Police Boxes like this one used to be a common sight around Britain. They predate our era of easy mobile communications; they were located in public places to allow the public to contact the police and to allow the police to contact their office. A Bobby on the beat could effectively clock in and out using this box and could call for help or report incidents.
They resemble a traditional phone box, but in a police box the telephone itself is located behind a hinged door allowing it to be used from the outside, and the interior of the box is, in effect, a miniature police office.
The first police telephone was installed in Albany, New York, in 1877. One of the first boxes to appear on British streets, was for the City of Glasgow Police in 1880. Within 40 years of their first appearance there were thousands of them in both rural and urban areas. The British boxes were usually blue, except in Glasgow, where they were red until the late 1960s.
By the 1970s the boxes were becoming redundant due to advances in mobile telecomms, and they were gradually removed from our streets. Most boxes are now disused. Some have been preserved, however, and a few now have new uses, such as a coffee shop.
Of course, the most famous re-purposing is Doctor Who’s Tardis! The Doctor needed a vehicle that when landed could blend in with its surroundings – what better than a commonplace blue police phone box? Story has it that the choice may also have been an economic one – the BBC happened to have police box model that had been used previously on Z Cars…
If you’d like to know more about the history of these boxes, do check out this detailed and fascinating article. I particularly like the breakdown of calls by type of incident reported. Of the 299 calls made in 1937, for example, 17 were to report football being played on the streets, 12 for attempted suicides, 6 for indecent exposures and 4 for dog bites.