It’s instantly recognisable, a British icon. One of those things at the start of a fim to tell you where you are. One of them, though not this one, had a starring rôle in that most gently funny film, Local Hero.
But what links it to another British icon, the Palace of Westminster?
Rebuilt after a devasting fire in 1834, the architects of today’s palace were Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. And no, neither of them had the reputation, or indeed opportunity, to get a close association with a red telephone box.
We talk about rock royalty, but seldom, if ever, about architectural royalty. Yet one family produced leading architects generation after generation. First there was George Gilbert Scott who designed, among other things, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and St Giles Camberwell where my grandparents got married, and where my father was christened. I like to think it was working on that church that brought the name Giles into the family. Because it was Giles Gilbert Scott who designed the telephone box, and after the House of Commons was destroyed by a bomb in May 1941 it was Giles Gilbert Scott who was commissioned for the rebuild. He also designed both Battersea and Bankside power stations.
If you go to a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, you’ll be in another Gilbert Scott building, this time Elisabeth Gilbert Scott.
Not bad work for one family.