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Police Boxes

officer making a call from a police box in the 1950sPolice boxes were large blue kiosks topped by electric lights. Each kiosk contained a telephone linked directly to the local sub-divisional police station. Officers from beat patrol could report their whereabouts from them without having to make carefully timed meetings with their Sergeants at fixed points, and the flashing light could indicate to the patrolling officer that he was required to make contact with the station.

The public also had access to the boxes to enable them to contact the police rapidly. Police boxes were installed experimentally in Richmond and Barnes in 1928, and in the following year Superintendent George Abbiss, and Mr G M Trench, the Metropolitan Police Surveyor, visited Manchester and Salford and reported favourably on the installation of boxes across London. They were gradually introduced across the Metropolitan Police District, Commissioners Byng (1928) and Trenchard (1931) installing most of them, so that the chain was effectively complete in 1937.

The interiors of the boxes normally contained, for the use of officers; a stool, a table, brushes and dusters, a fire extinguisher and a small, (often very inadequate,) electric fire.

The earliest boxes were made of wood, and later ones of concrete, which officers complained were still extremely cold.

They played an important part in police work until the mid 1960s, when they were phased out following the introduction of personal radios. In 1997 a replica police box was erected at Earls Court, equipped with closed circuit TV.