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Different Variations of the Metropolitan Police Box?

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

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Mar 02, 2013, 01:38 pm Last Edit: Aug 18, 2014, 09:28 am by hb88banzai
Hi All,

I don't know if this has been answered before.........
Taking the Mark 1 and Mark 3 Police Boxes out of the equation could someone explain to me the differnt variations of the Mark 2 please?

What are the differences between a Crich Box  and a Barnet Box?
Could there be other variations (Like V69 Long Ditton box?)
Did  I read  a while back that there were several contractors who built these boxes for different divisions/areas?




From what we've seen on these pages I would say the following;-

Base - Barnet has a TARDIS style angle from the base to the flatish top of the base whereas Crich has a very shallow angle from the edge of the base to the walls

Windows - Barnet had the 2 ledges on the bottom of the windows like the Hartnell TARDIS whereas Crich didn't and had a small ledge on the opening windows like the one above the phone panel door. Also the Crich style had window bars that overlapped looking as though they were made of three separate bars whereas the Barnet windows look to have been made out of one part maybe a cast?

Sign Boxes - The Barnet style had wider sign boxes unlike Crich type which started more or less from the center of each corner post.

Roof Stacks - Crich had steps which were almost the same height as each other and each step was set back by the same distance however the Barnet style had slightly different heights of each stack and the set back distance was less uniform (that makes sense in my head, does it translate ok?)

Panels - The panels of Barnet boxes look as though they have pronounced angled chamfers going into the recess whereas Crich style were less angeld almost to the point of being flat. I have also noticed on some high res pictures that the Barnet style may well have had a double angled chamfer but this is not conclusive.

Obviously as we are discovering through the great photo's yourself, Banzai and Domvar amongst many others are finding, there are quite a few occasions when some of these differences are mixed and matched giving other hybrid types.

Far from exhaustive list but I think these are the main points but I welcome everyone elses input.


Theres been some brilliant photos posted by many. (if anyone wants the high res scans from the Archive Bundle, let me know as they are waaaaaaaaaay bigger than the max file upload allowed)
But I too struggle with the differences between the Critch and Barnet boxes .
Maybe some snazzy infographic might be the order of the day? Are there any whizzy graphic bods who could knock something up that shows comparisons?
(if this were Daleks, I could point out every difference between the various props and prop sections. Yet two similar concrete boxes, and I struggle! LOL)



I think the max file upload is at least 8MB, possibly more than 12MB, but unless your broadband is really fast it may run out of time. JPG are resized automatically when they arrive and so are not subjected to the 500KB limit. It's usually better to resize images yourself to around 1000 pixels wide before you  upload them.



Oh, where to begin...

I shall try to be brief, but it is a big subject.

First off, you have to realize that the vast majority of Met Boxes (including Barnet itself) started out as what we call a Mark 1 (either Classic with only POLICE on the top signs, or Transitional with reversed out serif lettered POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX top signs - both with the telephone instruction signage below the actual Phone Door). Since the original "Mark" nomenclature was devised based solely on things like position of phone door sign, top signage and paint scheme, confusion is inevitable when it comes to trying to use these same categories to differentiate structural differences in Boxes that were "dressed" differently over their life spans.

In short, though, the answer is a definite yes - there were at LEAST three different types of all-concrete Boxes that came before the much simplified design we call a Mark 3.

It is by far easier to see the differences among these Box types by looking "above the waist' - most particularly at the sign boxes and the roofs. That said, due to the materials and construction methods employed there are inevitable variations even in those Boxes of the same type made theoretically by the same builder. On that topic, we know that the initial wood/concrete Boxes were built by one builder (plus a separate contractor for the roofs), and at least the first installation of the all-concrete boxes by a different builder entirely. The circumstantial evidence of the bid/tender nature of the contracts for each stage of the project spanning nine years and the design differences themselves suggests that a number of builders were used over the years. Then there were the necessary replacements from bomb damage, accident or wear and tear, as well as the minor expansion to the system that occurred after the war.

It is my intention to prepare a spotter's guide using drafted drawings when the dust settles on the Database/Map inputting (getting close to being done), with a much more rigorous analysis of the available photos to determine if there are more than the three obviously different concrete "Mark 2" builds, but in the interim perhaps this can be of some help:

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 -

With original "reactor" beacon installed -

In transitional Mark 1/Mark 2 livery -

In full Mark 2 livery (but before the dark paint/white window era) --

As a Mark 2 with a wartime blackout box on the beacon --

Distinguishing features of the Type 1 Met Box - Very shallow roof with the pillars going almost to the top of the first step, the second step rise starting near the inside edge of the pillar and the top step being very, very low. The pyramidal slope above the steps is moderate, but originally ended in a point. The sign boxes are very, very shallow, barely coming off the pillar, with a pronounced raised frame around the signs (at first pierced metal, but later changed to glass) and weather flashing above the sign area drooping down from the top of the sign boxes. Lock is in the original high position (rail above the level of the phone door). Windows start out as leaded glass and don't open, but later are converted to hopper type windows like on the all-concrete boxes. The steps under the sign progress very rapidly to a wide flat unlike later designs that are more measured and gradual. Main door and phone door have knobs (non-turning) instead of handles, with some retaining this feature on the main door after upgrades and some converted to the later standard bow handles.

There are a couple of odd-ball variations of the timber boxes like the original Coulsdon Box and the Scotland Yard Box, but these were probably later modifications to existing Boxes of this type.

Type 2 - After the initial 42 Wood/Concrete Boxes, there came these circa 1930/1931 and possibly continuing (with some potential overlap) to at least as late as 1934 (Crayford Bridge and Long Lane-Bexleyheath, if of this type as it appears in some low to moderate res photos) - the Type 2 Met Box --

Initial appearance -

With the new Beacons -

as a Transitional Mark 1/Mark 2 -

and as a Mark 2 -

Distinguishing features of the Type 2 - Moderate and very even height to the roof stacks and relatively even in progression of inset of these steps, though slightly wider step-in progressing to narrower. Top of the pillar caps (which are medium height) comes to just above the middle of the first roof rise above the sign boxes. Top sign boxes quite variable in width (even on the same Box - as with Barnet later - often not centered left to right very well either) and usually extend almost to the outermost corner molding on the pillars, as well as being much thicker than the Type 1 (comparable with the later Types). Frames around the glass signs while dressed as a Type 1, but changed to the classic inset design when converted to Transitional or full Mark 2. The door lock is in the high position as with the earlier Type 1 wood/concrete boxes.

Type 3 - Here things get a bit more speculative as firm photo dates are lacking and there is a dearth of nice close in shots. There is also some indication of variability in the roof stacks (mostly height) that may, or may not, rise to the level of being a different "Type", but in general it appears next came the classic Barnet type Box. These may first appear as early as circa 1932/1933, but probably more like 1935-1936 and were used onward to the end of the initial installations in 1938. It's worth noting that there was a large gap in Siting of boxes in 1935, with only a few being sited (stragglers) in early 1935, but then a huge sustained increase in commissioning beginning in January 1936. This gap may correspond to the transition to the Type 3 Box with a new builder, or even multiple builders.

The first hard dated Box we have of this type is Ickenham in 1936, which is the middle of the transitional Mark 1/Mark 2 style, but there is circumstantial evidence that this Box type goes back even further (that or it was used in a whole lot of replacements for earlier Type 1 and Type 2 Boxes before the advent of Crich and the Mark 3) so may also have appeared as a classic Mark 1. I don't think we have any photos of one to date, however. Regardless, this is without doubt the most common Type built -

The first Ickenham Box -



Barnet, noting that as Barnet appeared to have never been replaced, these Boxes date to at least Jan 1936 (meaning actually built/erected in 1935) -


Distinguishing features - A generally tall roof with fairly high steps, the middle step being obviously taller than the third and the progression of in-steps starting wide (bottom to middle step) and then drastically narrowing for the top step, making a more concave line to the steps and accentuating the imposing, tall look of this Type's roof. Tops of main parts of pillars extending above the sign boxes, the pillar caps and the space above are more or less evenly spaced, so the tops of the pillar caps are about 2/3 of the way up the first roof stack rise. Sign boxes with some variability in apparent width when installed and degree of centeredness, both as per the Type 2. First boxes with the low lock position (rail below the level of the phone door).

It should be noted that there are some photos of what appear to be Barnet type boxes with very tall roofs, but I'm not yet certain if this is measurably the case and warrants breaking it out as a whole new Type or if it is an optical illusion. The building and siting activity was positively frenetic beginning late 1935 until completion of the network in 1938, so it's quite possible multiple builders were producing the same basic design for different Divisions with minor variations. More study is necessary.

If no variations rise to the level of a new Type, then the next one is Crich - the Type 4 Met Box --

Wimbledon Common in 1959 -


Crich (originally from somewhere in the Tooting area) -



Distinguishing features of the Crich/Type 4 - Relatively low roof in both the steps and the final slope. A very even progression of roof step widths and relatively even height; however, it is the ONLY Met Box with a top step that is taller than the middle step. If a photo is good enough to tell, it is a defining characteristic. The pillar caps are quite short and the tops of them only hit a little over half way up the first roof step, but as a result the main parts of the pillars look taller than the previous all-concrete types. The sign boxes only extend to the middle of the pillars and show a very different construction method than previous builds. And, of course, the door. Don't think we've seen an exemplar photo yet of this Type box that didn't have a reversed out door. Low lock position and different hinges on the Phone Door with a narrower weather ledge above it. Different windows that appear to have been welded up from bar stock instead of cast with a much simpler, thinner weather ledge at the bottom of the opening windows.

It is currently believed (at least by me) that this Box type dates from no earlier then WWII and started out as a replacement design for Boxes damaged in the war when reserve stocks ran out. First hard date we have for one (Tooting Broadway from 1950 is too blurry to tell) is in a film of the Wimbledon Common Box as it appeared in 1959, but it is shown as being fairly shiny and new and is thus pretty obviously a replacement for the original 1930 Box, which would have been a Type 2 and fairly worn by this time. This would have likely been the Type erected in those Sites activated post-War, but pre-1950s as well. If this dating is correct, then this is the only Type that would have been installed as a Mark 2 and never as a Mark 1 or a Transitional Mark.

Note that there has always been a certain amount of variability in the Beacon Fresnel's base in both height and profile, due mostly to it being a separate part attached to the Box proper and that some Siting locations had special requirements. We've seen some that are very low, some that are quit high, and even some that are stepped. As such, they are not terribly useful for identification. Not so with the original "reactor" style Beacons, as they only appear in very early Box photos.


To round out the new nomenclature for the structural differences in Met Boxes, we have (assuming the above progression isn't modified/expanded)....

The Type 5 Met Box (aka, the Mark 3 - all concrete) --




The Type 6 Met Box (Earl's Court - all timber) --


And just to be really complete - the Type 0 Met Box (all Timber - c1900-1930s) --




Some might question including these last early 1900s timber Boxes in the sequence, but there are some very good reasons to do so.  First, these Met Watch Boxes, though not of the classic TARDIS-like form, were of a uniform design which I think through their strengths and weaknesses strongly influenced the technical and architectural/artistic decisions which went into the Trench design. In fact, one of the two candidates for the Met Box system that was tested in Beacontree sounds a lot like it was essentially an enlargement and perfecting of this design.

Further, in many cases they were positioned on the same Site as later Met Boxes would occupy, and many were even converted with signage and publicly accessible telephones to become part of the Met Box system prior to being replaced completely with one of the Trench models. The designer and maker of these is unknown, but they really are in some ways the first Metropolitan Police Call Boxes.


Thanks banzai for that informative piece.......Now I know the difference between the Barnet and Crich (type 3 and type 4)  Boxes!!

I'm assuming the Trench design was actually only used in Greater London (and for some reason Glasgow?)



Well, we already have the first challengers to the nice orderly scheme of Types -

When is a Type 3 (Barnet) not a Type 3? When it's put in J Division instead of S Division...

J16 on St. James Street --


J8 on Lea Bridge Road --


Roof and pillars look very much like Barnet, but door is all Type 2 with the high lock position - plus there's the additional oddity of having the bolts for the door chain bracket going all the way through the door. Perhaps made to a common plan, but by a different builder, or perhaps even more different than they first appear.

Would likely require either changing the Types or at least adding a small letter designation - eg Type 3a. They were commissioned only a week before Barnet and it's brethren in S Division (6 Jan 1936 vs. 13 Jan 1936). All part of the big push to complete the system beginning in 1936 (construction and siting being done the latter half of 1935 for the January Commissioning date).

There is something similar going on two years later with the Manchester Road Box (January 1938). You can't see more than the first step of the roof line, but it's enough to mark it as basically a Type 3, but the main door seems to have three hinges while Barnet (and the slightly different ones in J Division) only had two. So, things did change over time as well, whether through different builders/contracts or through mandated improvements.

Thoughts on any of this?

If anyone spots other variations and/or finds faults in the above scheme, please post them for discussion. The above scheme is basically a first draft at this point.

BTW - this idea for assigning Types doesn't replace the old Mark scheme, it accentuates it. When you say a certain Box is a Type 3, for instance, it only says what it is like structurally (and perhaps eventually who built it), you have to then put a tag of the Mark number on it to say how it is dressed in a particular photo. Barnet started out as a Type 3(b?), but probably as a Transitional Mark 1 like the Radiolympia Box a little later in 1936, then ending it's days as a full blown Mark 2 (eg, Type 3, Mark 2). We can add small letters to the Marks as well to designate changes like beacons, signs, white windows, darker paint, etc. depending on how specific you want to get in any discussion.

Again, thoughts?


OK, now this is interesting.

Here is a picture of the Portsmouth Road, Long Ditton Box (V69) from 1962 which appears to be a Type 3 replacement for the original Type 2 Box that would have stood here (the Site was originally commissioned in March 1931 as part of the first batch of concrete Boxes made to complete V Division after the success of the first timber boxes) --


This has been remarked on in the Topic for this Box, but look at the front-most window on the side - then look at the same windows on those pictures above of the two J Division Type 3s (provisional). They ALL show the same feature - that the side windows closest to the font of the Box are different than the rear-most side windows. They have thicker frames at the bottom (for the ledge, perhaps) and sides so the panes are smaller and of a different shape, giving the overall impression of a smaller window (an optical illusion).

When we first saw it on V69 I assumed it was a repair using a different type (ie, front) window, but with it on three different Boxes now it starts to look more like it may be a feature of this particular Type or sub-Type of Met Box. The front-most side windows are exactly like those on Barnet, but the back ones aren't - they're more like the front windows or the older Type 2 Box's side windows. Could it be that the back-most windows don't open on this model? If that's not the reason for the difference, then why? Perhaps using up old stocks of parts?

Very odd.

EDIT: Subsequent research shows that this Box was actually a late model Mark 2, which had an additional openable window over the older Mark 2s. This places the most likely date this Box was actually erected as early to mid 1935, contemporaneous with the installations in J Division. Box installation numbers in the annual Commissioner's Reports seem to support this, meaning that the commissioning date entries for this and a few other Boxes in the original Met List were in error (noting that the Met List is a later compilation from other sources and not an original Met record). The reason for the reversed door as on a Mark 4 are unknown, but it's not the only Mark 2 that seems to have had a replacement door at some point.


I've been in conversation with Mike Knight, the original compiler of the document DalekOracle discovered in the Met Archive that we've come to know as The Met List. That original list dates from the early 90s, which is when he donated it to the Met, but he's continued to refine it over the years by doing additional research, mostly at the National Archives in Kew.

Anyway, one of the things he found relates to this discussion. Here's a quote from an e-mail sent by him this last Sunday:

QuoteThere are a few notes to add to these lists:

1.    The 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)

The Mk2 - Mk4s were, in essence all sub-marks of the same design with changes to POLICE and POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX signs, signal lamp colour changes and position of telephone cabinet etc. Due to a number of contractors supplying Police Boxes through tenders, slight differences were also noted in height and overall construction methods (possibly by interpretation of blue prints etc). This has already been documented elsewhere on the Tardisbuilders site.

On the surface at least, this seems to validate the previous observations, directly correlating with the Type 1 to Type 5 Met Box variations described above.

I'm wondering what the significance of the three digit suffix is, though. Perhaps they refer to how the basic Mark of Box was dressed/outfitted with signage, etc.

Regardless, with a clue to how these Boxes were actually designated it probably becomes redundant to try to convert things to a Type-plus-Mark designation just to keep our old Mark 1-3 nomenclature intact. It seems much more logical to just bite the bullet and revise our frame of reference.

Rather fitting this should come to light this last weekend. The similarity to the effect of the revelations in the 50th Anniversary Special makes for a most interesting bit of synchronicity - positively Timey Wimey!  8)


Nice work to yourself and Mike.

This actually makes things more interesting. Originally I presumed the majority of differences were mainly contractor related however this list seems to show that the various modifications were actually planned things.

I really would love to spend a couple of days in the Mets archive


Did any one notice the mk0 box in day of the doctor outside the tower of london ?mk0 .jpg


I always suspected this would end up being the case.  The increasing number of differences noticed as more archive photos come to light seemed  to me to be more the result of several different contractors with slightly differing methods, rather than an underlying structure or plan.

In this day and age where we can mass-produce identical copies of objects using precise manufacturing methods that the Japanese and Koreans pioneered over the last 40 years, we tend to forget that 30 years before that, when the vast majority of these boxes were constructed, things just weren't built to such exacting and precise detail when they didn't have to be. 

The Metropolitan Police Box is probably 80% style and 20% function (after all, who would build something to such an ornate design nowadays?), and so long as the function is correct, the style can vary.  The height of the stacks and the width of the sign boxes are variable...simply because they can be.  It's only our 21st Century eyes (which expect differences to have a reason behind them) that notice these things and wonder what the significance is. 

Even the BBC prop since the 1960s has shown a similar evolution of "things that don't really matter", so we shouldn't be surprised that a design from 30 years earlier would be the same.


I didn't notice it Dom, but re checked and I see what you mean. It does look like it could be a Type 0 but, again due to crappy I Player, I couldn't really see when I paused the shot. It did look to have too many windows but can't say 100%

Lorisarvendu, I agree with what you say about style and function and about 21st century eyes, but consistency between units hasn't been that much of a problem for other organisations around the same time perios, for example with red telephone kiosks and post boxes - these both have slight variations but usually for reasons. Also the buildings of the time often had ornate stone columns which would have been produced in many sections by a number of workers, yet they all fit together perfectly.

One thing that cannot be disputed is that there are a lot of variations between boxes however the reason for the variations are, at least in my eyes, not clear. A concrete casting contractor of any skill should be able to follow design plans and produce something almost 99% the same as another skilled contractor using the same plans.

I have often thought there must have been a set of more complex working blueprints from which each piece of the boxes were made as the wildly available "Trench Plans" are more of an overview with just major measurements listed. Perhaps this wasn't the case and the "Trench Plans" were all that the contractors got? It would certainly explain why there are quite a few odd variations.

As usual, just my thoughts.


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

I didn't notice them on first run either, and also and had to go back and look.

Here are the instances of these new Boxes in the actual episode --

Day of the Doctor - Clip 1.JPG

Blowup --

Day of the Doctor - Clip 1-Blowup.JPG

Lethbridge-Stewart's car approaches the Thames side entrance to the Tower grounds --

Day of the Doctor - Clip 2.JPG

Blowup --

Day of the Doctor - Clip 2-Blowup.JPG

Gate side view of the same Box as they stop to enter --

Day of the Doctor - Clip 3.JPG

And here are views of a couple on the main grounds from the "Making of" clips --

Day of the Doctor - Making of Clip 1.JPG

Day of the Doctor - Making of Clip 2.JPG

Day of the Doctor - Making of Clip 3.JPG

Day of the Doctor - Making of Clip 4.JPG

Day of the Doctor - Making of Clip 5.JPG

These appear to be relatively new replacements for the old smaller open-sided Guard/Sentry Posts and are sprinkled all over the grounds from what I can see.

Old Sentry Post --


Here are some much better photos of the new type Post at the western main gatehouse entrance (along with a similar style Information and/or Ticketing Kiosk), a hundred yards or so from where the the Tower Met Box was positioned --

Tower of London Gate Guard Post - 1.JPG

Tower of London Gate Guard Post - 2.JPG

Tower of London Gate Guard Post - 3.JPG

Blowup (view of the right side and back of the Kiosk) --

Tower of London Gate Guard Post - 3-Blowup.JPG

Tower of London Gate Guard Post - 4.JPG

Hi Res Closeup (side view of the Kiosk) --

Tower of London Gate Guard Post - 4-CroppedHiRes.JPG

Note that the floor plan of the new Posts isn't square - they are wider side-to-side than they are front-to-back.

In contrast, here is a Mark 0 --


As you can see it's decidedly not a Mark 0, though it certainly shares a similar design aesthetic.

Definite thumbs up on the design, though. Very, very reminiscent of the Mark 0s and the Fixed Point Boxes that preceded them.  8)