Idea extends shelf life of old phone box

FOR generations the iconic red phone box has been a quintessential feature of the British village green.

But for those driving through the village of Lawshall, near Bury St Edmunds, the red phone box near The Swan is not as it first appears.

The diminutive cast-iron box was bought by the village for �1 when BT decided it was no longer cost-effective to maintain it as a telephone booth.

Once purchased, the village then had to decide what to do with it.

A number of ideas were put forward by villagers and the red box is now home to a community notice board and a book swap shop.

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Indeed, where the old “telephone” logo once took pride of place at the top of the booth, the words “information” and “book swap shop” are now proclaimed in black letters on a white background.

Parish council chairman Barry Harber said the idea was not unique and had been done successfully elsewhere in the country. He said: “When we got the offer to buy it we said yes immediately. Then we thought: what are we going to do with it?

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“I spotted in Country Life a village in Yorkshire that had used one for a book swap shop, and I thought, why not?

“In the end we have combined the two winning ideas – the book swap and the information kiosk. It is now full of books.”

He said it was too early to tell whether the book swap scheme would be a success because it had only been open for a few days.

However, Mr Barber said he hoped once word got around about the new facility, it would become well used and that people would bring and take books in the true spirit of swapping.

He said anybody travelling through the village in desperate need of a public telephone box would still be catered for because the village once had two.

The working telephone box remains in the village – though it has been modernised by BT and is sleek and silver rather than bright red.

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