Iconic red telephone boxes, victims of the mobile phone revolution, are being put back into use in rural villages across rural North East Wales.
The kiosks were originally designed by the famous architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott whose great works include Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, Waterloo Bridge and Battersea Power Station.
The kiosk, painted ‘currant red’, proved equally iconic and by the 1980s there were over 80,000 of them around the country before the rise of the mobile phone led to them becoming largely redundant.
But now, thanks to a special project launched by rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd, they are experiencing a new lease of life across the rural areas of Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham.
Up to five telephone boxes in each county will be re-purposed at a cost of £3,000 each to provide a range of services to locals and visitors in countryside villages with local communities raising some of the necessary cash.
In those villages, where for years they were often the only contact with the outside world, they have taken on a role housing bicycle pumps, books and brochures, defibrillators and dog poo bags.
They are also tourist information points offering brief histories of the area along with details of points of interest, recommendations for visits and walks and the flora and fauna found locally.
The project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
Sarah Jones, Cadwyn Clwyd Environment and Heritage Officer, said: “The project arose from BT information about adopting a telephone box and a number of our communities showed interest.
“Gwaenysgor in Flintshire was one of the first and because theirs was still connected to electricity they were able to put a defibrillator in.
“We have put in a block application for the three counties of Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham and we have £15,000 for each county, enough to kit out five boxes in each with local communities also making a contribution of £750.
“It has been a really good project and one we’ve been delighted to be involved with because this gives a new and useful lease of life to these wonderful and historic pieces of street furniture.
“They have been part of the fabric of our villages and countryside for decades and thanks to this they will continue to play a part in local life.”
The suggestions for the boxes come through the Local Action Groups for each county and to date Denbighshire has completed two, in Eryrys and Glyndyfrdwy, with three more currently in progress, Aberwheeler, Maeshafn and Tafarn y Gelyn, and Flintshire has completed one, at Gwaenysgor with Ysceifiog in progress.
Wrexham are at the planning stage and they have been in touch with community councils in Gresford, Llay, Bwlchgwyn, Bryncefn and Penley.
Sharon Newell, from Pwllglas, a member of the Denbighshire LAG, said: “This project gives a second life and a new chance to these iconic kiosks to continue to enhance and benefit rural life.
“It’s all about encouraging communication and community in rural villages which are sometimes in danger of becoming dormitories where there is little real sense of belonging.
“We believe this could really be the start of something which could go on to the next stage with things like solar panels fitted to provide power, local produce on sale with honesty boxes or vending machines with snacks and bottled water for walkers, even an umbrella to borrow if you get caught in the rain – as long as you return it.”