Villagers rally to save iconic red telephone box

Tim Ralph restored the telephone box in West Chiltington. Pic Steve Robards SR1723403 SUS-170919-160143001
Tim Ralph restored the telephone box in West Chiltington. Pic Steve Robards SR1723403 SUS-170919-160143001

A call for action went out from residents of a South Downs village when a much-loved public telephone box fell into disrepair.

The red K6-type BT phone box - which has stood opposite the Queen’s Head pub in The Hollow, West Chiltington, since 1935 - was dilapidated and under threat of removal.

But West Chiltington Parish Council called on the services of phone kiosk restoration expert Tim Ralph - and the box is now back in pristine condition.

And it could even save a life, because the box now houses a defibrillator for emergency use if someone suffers a heart attack.

The phone box is, in fact, the second in the village to be restored and fitted with a defibrillator - the first, in Haglands Lane, was restored about two years ago.

Phone-box expert Tim Ralph, who has four restored phone boxes in his own garden in Ashington, lovingly stripped back and repaired the phone kiosk in The Hollow, repainted it and fitted it with a new door. “It was a lot of hard work,” said Tim, “but the work was spread over about a month.

“All of the residents were really enthusiastic about it. They kept stopping me when I was working and said how great it was to see it safe.”

Tim estimates that the phone box was probably one of the very first to be installed in West Sussex back in 1935.

Parish council vice chairman Simon Booth paid tribute to Tim’s handiwork. “The phone box now looks brand new.”

Tim’s work on the village phone booth follows a campaign to save red telephone boxes in towns and villages throughout Sussex launched by the Sussex Heritage Trust whose members say that the much-loved K6 public phone boxes - a distinctive feature of the British landscape for decades - is increasingly under threat.

Some have been removed altogether and others face removal because of mobile phone technology, vandalism and neglect.

The Trust says that many of those which have not yet disappeared completely are ‘in slow decline or critically at risk.’

The trust has produced a guide on how people can ensure their survival by ‘adopting’ them from BT for the nominal sum of £1.