Black Horse Drove Phone Box Transforms!

It was a couple of years ago that the Committee of the Black Horse Drove Community Centre was informed that the East Cambs District Council had provided a Rural Settlement Grant to the hamlet. Discussions were held to try to decide how best to benefit the Community from the available funds and it was decided to convert the old telephone box into a lending library.

BT produced 8 different styles of the traditional red phone boxes between 1920 and the 1980’s, although a couple of designs were actually made from concrete. The most common type of kiosk, the K6 went into production in the 1930’s, with one of these ending up here in Black Horse Drove. The Black Horse Drove phone box was made by W MacFarlane & Co (Saracen Foundry) from Glasgow, somewhere between 1945 and 1965. During it’s active life it was once filmed for the television news due to being the least used phone box in the area!

The phone box was in a poor state of repair. It was listing due to subsidence, part of the door was rotten, the paint was flaking, many of the panes of glass had been broken and the interior was filthy.

In the spring of 2017, local farmer Richard Tod, together with Paul Blakeway-Long, used a digger and rubble to correct the subsidence. Rebecca Blakeway-Long cleaned the phone box of algae and dirt with plenty of hot water and a stiff scrubbing brush.

It wasn’t until 2018 that works seriously got underway. Richard and Paul once more adjusted the lean of the phone box and Paul donned protective gear and sanded down the paintwork – a filthy and gruelling task, leaving him red from top to toe.

Meanwhile, teenagers from Black Horse Drove and Ten Mile Bank, who were undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, removed and helped to clean the remaining glass panels, together with Rebecca and Joy Tod.

Rebecca sourced official BT paint and replacement glass on-line, discovering that everything needed to repair a K6 type phone can still be purchased. She and Paul then spent a sunny Saturday painting the kiosk with pink undercoat. A couple of days later, the red top coat was applied, after which Paul was able to replace the glass panels.

Rebecca contacted local builder Glen Spalding and asked him to repair the door and to hang shelves inside the phone box. Glen duly did this and Rebecca was then able to paint the repaired door.

The finishing touches were added by Paul changing 2 of the old, illegible “Telephone” signs with new plastic replacements and with Rebecca filling the shelves with second hand books. More books have since been added and residents have started to use the new library.

An official opening ceremony was held at 11am on Saturday 26th January 2019, with Paul making a short speech and cutting the ribbon. This was followed by tea and cakes in the Community Centre.

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