MANN+HUMMEL is collecting items from around the world to put in a time capsule in their Ludwigsburg technology centre. When I was asked to write an article about MANN+HUMMEL UK’s essential choice, I was pleased to be involved in a lasting project celebrating the company’s 75th Anniversary. As someone who is proud of her heritage and with a keen interest in history, this was a project on which I was delighted to work. The idea of providing a British icon to be placed in a time capsule was both intriguing and fun.
My colleagues and I deliberated long and hard over our choice of essential. We wanted something that represented all MANN+HUMMEL’s UK locations – Wolverhampton, Chard and Burnley. We initially thought of the classic red double-decker bus but that, we thought, was more a symbol of London, rather than the whole country. A British bulldog was another idea – but how would we get him from the UK to Germany?
Finally, MANN+HUMMEL UK chose a money box in the shape of a red telephone box, one of Britain’s favourite design icons, along with some money to put in it.
An evolving design classic
The red telephone box is quintessentially British and is a striking iconic symbol recognised throughout the world. What’s more, just down the road from our Wolverhampton factory, you’ll find a museum that hosts the National Telephone Kiosk Collection featuring 32 telephone boxes, each one reflecting the development of the design.
The telephone network began development in 1876. In 1926, the owners of the network, The Post Office, ran a competition. The winner, Sir Giles Gilbert, was commissioned to design a standardised telephone box. And so the red telephone box phenomenon began and can still be seen throughout the UK to this day. At the height of their popularity, The Post Office operated more than 92,000 telephone boxes in the UK. MANN+HUMMEL UK and Britons alike see the red telephone box as an important part of our heritage.
Due to the introduction of mobile phones in modern-day Britain, these well-loved telephone boxes are becoming less common. Many have been removed and restored to their former glory for resale to private customers. However, there have also been some innovative ideas to re-use boxes for the greater good. In rural communities, decommissioned telephone boxes house life-saving defibrillators. In other locations, telephone boxes have been transformed to become mini-libraries, where people leave books for others to borrow.
To go with the telephone money box, we are also sending some English coins to Ludwigsburg. They set us apart from the rest of Europe in that we have our own currency that is widely recognised as being strong and valued. Each one bears the head of Queen Elizabeth II, Great Britain’s longest serving monarch. As a royalist and someone who embraces our monarchy, I love seeing the traditional sovereign’s image on our coins. They represent much more than just the value of the currency.
So next time you are in the UK, spending your pounds and pence, look out for the iconic red telephone box. Take the time to have a look inside, you may find a telephone or you may find something much more interesting.