top of page
  • ladieswholondonpod

Ep 154: A London Engagement, Red phone boxes and cheeky (chatty) cherubs.

Updated: Jan 23

Cherub at 2 Temple Place © The Bulldog Trust

Cherub lamp by William Silver Frith

There's cherubs on the phone outside the house that belonged to William Waldorf Astor. He had one of the first private telephones in London. Which begs the question, who did he ring? His extraordinary house is well worth visiting, it's now managed by the Bulldog Trust and is used for event and exhibitions. Their next one opens at the end of January -

more details here: The Glass Heart

There's more round a short walk away at Temple Avenue, and I might add a picture of those once I've been to see them.

While at Temple Place - pause to admire the mighty K2 phone kiosk just outside. You can find Red phone boxes all around Britain, but only London has the K2. Just over 200 survive and are now listed as protected buildings. But, hang on, you might be thinking, it can't have been the first? What about the K1?

Here's a K1. After it was introduced in 1921. It was quickly deemed old fashioned and a competition launched to find a replacement. Architect Giles Gilbert Scott was supposedly inspired the shape of Sir John Soane's family tomb. So let's see the tomb and a K2 side by side for comparison.

GIlbert Scott' design drawings Image via RIBA

The curve at the top that survive through various K numbers is very much the curve of Soane's tomb. And maybe the curve of Waterloo Bridge - that he also designed?

Waterloo Bridge mattbuck (category), CC BY-SA 2.0

The evolution of the Kiosks is beautifully illustrated in this graphic from The Londonist. Or see high and low points here:

K4 with built in postbox
K8 Good Lord! not a thing of beauty

Most of London's boxes are K6s. Designed by Gilbert Scott for the coronation of George V on 1935, 60,000 were installed around Britain. A little smaller - and more economical than the K2. The windows are different proportions, the crown at the top is solid rather than cut through.

You can compare and contrast them in Smithfield Market - as they stand side by side. This was the best angle I could get from google street view!

Compare the sizes of Ks 2 and 6 side by side

The most photographed K2 in London must be the one with the queue in Parliament Sq. Where the main appeal is that you can get the phone box and Big Ben in shot at once. (Something that these folk don't seem to be making the most of.)

I can't find an image of the "sherlock" box outside St Bart's Hospital, but here's the nearby wall to give you an idea:

© Acabashi; CC-BY-SA 4.0

What other item of street furniture inspire such affection? So much so that the humble phone box has song all about it. A powerful lament of loss as a k2 (probably) gets replaced by phone box "without a door". Watch Fat and Frantic perform Darling Doris or listen on Spotify.

Are there more cherubs we can find? Yes there are. Try these ones at 133 Strand. A business that wanted to show off it's modern technology:

Cherubs above the door at the North end of Waterloo Bridge
Slightly blurry close up - again, when I'm passing, I'll try and remember to get a better one...

The record - for how many people you can fit in a phone box, seems quite hotly contested. I'm not sure I've found a definitive answer - but let's say it's at least 14. Yes, 14! So, we don't need to queue for that picture in Parliament Sq. No, let's just all squish in at once!

Let us know if you know of any other cherubs on the phone. They don't have to be London ones. International listeners - what do your phone boxes look like? Do you have a box repurposed as shower cubicle? We definitely want to hear from you!

And old excuse to get in touch, you'll find all our links and contact details here:

Extra extra! News just in!

Our lovely listener Despa got in touch to share this magnificent phone box with stained glass:

If you recognise the chap you might know where to find this. It's a Knight Templer, and the phone box is at Temple. Super easy to visit then, if you are going to look at the nearby cherubs. The box is just beside the river, and we're looking across at the OXO building on the opposite bank. So you can hunt it down when you visit. Huge thank you to Despa.

And to Matt from the Londonist who shared their article all about Stephen Lowther from the Wellcome Library who has been collecting the cards from boxes. It's probably where I read about him, and I'm glad to find I didn't imagine it all. Dive in here, if you want to read it:

(Yes that is the full URL)

23 views0 comments


bottom of page