Kent Police Museum Logo - Based at The Chatham Historic Dockyard the Museum traces the history of The Kent Police Force from it's early days right through to modern times.
     
 
Thurs 24 July , 2014
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Police Box

The Police Box outside The Kent Police MuseumPolice boxes were introduced in Britain in the 1920s, but the first designs were of the garden shed style. Police boxes were used by constables to keep in contact with their police station, because at the time there were no personal radios, but there was actually more to it than that.

They were introduced to increase the efficiency of constables on the beat. Much of a constable's time was used up travelling to and from his beat to the police station - for example, a half-hour refreshment break called for a visit to the police station and then a return to beat duty. This meant that a large amount of a constable's beat time could be wasted. Constables who lived on their beat, sometimes a distance from the station house, would use either the police box, or its smaller brother, the police pillar, to book on at the start of his shift, and of again at the end. Placing police boxes on the street was like giving each constable his own mini police station. In those boxes supplies of accident and statement forms and other 'ready-use' forms could be left, for the officer to write up in the comfort of a warm and dry location.

A police box in 20th century Britain was a special type of telephone kiosk or callbox for use by members of the police force, or for members of the public to contact the police, fire or ambulance. At coastal sites, the lifeboats could be summoned too.

Scottish Police BoxesThe typical police box contained a telephone linked directly to the local police station, allowing patrolling officers to keep in contact with the station, reporting anything unusual, requesting help if necessary, or even to detain suspects until a vehicle could be sent to transport them to the station. This was in the day when most police officers patrolled on foot or rode a bicycle rather than using a police car. A light on top of the box would flash to let an officer know that he had to contact the police station. British police boxes were usually blue, except in Glasgow, where they were red. In addition to a telephone, they contained equipment such as an incident book and a first aid kit. Today the image of the blue police box is a trademark of the BBC as it is widely associated with the science fiction television programme Doctor Who?, in which the protagonist's time machine, a TARDIS, is in the shape of a police box.

Towards the end of the 1960s, the more widespread availability of telephones, walkie-talkies, personal radios and police radio cars, as well as a general reduction in the number of constables walking the beat, signalled the beginning of the end for the police box.

Police boxes pre-date the era of modern telecommunications; today, every police officer (in technologically developed countries) is likely to carry a two-way radio and/or a mobile phone.

Gilbert Mackenzie Trench designed the well-known police box that is now world famous thanks to Doctor Who. Early boxes were made of wood, but on Trench's suggestion concrete was later used, cast iron having been rejected on account of cost.

There were initially two types of London 'Police Box'. The smaller version was known as a police pillar, and contained just a telephone and a first aid kit, topped by a light. In Kent, it was the local Borough Police who implemented the use of pillars and boxes, these being taken into use by The Kent County Constabulary in 1943, when they took over the borough forces.

In order to comply with blackout regulations during World War Two, special cowlings were designed to cover the top lights, although the police complained that the overall effect was to render the lights virtually useless. The Police Pillar situated at the Kent Police Museum has a large collar above the light, to show how they would have been. Very few of these Police boxes are still in existence, but one can be seen at the Kent Police Museum, in The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent.

The Kent Police Museum was lucky to get in contact with the Curator of the Civil Defence and Emergency Services Preservation Group, who allowed us the use of this police box at our museum. It was brought to Kent on a low loader, and was placed in position in January 2008. Since that time it has been visited by hundreds of 'Dr Who' fans who want to see what a real police box looks like inside. Many are amazed that it is made from pre-cast concrete.

The pink Police Box below is now used as a coffee bar in Scotland. The polka dot version can be found in Glasgow. The bottom picture is the classic blue version found outside the Museum.

Police Box - coffee bar Polka dot Police Box
   
Classic Blue Police Box outside Kent Police Museum

 

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Significant Events
1935 Site at Sutton Road purchased for new County Police Headquarters
The Arrival of The Police Box
BBC Radio Kent Broadcast (3MB wma)
 
 
 
 
 
Video and sound clips courtesy BBC

 


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