Skip to main content

About the collection at Avoncroft Museum

Tardis' kiosk on display at Avoncroft Museum

Avoncroft is a fascinating world of historic buildings covering seven centuries, rescued and rebuilt on a beautiful open-air site in the heart of the Worcestershire countryside.

The Museum also houses The National Telephone Kiosk Collection which was relaunched in April 2002 as part of the Connected Earth project. The collection explores the development of the telephone kiosk both in terms of social and material roles.

There are many major artefacts on display at the Avoncroft Museum. Some examples are shown below.

News from Avoncroft Museum.

B1 building and exchange at Avoncroft Museum

B1 standard building & Unit Automatic Exchange (1950s) : off the peg

This building was an actual working exchange that was moved lock, stock and barrel from its working location in Essex to the Avoncroft Museum for preservation.

It's a typical example of the type of exchange in use at the time. Buildings were constructed virtually off the peg. They came in different sizes and materials, wood, brick or stone, chosen to fit the location and budget. This B1 wooden construction replaced a smaller exchange, as demand increased in the area.

The Unit Automatic Exchange was created in a similar way. It came in different sizes according to the number of telephone users to be served - 200, 400, 600 etc. This example, the UAX 13, could have served a maximum of 800 connections.

Two police call pillars at Avoncroft

Police call pillars : pillars of society

The telegraph and telephone meant that people could get in touch quickly, which was especially useful in an emergency.

The emergency services started to put telegraph alarm points and later special telephone boxes on the streets in urban centres, which gave both policemen and the general public a direct line to the police station.

The PA1 (left) was the standard police telephone pillar available in the 1930s which was later upgraded to the PA3 (right).

Avoncroft also has examples of larger police and roadside emergency boxes.

Avoncroft's K4, with the K5 behind it

Different types of kiosk : collectible kiosks

Avoncroft has more types of British telephone boxes than anywhere else in the world. All the major models are on display, as are examples of most of the less well known designs.

For example, there is a K4. Nicknamed the 'Vermillion Giant', this combined the classic K2 kiosk with stamp machines and letter box to form a '24-hour post office'. It was not a success - the thing was too big to fit on most sites and the stamps became damp. Only 50 were ever made.

Rarer still is the K5 'flat pack' kiosk of 1934 - a transportable knock down design made in steel faced plywood for use at fairs and exhibitions, It's thought some were made - but if any survived, they're very well hidden. The one at Avoncroft is a modern reproduction, built precisely in accordance with the original drawings.

The K7 - Neville Conder's innovative design of the early 1960s - is also a spotter's delight. Just six prototypes were produced in aluminium, one of which lives on at Avoncroft.

Visitors can make and receive calls in most of our boxes. It's not just the kiosks that have been preseved, but the interiors too. This is very much a working museum.

3D objects from Avoncroft Museum

Place the mouse over the Flash image. Left-click and drag either left or right to rotate the animation.
Strowger switches

The Strowger automatic switching system, designed to remove human intervention in connecting telephone calls, was invented by a US funeral parlour proprietor in 1889. It was adopted in 1922 as the standard for all automatic telephone exchanges in the UK. This electro-mechanical technology persisted for over 70 years, gradually being replaced by digital or modern electronic exchanges, until the last Strowger exchange in the UK was closed on 23 June 1995.

Renters prepayment coin collecting box

The standard Post Office prepayment coin collecting box consisted of a pressed steel case with stove enamelling as a protection against corrosion. The top portion houses the mechanism and the lower portion forms a cash compartment. On top of the box 3 coin slots are provided, which would initially have been marked "penny", "sixpence" and "shilling" prior to decimalisation.

Pay on answer (POA) payphone

This type of coinbox was introduced in 1958 at the same time as Subscriber Trunk Dialling and tariffs based on timed units/distance. It worked in conjunction with a coin and fee check relay set in the exchange. Money was inserted when the called customer answered the telephone or the credited time ran out.

Ericsson speakerphone

One of the best-known manufacturers of telephone instruments, Ericsson designed the speakerphone for use in police call boxes. The patent for improvements in or relating to police, fire and ambulance telephone call systems was submitted by Ericsson in 1931 and accepted in 1932. The installation of the speakerphone meant that the public could access a direct line to the local police station, to report emergencies or to make routine enquiries.

A/B coinbox mechanism 2

The coinbox works by holding the coins in suspension in a container which is controlled by two press buttons, A and B. To make a call, the caller would press Button A, depositing the coins in the cash box and setting up the circuit for speech. If the call could not be connected for any reason, the caller would press Button B to retrieve the coins.

A/B coinbox mechanism 1

Button A and B prepayment coinboxes were introduced in kiosks in 1925. Pay-on-answer coinboxes began to supersede the Button A and B models at the end of the 1950s, although some remained in active use in Scotland until 1992.

Visitor information

Avoncroft Museum location map

Telephone: +44 (0) 1527 831363 or 831886

Postal Address:
Avoncroft Museum
Stoke Heath,
B60 4JR


By road:
Avoncroft is 2 miles south of Bromsgrove off the A38 bypass (400 yards north of its junction with the B4091). It is 3 miles north of the M5 Junction 5, and 3 miles south of the M42 Junction 1.

By bus:
There are regular bus services from Bromsgrove, Droitwitch, Birmingham and Worcester.

By train:
There are regular train services from Birmingham and Worcester to Bromsgrove station, a 1 mile walk away.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...