Ringing success for visitor information kiosk

PUBLISHED: 06:30 22 June 2013

Peter Crook, chairman of South Walsham parish council inside the red telephone box which has been turned into a information centre close to the staithe.

Picture: James Bass

Peter Crook, chairman of South Walsham parish council inside the red telephone box which has been turned into a information centre close to the staithe. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2013

It was an easy call for South Walsham Parish Council to make when BT offered to sell it the village’s redundant red phone box for the princely sum of £1.

There was no desire in the Broadland community to see decades of local history carried away on the back of a lorry.

However, there remained the problem of what exactly to do with the telephone box which had been a reassuring landmark on the Panxworth Road for generations.

While in other villages, boxes have been reincarnated as everything from mini-libraries and grocery stores to museums, there were no immediate bright ideas forthcoming when an appeal was made to local residents.

It was parish council chairman Peter Crook who saw its potential as a visitor information kiosk to showcase South Walsham’s businesses to the 30,000 Broads holidaymakers who annually moor up at the broad.

He said: “The challenge facing businesses in the centre of the village is that they are a mile walk from the broad where most of the tourists arrive.

“If we could get just 10pc of those visitors to walk into the village it would make a massive difference.

“We could have put up posters, but it would have looked horrible. Converting the phone box has gone down really well and holidaymakers have been talking about it when they arrive at businesses such as the Ship Inn.”

Retired PR company boss Mr Crook, of School Road, offered to take on the project over the winter with his neighbour and fellow parish councillor Malcolm Steward.

After local farmer and parish councillor Roger Jones had delivered the box, weighing a tonne, to Mr Crook’s garden, work could start on stripping the lead paint back to the metal and removing the phone apparatus.

Mr Crook, who had previously built a new village sign with Mr Steward, said: “We had to carefully take out 76 panes of glass before we could start removing the old paint from the cast iron frame.

“Some of them were cracked and had to be replaced when we came to re-assembly.”

Advertising in the box, paid for by local businesses, has funded a large coloured panel across the back wall displaying a map and details of all village amenities.

Mr Jones was called in again with his lifting gear and trailer to transport the box to its new home at the staithe.

Mr Crook said his detective work on the design revealed the box had arrived in the village some time between 1935 and 1952.

He said: “This was by far and away the most successful model and between 1935 and 1964 some 60,000 were produced, not just for Britain, but for commonwealth countries. Some in as good condition as this one have been changing hands for up to £3,000.”

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