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Different Variations of the Metropolitan Police Box?

Started by petewilson, Mar 02, 2013, 01:38 pm

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I'm going to bump this just because it is a great reference for anyone who may have missed it.  I have an...OK shot of the actual phone box on the Barnett box.  The pictures in this thread are pretty much definitive. 

Also, the phenomenon of TARDIS blue looking different in different lights is well on display here too.  I've got a desktop wallpaper of the Barnett box that is  a much darker blue because the photo was taken on a more overcast day. 
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


I've posted this elsewhere, but as volpone says this is a pretty good reference Topic for Metbox types, so I should probably post it here as well.

Awhile back Mike Knight (the original compiler of the Metbox, Glasgow and Edinbugh Box/Post Lists) laid a small bombshell on me when discussing a revision project for the Met List. Here is a quote from that e-mail:

QuoteThe lists refer to (what is colloqually known as the Mk3) as the Mk5  (Mk5-301). This comes from a MEPO or GPO (I can't remember which unfortunately) File held at the National Archive. It listed the different models of Police Boxes as:

Mk1-101    The wooden Police Boxes erected on Richmond and Wood Green Sub-divisions in 1929-1930.
Mk2-201    The first concrete Police Boxes installed during late 1930 onwards
Mk3-202    Those Police Boxes installed during the mid-1930s
Mk4-203    Those Police Boxes installed on the inner divisions and early post-WWII
Mk5-301    The (Mk3)

As you can see, the designations pretty well precisely mirror the deductions made regarding Metbox Types as delineated earlier in this Topic. That being the case, I've pretty well abandoned that nomenclature and instead have started to simply use the above designations, but without the numbers after the dashes. The idea of a Mark 0 for the 1897 Cricklewood type Police Telephone Boxes, though not on the list, still seems to fit.

Regarding those numbers after the dashes - we're still not sure what they designate, but it's just possible it refers to the "dress" the boxes were in when first introduced. So it's even possible that those numbers changed for a given Box as it was updated over the years. Answers may yet be lurking somewhere in the National or Metropolitan Police archives.


Just a thought and possibly nothing but could the numbers after the dash designate the telephone system, 

GPO telephone numbering went

100 series (Candle stick)
200 series Pyramid
300 series Cheese box style


Maybe the numbers were added by the Department of Redundancy Department as an alternative way to refer to the designs instead of Mark designations. ;)
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


Quote from: domvar on Apr 27, 2014, 09:39 pm
Just a thought and possibly nothing but could the numbers after the dash designate the telephone system,  

Interesting idea, but I don't think that's the case as the timing of the Mark changes and the telephone installations aren't the same, nor are the model numbers of the telephones used really consistent with the sub-mark numbers.

The candlestick telephones first used were actually GPO No. 2 telephones, and we now have photographic evidence from a newspaper article (thanks to a find by petewilson) that shows that they were still being installed and used in Metboxes as late as July 1932, well into the Mark 2's.

Then, some time between late 1932 and late 1935 they started to use special Ericsson wall phone units that appear to have been based on the police-only portions of their P.A.1/P.A.101/P.A.150 speakerphone units that were used on other Force's boxes and pillars.

In fact, it probably wasn't until late 1937 that they started to use the 200 series GPO telephones (specifically the No. 244) as part of the new P.A. 350 system, so most of the Mark 3's were actually originally installed with those older Ericsson units (model number unknown).

We don't know what telephones were first installed with the Mark 4 (Crich) and Mark 5 (Heathrow) boxes, but I'm pretty sure the P.A. 350 standard installation was still current until at least the mid-1950s (so likely GPO No. 244's), but there are anecdotal reports of all kinds of phones being installed as replacements in later years. Certainly the telephone instruction card in the Crich box doesn't seem to relate to any of the known units as they didn't have a button on them that signaled the switchboard - you merely lifted the receiver and waited for the switchboard operator to respond.

And yes, never underestimate the reach and influence of the Department of Redundancy Department!  ;D


Aug 18, 2014, 08:37 am #20 Last Edit: Aug 18, 2014, 10:21 am by hb88banzai
Quote from: domvar on Nov 27, 2013, 03:26 pm
Did any one notice the mk0 box in day of the doctor outside the tower of london ?mk0 .jpg

Interestingly, it would appear that these Tower of London Guard Kiosks are neither new nor a retro design. They are in fact quite old, looking to be fully contemporary with the original 1897 type Metropolitan Police Telephone Boxes (Mark 0's).

Here are some photos of the one at the Middle Tower main entrance:

From circa 1913 --


Circa the 1940's --


Circa 1963 --


And a few from elsewhere on the grounds:

Outside the Bloody Tower, alone --


And alongside a regular Watch Box --


And one outside the White Tower, not far from where the first one spotted in "Day of the Doctor" was resting (this photo also likely from some time in the 1940's) --


Now, there is something else that's rather odd in another of the circa 1940's photos. Here it is visible in this view from the Byward Gate looking back across the draw bridge towards the Middle Gate/Main Entrance --


There on the left, in the alcove just inside the main entrance, is something that looks very much like a "Mark 0" Metropolitan Police Telephone Box. It doesn't show up in any of the various lists of Fixed Point Boxes, but it sure does look like one in this photo.


Aug 23, 2014, 01:38 pm #21 Last Edit: Aug 23, 2014, 02:04 pm by hb88banzai
Peter Capaldi's first foray as the Doctor seems a good excuse to update this Topic's primary info thread with some of the newer discoveries and deductions regarding our favorite big blue boxes.

First off, here is some data first posted on another thread in response to a query on the differences between Met Box Marks that should really be here as well:

A quick and dirty (visual) comparison --

Mk1_to_Trench_to Mk4-Usual_Suspects_Photo_Lineup.jpg

Apologies for the perspective, distance and focal length differences of the original elements which distort the roof heights and angles, especially on the Mark 3, as well as the need to use a side shot of Crich since I couldn't find a usable one of a Crich type's front.

Note that the V Division Mark 2's were all originally installed with one of two types of globe lamps - the type originally on the Mark 1's on the first half (Wimbledon Sub-Division) and one with a simpler mounting bracket to try to improve visibility on the second half (Kingston and Wandsworth Sub-Divisions). The Fresnel beacons were probably introduced with W Division's Mark 2's in late 1931.

All early model Met boxes that remained in service were eventually updated to late Mark 3/Mark 4 signage standards, as currently seen on the Crich box.


Now, regarding more specific info, here are a couple charts I've worked up that show the differences in the window pane patterns and the layout of the openable vs. fixed windows on the various Marks of Met Box (plus Glasgow):

The window pane patterns --


And the windows that can be opened inwards, hopper style, for ventilation --


Opening any of these images in another browser window (or downloading and viewing in a separate app) will facilitate zooming in to see more detail, if needed.

matt sanders

Interesting to see the window variations there.

Something to note, about the windows on the Crich box:

Around the exteriors of all six opening windows, there is evidence of post-build patching of the concrete.

This means that, instead of having the same sharp-edged bevels as the other concrete panels, the recesses are without bevel, but with a 1/8" radius on the front edge, on all four sides of each window.  This radius is quite variable, and looks hand-made, rather than being a deliberate moulded feature.


The concrete needed extensive repairs around these windows
, either whilst on the street, or during the Hendon refurb. 
-  Perhaps, where the metal frames rusted, they forced away chunks of concrete, but I don't really accept that would have required wholesale re-finishing of the concrete around every window.

At some stage, all six windows were replaced.
  This is backed up by:
-  The frames sit in the recesses in rather wonky and variable ways, with different amounts of metal showing on different sides and different windows.  It just doesn't look good enough to have been built that way in the first place.
-  They all have the concave "hammered" glass, instead of the convex "pebbled" glass present on the door and phone-wall.

But note that the manufacturing method (welded instead of cast) is the same on the (non-opening) Door and Phone-Wall Windows, so they could also be replacements.  The Phone-Wall window also shows the same patching around its edge, and of course this may not be the original door.

As for the six opening windows themselves - I'm confident that they were all made in the same batch, because they all share the same defect:
-  Whilst most panes have a width of 2 7/8", it is slightly less (2 3/4") at the bottom of the bottom-left pane, and also the top of the top right pane. 
-  This means the intermediate verticals all slant slightly to the right. 
-  This glitch seems to be on all 6 windows, suggesting the metal bars were welded together in the same jig.

-  Most windows have matching protruding sills, but two do not. 
-  But I think they originally did have these sills, and just broke off, as those two windows do not have an alternative way of stopping the rain from getting behind the outer frame, like the Avoncroft version, which has an additional vertical bit of metal...

Anyway - some food for thought.  Sorry I don't have pictures handy to illustrate this stuff, but Mark may have some...


Aug 25, 2014, 02:59 am #23 Last Edit: Aug 25, 2014, 05:35 am by hb88banzai
Definitely food for thought.

But then, take a look at these blowups of the Mark 4 Crich type box from the 1959 "Park Rangers" British Pathe film --



The resolution isn't the best, but the impression seems to be exactly the same rounding off of corners and edges, and similar sloppy installation on the window frames/casements in the concrete portions of the box. They even kind of look a bit patched up here, and this way back in 1959, so it may well be just the way they were built.

EDIT: Note that the Mark 2 - Mark 3 boxes didn't seem to have this problem. Barnet itself (one of the first Mark 3's) still showed what appeared to be sharp-edged and beveled window openings over 40 years after it was installed (erected mid-1935 and shown here in the late 1970's to 1980) --



That last Barnet picture hit me like a lightning bolt.  I've been thinking of adding the drip edge to my windows, but didn't want to completely redo them to make the geometry work.  You can clearly see from the non-opening front windows, next to the opening windows (with the drip edge), the only thing that changes is that the bottom panes are a trim length shorter because their base has an extra layer of trim. 
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


Sorry, but I've actually looked at the Mark 3 type window quite a lot. If you look really closely, and even put a ruler on them (virtual or otherwise), you'll find that the side and back openable windows are quite a bit different that the front fixed ones.

The fixed windows have equal panes throughout, top and bottom, left, centre and right for a given frame. The panes of the openable windows, on the other hand, are different, not only between them and the fixed window panes, but among the panes themselves in a given window as well. Top to bottom they are nominally equal in height, which makes them a bit shorter than those on the fixed windows to make room for the weather ledge, but you will also find that the left and right panes are a bit narrower than the centre ones. It's subtle, but definitely there.

Besides allowances for the weather ledge, it's probably to make room for the beefier frames needed for durability in that application (the ability to open), and to support the additional hardware needed (ie, hinges, latches, and supports).

The Mark 2's had pretty much the same differences, but there were only 2-3 openable windows (depending on when built), with all the rest being fixed. And of course the Mark 4's were completely different, right down to the shape of the weather ledges.


Quote from: hb88banzai on Mar 03, 2013, 01:28 am
Oh, where to begin...

Type 1 -  The original, you might say (1929-1930 - wood with concrete roof), what I've come to call the Type 1 Met Box. Not a direct part of this discussion, but an important starting point as it can be confused with a concrete Box if you don't look closely --

During erection, w/o beacon -

Just for reference purposes, the image of this box has appeared again in this thread:


EDIT: Fixed link after merging Topics -- hb88banzai
"What's wrong with being childish?! I like being childish." -3rd Doctor, "Terror of the Autons"


I do wish there was some way to centralise the 'new' (seven-year-old) nomenclature for boxes, since most people outside this site still refer to the Mark 5s as "Mark 3s" even to this day in the rare occasions that police box history is discussed. I guess it is a very niche topic, and this is a very niche section of a very niche site dedicated to a fairly niche aspect of a fairly niche TV programme. Most off-site articles dedicated to this sort of thing are at least a decade out of date, and during that decade is arguably when the floodgates opened for more information regarding Met boxes thanks to the wonderful historians here.

That's one of the things I hoped to help correct when I started modelling boxes three years ago with banzai's help, but of course I fell off it for a couple of years. It seems like this is the sort of thing that's doomed to remain only known to us strange people who are obsessed with compiling every image of street furniture that went extinct fifty years ago.


Sep 02, 2021, 06:57 am #28 Last Edit: Sep 02, 2021, 07:00 am by Volpone
Truth be told, I'd be inclined to stick closer to the traditional naming convention:  Mark 1 is a timber prototype box with a concrete roof, Mark 2 is the classic concrete box we're most familiar with, and Mark 3 is the simplified concrete box.  Then add .2, .3, etc iterations for the changes in the Mark 2. 

The thing I'd forgotten(?) before this thread got bumped up is apparently all the older boxes started out with the clear glass phone door and the signage on the panels below.  I thought that was only on the Mark 1s. 

But yeah, there can't be many people outside this group on this board who put this much attention into Met police boxes.  I'd still love to see a running gag on the show where the TARDIS' chameleon circuit starts "working"--but still keeps materializing as a police box:
DOCTOR:  The TARDIS has changed again.
COMPANION:  What do you mean?  It still looks like a police box.
DOCTOR:  Yes, but the roof pitch is steeper and the geometry of the panels is more rectangular.
COMPANION:  Looks the same to me. 
DOCTOR: ... :/
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.


I really would like to know why there were two variations of the Mark 2 (4?) box as in the "Barnet" and "Crich" Boxes.....Was it just a builders mistake and if so why was there no other variations on the theme?  ???