ABC Wednesday 4: L is For...

...Listed Building

Red telephone boxes may be a British icon, but they're fast disappearing from our streets: our use of mobile phones for instance has drastically reduced the need for them. However, this telephone box won't be disappearing from Chippenham because it's a listed building.

English Heritage is the official public body which looks after the listed buildings register: in the majority of cases it's the owner's not their responsibility to look after the building itself. If a property is listed, it means it has a special architectural and/or historical interest and any proposed changes to the building require additional scrutiny within our planning system. You can find out a lot more about what listed building status means and the different grades awarded on English Heritage's website.

In 2000 and 2001 I was involved with Images of England. This was a Heritage Lottery funded Millennium project - completed last year - which aimed to photographically record over 350,000 listed buildings in England. I was allocated parishes within Chippenham and its surrounding villages where I took a representative photograph of each of the items on the listed buildings register for those areas. Mine and the photographs taken by hundreds of other volunteers are displayed on the Images of England website alongside the architectural listing description.

Lots of things not usually considered as buildings are listed: I've had to photograph tombstones, memorials, an historic walkway, dovecotes, milestones as well as the above phonebox. When I walked past it on Monday, I saw that it's changed slightly since I took the 'official' photograph. It now says on the outside that email and texts are possible as well as making the usual phonecall. However, when I looked inside I couldn't see how this was to be done as it still had the standard telephone. No sign of a keyboard, let alone anything that could be used for letters rather than numbers. However it did have one modern touch: there was the usual McDonald's carton left on the shelf.

For other Lovely ABC Wednesday posts, Look Lively and Leg it over there.


  1. Thank goodness at least one red phone booth has been saved. ;-)

    Yes, cell phones have definitely done in many phone booths n this side of the pond too. It's tough getting older - you notice these things. LOL

    MY ABC Wednesday post is at
    More of Me - EG

  2. Hi VP, it sure is an icon! I would love to have one of those in my garden :-) Great picure, well done.

    Have a great Wednesday and a Happy Easter too.


  3. I always thought those red telephone boxes were the coolest : ). I love your picture. Hope your Easter season is a happy one!

  4. What an interesting assignment that must have been!

  5. I love it that this qualified as a Listed Building. Maybe the e-mail etc. abilities will appear suddenly; did the folks doing the signs just get there sooner than the ones actually installing the hardware?

  6. Oh, I am so glad one was saved! And what a great and interesting post! Great photo! Have a great week and a Happy Easter!

  7. That's great. The hubby works in that line of business (archaeology and planning permission etc) and was telling me that some of ours are listed too. I hope our old post boxes are too, the one my me is from King George's rein.

  8. Our house is listed. One day when you have nothing to do for a fortnight or so you could ask me to tell you about getting planning permission for sorting out what ensues when an ancient yew with a preservation order on it begins pushing over a listed building. On second thoughts, I am not sure I could bear to tell you.

  9. I love you volunteer work! You have the best time....gail

  10. I love you volunteer work! You have the best time....gail

  11. Great picture - haven't seen one of them in a long time - isn't it weird how things just disappear? And suddenly, someone says, 'Where'd THAT go?' Thanks for the post!

  12. Those phone booths are darling. Glad it gets to stay. Looks like your Micky D patrons have about as much sense there as they do in Texas.

    You may not need the translation, but Micky D = McDonald's

  13. I was just glancing at your's exactly the same as here in Cold! Boo!

    I find this interesting that you photograph all these nontraditional structures. I'm glad the phone booth is listed as a historic building. I do relate it to your homeland. I don't think I've ever seen one over here.

    What is the first building/structure you think of when America comes to mind. I thought of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco--which is funny cause I live no where near that.

  14. They've all gone in my area and phone boxes are becoming scarce full stop. I tried to save one in Westbury but failed.

  15. Making mobile phone calls in public is anti-social.

    There should be boxes like this liberally placed throughout all our cities where people can stand and speak when phoning their friends.

    They could be used for listening to music on earphones in too and should be painted bright red so people can find them easily.

    An advantage they'd have over the traditional version would be the absence of expensive equipment inside for vandals to vandalise. I reckon they'd catch on quite quickly.

    Esther Montgomery

  16. Great post today VP - you do have an interesting life!
    I can only think of one red phone box left in Chesterfield now - and there were loads when we moved here 8 years ago. It's so sad to see them going. I'm glad yours is listed!

  17. VP .. can you actually believe we have one RED phone both just like that in Kingston ??? .. I don't know if it is a functioning one but it stands out like nobody's business !
    I was wondering why no Dr. Who was mentioned ; )
    We have quite a few "listed" buildings in Kingston and one heck of a beautiful cemetery where our first prime minister is buried. It is a historical town here : )

  18. That Images of England project sounds both fun and worthwhile. Glad you participated in it and shared the Link! Lovely!

  19. I love the elastic definition of "building." It's great somebody thought to save at least one telephone box before they all disappeared.

  20. It's good that some are being preserved, they were so much a part of our landscape, and it's a shame that they're not used any more.

  21. Amazingly enough, someone in the next town over managed to buy one of these phone booths, and put it up. there is no phone inside, as far as I know, but it is startling to see in our country landscape.

  22. I remember making many a call from one of those red boxes when I was a student :) Funnily enough I was thinking of Liverpool and some of its many listed buildings for my ABC post, but ran out of time to go into town to take some photos. I enjoyed your post VP !

  23. Many years ago, about 20 I think, we were in Trier on holiday with the kids and my father. Wandering around the town, close to the Post Office, I said 'Oh look, there's a phone box!'. My children replied "What do you expect outside the Post Office?". But what I was really saying was that there was a 'PHONE BOX' one of our red ones, and what's more, there were 4 or 5 more outside the Pst Office (all working I must add). Lately I've seen more red boxes abroad than I've seen here at home. How sad is that?

  24. Oh I love red booths!! There's only one where I live in Tucumán, Argentina, near an Irish pub.

  25. LOL, a McDonald's carton indeed:)

    Pay telephones are becoming more and more scarce in the US as well, but I'm so glad you still have some of these great phonebooths in the UK! When I chaperoned a group of students on a trip to London a few years ago, they had to have their picture taken in one of these iconic booths.

  26. Well, I suppose you do texting and emailing by taking your cell phone inside the red box. :-)

    Kind of cool to list a phone booth as an historic building. Maybe the commission could work on other British icons as well, like...Shepard's pie? A pint? Bubble and squeak?

    Sigh, my thoughts always turn to food when I'm trying to think...

  27. Did you see how many red telephone boxes there were in the salvage yard where Toby got the GW shed doors?
    They could make roughly acceptable greenhouses or shower cubicles.

  28. Hi - thanks for all your comments - it's about time I came over for a reciprocal visit. I'll just do a general reply here.

    BTW - quite a few of the older phone boxes are listed, so quite a few other towns will have them too. I'm not quite sure how the email and text facilities are meant to work - perhaps I need to ask BT!

    As Elizabethm says, a listed building means the owner has quite a few hoops to jump through if they want to alter it. Karen over at ArtistGarden will be able to trump that with the tricky listed building in a national park combination!

    As James pointed out they also appeared on Gardeners' World last week - in the salvage yard scene. Lots of people are using them for retro showers and sheds. I wonder if there's one on an allotment somewhere?


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