Vandals breaking up Preston’s iconic red telephone boxes

They are as iconic in Preston as the Bus Station and the Harris Museum.
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But Britain's longest line of red telephone boxes have never looked so unloved.

All nine on Market Street have been so badly vandalised that there are hardly any windows left to keep out the weather. And this just four months after new owners Preston Council pledged to spruce them up.

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The kiosks have been standing around waiting for a revamp for years. As long ago as 2014 plans were announced to convert them into mini-retail units. But nothing, it seems, bar the odd lick of paint, has been done to protect a Grade II Listed landmark which is known throughout the nation.

The landmark red phone boxes are looking sad and forgotten.The landmark red phone boxes are looking sad and forgotten.
The landmark red phone boxes are looking sad and forgotten.

Now they stand forlorn, with nothing inside apart from litter and the smell of urine. Each one - eight in a group and then one on its own further along the street - have had many of their windows kicked in.

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Hanging on the line of Preston's red phone boxes

It was back in December when council bosses said they would do them up - if they could find the cash to do the work. But there is no sign in the budget for 2023/24 that money will be made available, unless officers can conjure it up from elsewhere. In the meantime the boxes continue to deteriorate due to anti-social behaviour and the unforgiving Preston weather.

The cast-iron phone boxes were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the man who also designed the Preston Cenotaph just around the corner on the Flag Market. The nine on Market Street were considered so valuable that they were Grade II Listed in March 1988.

Vandals have smashed many of the windows.Vandals have smashed many of the windows.
Vandals have smashed many of the windows.
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The council's plan to spruce them up came after criticism last year from former Preston photographer Paul Melling who said it was "unforgivable" that they had been allowed to get into such a state. Another critic on social media said they looked like a tornado had been through them, leaving them looking like they had been abandoned.

The authority bought the kiosks 12 months ago with plans to put them to "creative use" this year as part of a raft of pop-up projects being delivered in the Harris Quarter, using £1m of advance cash awarded as part of the city's allocation from the government's Towns Fund. But while some of the other projects - like the Wallace and Gromit statue in front of the Market Hall - have long since been completed, the phone boxes are still waiting for their revamp.

A city council spokesperson said in December that the authority was “highly conscious of the fact that Preston has the longest line of historic red telephone boxes in the UK. They are a fabulous landmark that we are very proud to celebrate. We are currently seeking to secure sufficient resources to enable a full restoration of the phone boxes and hope to undertake the necessary works in 2023.”

Some of the boxes still bear signs of previous attempts – before the council acquired them – to rent them out as “retail opportunities”, including for suggested ventures like food stalls. It is 96 years since the first red phone boxes were installed in London.