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Shropshire villagers puzzled as phone box vanishes

By Sue Austin | Oswestry | News | Published:

It was loved as a reminder of a different era – and villagers were hoping to secure it for the future.

Charles Roberts with the phone box in 2015 and at the spot where the phone box once stood

But now their traditional red phone box, complete with its telephone, has disappeared presumed pinched.

Villagers in Knockin, believe the kiosk was stolen in daylight and right from under their noses.

People dressed as workmen were seeing lifting it onto a flat bed truck which had three ‘tatty’ phone boxes already on it.

Residents campaigned to save the phone box from being made redundant when it was one of 70 under threat three years ago.

Parish councils and residents successfully fought to ensure that 43 remained open with another handful adopted by the local communities.

The phone boxes all had fewer than 10 calls made from them in a 12-month period and BT said the maintenance of the kiosks were a drain on resources. Since then residents have maintained it, painting it each year and cleaning it out every month. But on Saturday afternoon the telephone was taken away on the back of a lorry.

Now those who have been looking after the phone box are trying to find out whether the box has been stolen or taken away by mistake.

BT says it is not aware of the box being removed and is investigating.

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Charles Roberts championed the phone box when BT announced it wanted to close it in 2014 along with 70 others across Shropshire.

He lives just a few hundred yards from the box in Kinnerley Road.

“We were successful in persuading BT that the box should stay if we promised to maintain it,” he said.

“We spent about five weeks repairing and painting the box with special BT red paint and then every five weeks we would have to clean it. For the telephone box to be taken away after all the hard work we have done is unbelievable.

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"It is very sad. The red telephone box is a traditional symbol of village life across Britain. But I suppose people will sell anything for scrap.”

He said he drove past the kiosk at 4pm on Saturday and it was in situ. But when he returned at about 6pm it had gone.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

“I assumed it had been stolen.”

One neighbour has come forward to say that she saw the box being lifted into the back of a lorry. The woman, who does not want to be named, said: “We were coming back from the cinema and we saw a white truck with three tatty phone boxes already on it.

“Men were lifting our box up onto the lorry. I assumed that the box wasn’t in use any more and maybe was going to be re-sited in the centre of the village and used to hold our defibrillator.”

Mr Roberts says he is now worried about Knockin’s old Victorian gas light, which is getting a facelift. West Mercia police say no-one has reported the kiosk stolen.

Sue Austin

By Sue Austin
Chief Reporter

Chief reporter of the Oswestry/Mid Wales office. Keen to hear your news.

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