Phone boxes are the touring cyclist’s friend: rain shelter, wind-free picnic spot, blush-sparing changing rooms.
They can even be a place to make phone calls – with your mobile, insulated from traffic noise, that is. Because the booth’s native steam-powered, coin-op phone was probably replaced by a defibrillator or miniature library years ago.
And Yorkshire is Britain’s leading county when it comes to interesting phone boxes. Here’s ten favourite examples, in no particular order except merit, that I’ve cycled past in my travels round the historic county.
Millington: Bike Repair Station Phone Box
Right on the Way of the Roses, a couple of miles east of Pocklington in the lovely, underrated Wolds, is this miniature bike workshop in a refurbed old booth. Pump, tools, oil, inner tubes, tyres, first aid kit and more, all free to use. Mike and Ali are the people to thank. There may not be a phone box inside, but this was a good call! More
Hull: White Phone Boxes
A legacy of the 20th century, when Hull and East Riding had its own independent telephone system, is the region’s network of white phone boxes. Many still remain, such as this one in Ferriby, the village where I grew up. Then, a call cost 4d, which would barely buy you a packet of crisps. Today, a call costs 60p, which barely buys you a packet of crisps. More
Helmsley: Green Phone Box
North of the pleasant market town, in the North York Moors on the B1257’s turnoff to Fangdale Beck, is this famously verdant phone box. It’s thus coloured so as to blend in with the landscape, which doesn’t sound the wisest thing when you were scanning the horizon desperate to make a 999 call. More
Scarborough: Museum Phone Box
On the seaside town’s harbourfront, a stone’s throw from an old Police Box, they’ve rejigged an old booth as ‘Britain’s smallest museum’. Opening the door plays a recording about the town’s history, with more information and photographs on the wall panels. Those interested in knowing more about the place’s fishing industry can engage in further research at one of the town’s excellent chip shops. More
Tunstall: K4 Phonebox/Postbox
Visiting Tunstall is a glimpse of a disappearing world – literally, as the coast in this part of East Yorkshire is fast being eroded by the sea. If you come, make sure your maps are well up to date. At the caravan park of Sand le Mere, recently moved inland to protect the listed building from the waves, is this rare survivor of the failed K4: a 1930s idea that combined phonebox with postbox, neither now operational. More
Villages passim: Libraries
Repurposing village phoneboxes as miniature community libraries or book exchanges is a popular community project, and there are countless examples across the county. (This one is from Bulmer, just northeast of York.) Where do all those Dan Brown books go once they’ve been read? Now we know. Some of them must be over an hour old. More
Crambe: Nettle Greenhouse
For those booths awaiting investment is the possibility of a temporary role. No, not as public toilet, but as nettle greenhouse: though U dioica thrives in ammonia-rich soil, which probably explains something. This example – the tallest nettle I’ve ever seen – was snapped in Crambe, between York and Malton. More
Hull: Rainbow Phone Boxes
No White Privilege here: the independent-minded City of Culture 2017 embraces rainbow phone boxes too. Hull may not quite be a Brighton, but it’s long had a strong and unapologetic gay scene, and its marina box is spectrum-coloured to celebrate Hull Pride. When the annual event is on you may spot more, dressed up for the occasion. More
Hull: K1 Phone Box
Yep, Hull again. Only seven of the original K1 phone boxes from 1922 survive in the wild in Britain, and one of them is in the Market Hall in Hull’s Trinity Market. One hundred years ago! A time of looming depression, social upheaval, populist uprisings and pandemics. How things change. More
Dunsop Bridge: Zero-point Phone Box
The shower-cubicle booth here has an inscription celebrating Dunsop Bridge’s status as the Centre of Great Britain, as determined by the Ordnance Survey. The gateway village to the Trough of Bowland is technically now in Lancashire, but to diehards like this blogger, it will always be in Yorkshire, where it was pre-1974. Yorkshire is, after all, the centre of everything. More
Not to mention…
You might read various articles online about the ‘phonebox graveyard’ at the village of Carlton Miniott, west of Thirsk. Hmm; I’ve cycled past and never noticed it, and Google Street View suggests that there’s nothing much to see, despite historic photos online of forests of old phoneboxes awaiting restoration – hence my not including it on the list.
Something else I’ve not noticed, despite cycling and walking past it a few times, is this phone box shop in Bradford, as reported on the horribly messy Bradford Telegraph & Argus website. I don’t know if it’s still open.
I’ve also not mentioned the Blue Phone Boxes in Leeds that house wifi hubs – again, I haven’t noticed these in my visits recently.