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For sale – but Who would buy 22 Tardises?

'Henderson Street, Leith - Front Elevation' taken from 'Edinburgh Police Boxes' by Malcolm Irving

'Henderson Street, Leith - Front Elevation' taken from 'Edinburgh Police Boxes' by Malcolm Irving

  • by Alastair Dalton
 

THEY have been a feature of Edinburgh’s streets for 80 years, the city’s unique variation on the police box beloved by Doctor Who fans.

Now, people are being given the chance to own one of 22 of the blue police boxes, which are being put on sale today by police who said they were surplus to requirements.

Would-be buyers have been given no guide price on which to base their offers, and if successful, will either have to obtain council permits to keep them in situ or make alternative arrangements for the two-ton structures.

A total of 12 of the boxes are listed, so the council would have to approve their removal.

The sell-off comes nearly two decades after an earlier round of box sales, when several redundant boxes became coffee kiosks or newspaper stands.

City architect Ebenezer Macrae created some 85 boxes between 1931 and 1933. They were made of cast-iron – rather than pre-cast concrete ones designed by Scottish-born Gilbert Mackenzie Trench – at the Carron foundry near Falkirk.

The boxes included the Edinburgh city crest and saltire-patterned mouldings and were longer than Trench’s, with sloping roofs rather than flat ones.

Lothian and Borders Police Board, which has ordered the sale, said the boxes were “surplus to operational requirements”, and provided an “exciting and most unusual opportunity”.

For sale signs will be put on the boxes this week, with bids to be lodged by 31 May. Sale proceeds will go to the Force Capital Investment Programme.

Buyers will have to get permission to keep the boxes at their current locations, because the police do not own the sites, or remove the boxes within a month. They will also have to repaint the boxes another colour within two weeks.

The boxes are different from the square-based ones found in Glasgow and other British cities, which were designed by Trench and provided the inspiration for the Tardis exterior.

But just as the appearance of the Doctor’s time machine was designed to blend in with 1960s cityscapes, Edinburgh’s police boxes were fashioned to complement the capital’s neo-classical architecture.

Malcolm Irving, author of Edinburgh Police Boxes, whose photographs were exhibited at the Pleasance police box during the 2010 Edinburgh Festival, said: “It was poky but well-designed, with a wee desk, telephone and doocots for filing papers.

“I think they are something we should hold on to. I like the fact that there are so many of them in Edinburgh, including in unexpected places.”

Police board convener Iain Whyte said the sale would cut maintenance costs.

He added: “The sale will help us see if there is demand for other boxes to be sold. Some have been run quite successfully for small businesses.”

• Picture taken from Edinburgh Police Boxes by Malcolm Irving

 

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