Dozens of historic red telephone boxes face the axe in Horsham

Horsham council chairman Christian Mitchell who is backing a campaign to save red phone boxes. Pic Steve Robards  SR1636836 SUS-161219-114612001
Horsham council chairman Christian Mitchell who is backing a campaign to save red phone boxes. Pic Steve Robards SR1636836 SUS-161219-114612001

Dozens of historic public telephone boxes are currently under threat in the Horsham area.

The iconic red phone boxes - a distinctive feature of the British landscape for decades - are among around 400 throughout Sussex which are facing the axe.

BT says many of them are now in a poor state and are hardly used because most people have mobile phones.

But Sussex Heritage Trust has launched a campaign to save the telephone kiosks which once stood on the streets of every town and village in Britain.

The trust is urging local communities to ‘adopt’ phone boxes to ensure their survival. Many have already been adopted and converted into such things as information points or sites for housing life-saving defibrillators.

BT has written to Horsham District Council outlining its plans to remove the 40 public payphones in Horsham and surrounding villages.

The kiosks under threat in Horsham are at Coltsfoot Drive, Pondtail Road, Highlands Road, New Street, Church Road, Roffey; Cootes Avenue, Elm Grove, Hawkesbourne Road, Comptons Lane and Rusper Road.

Others pinpointed for removal are at Hill Estate, Henfield; Brighton Road, Woodmancote; Henfield Road, Small Dole, Forest Road, Colgate, Crawley Road, Faygate and Lambs Green, Rusper.

Still more under threat are sited at Church Street, Warnham; Cowfold Road, Coolham and Hayes Lane, Slinfold.

In Billingshurst phone boxes under threat are at Stane Street, Five Oaks and near Jupplands House, Adversane.

Others facing the axe are at Church Street, Rudgwick; on the A281 at Bucks Green; Haven Road, Rudgwick; Nuthust Road, Maplehurst; Brighton Road, Lower Beeding; Handcross Road, Plummers Plain; The Hollow, West Chiltington; Street Close, Codmore Hill; Pulborough Road, Cootham; Storrington Road, Thakeham; Thakeham Road, Storrington; Roman Road, Steyning; London Road, Washington; Rectory Close, Ashington; Houghton Bridge, Amberley; and Dacre Gardens, Upper Beeding.

A number of the phone boxes have not been used at all over the past year. The busiest kiosk is in New Street, Horsham, where a total of 216 calls were made over the past 12 months.

BT says that no phone boxes will be removed without consent from local councils. It has given local people until January 20 to make comments on the proposals.

Horsham District Council chairman Christian Mithcell is backing the campaign to save them.

“Ask anyone to draw up a list of all things quintessentially British and it’s a near certainty the red telephone box will appear,” he said.

“Ever since the first kiosks were introduced in the 1920s they’ve held a special place in the affections of the nation.

“It is possible for communities to ‘adopt’ phone boxes which are rarely used. The caveat is that the handsets must be removed, leaving residents to pay for the upkeep of the boxes.

“So far about 2,300 have been saved in this way and they’ve become galleries, information booths, wildlife centres and miniature libraries.”

And he called on people to back the campaign to save them. “I know that our communities and parish and neighbourhood councils can rise to any challenge and by being imaginative, and working with our community partners, we can save the few boxes we have left.

“I especially support the idea of them being used to house defibrillators - equipment proven to have saved lives.

“And so as a rallying call to our communities – do get involved and join the campaign to save our heritage - and let’s find new ways for using these boxes before it’s too late.”