therefore not up for adopting,” added Mark.
“As I was painting on the crowns, a middle-aged man walked by and asked if he could use the phone. I was so surprised I found myself asking if he was winding me up.
“Evidently his mobile had just died and in such cases, old-fashioned technology like a phone box was a perfectly acceptable back-up for him.
“Now when overseas tourists pose in front of this iconic feature for photographs, it will no longer look like a faded and neglected piece of street furniture but something that reflects our beautiful and historic town in a good light.
“Many thanks to Carol and Adge, without whom the Mill Road box would still look sad and neglected.”
Arundel Town Council has recently adopted the phone box in Ford Road and the phone has been removed by BT.
A couple of volunteers are already lined up to restore it and the council is looking for ideas on how it can be used for the good of the public, bearing in mind it is remote from the town centre. Any suggestions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org