Last batch of city police boxes up for sale,

The Grassmarket police box. Picture: Greg Macvean
The Grassmarket police box. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A FINAL batch of police boxes are being sold off – spelling the end for the iconic blue structures across the Capital.

Many of the city’s “mini police stations” have already been transformed into coffee kiosks and food stands.

And now the 23 boxes – reminiscent of the Tardis from Doctor Who – are being sold by Police Scotland, giving the public a chance to own a small slice of history.

But this means the instantly recognisable “police box blue” will disappear from the streets forever – as strict conditions demand that the structures are painted a different colour within a month of purchase.

The police have teamed up with the city council to invite offers for the street furniture, which have been a familiar sight since the 1930s.

There is no set price for the coveted structures, but earlier this week the Evening News revealed a converted Meadows police box snack counter was being sold by private owners for £20,000.

Written offers, including a suggested use, must be submitted by October 8, but Police Scotland is not bound to accept the highest offer.

And once the sales are confirmed, the new owners will have the freedom to convert the properties, which are up for grabs in areas including the Old Town, New Town, Marchmont and Murrayfield.

As well as painting them a different colour, they will also have to negotiate keeping the two-tonne items on the site, or move them within 30 days, as the land is not owned by the police. This could be more 
difficult for the new owners of the 11 listed boxes which are among those for sale.

Malcolm Irving, author of Edinburgh Police Boxes, whose photographs were exhibited at the Drummond Street box during the 2010 Festival, said the sale marked the end of an era.

He said: “I photographed them to capture them as they were at the time. I think it’s a bit of a shame that they are all getting turned into different things. They are objects of architectural importance rather than anything else, but some of them are in a right state.

“I hope they keep some of them as they are, just as a historical record. It’s interesting because even in the four years since I have photographed them, a lot of them have changed. Some have become businesses, and they have had their fronts taken off and had a lick of paint.”

Unique to Edinburgh, the distinctive and compact properties were designed by former city architect Ebenezer MacRae between 1931 and 1933.

Featuring the city crest and Saltire-patterned mouldings, they were designed to complement the classical architecture of the Capital.

MacRae created 85 in total, and they were made of cast iron – rather than Glasgow’s pre-cast concrete ones designed by Gilbert Mackenzie Trench – at the Carron foundry near Falkirk.

Around half of the slope-roofed structures – measuring just 1.98 metres by 1.37m with a ridge height of around 2.74m – are listed.

The final sell-off comes two years after the last round of box sales, while an earlier sale in the 1990s marked the start of them being used as coffee kiosks or newspaper stands.

The police boxes were effectively used as “mini police stations”, predating radio and mobile technology.

Small but well designed, they featured a small desk, telephone, doocots in the walls for filing papers and a 

They were used by bobbies on the beat to keep in touch with colleagues at the main police stations – and in some cases, they were even used to detain criminals for a short period.

To comply with black-out regulations during the Second World War, special cowlings were designed to cover the roof lights.

Several of the obsolete boxes still have a lamp on the side, which used to flash when the duty officer was required to call the police station.

As mobile technology advanced, and fewer officers went on the traditional beat, the boxes gradually fell out of use, being left in various states of repair around the city.

Aside from the 23 kiosks which are up for sale, Police Scotland is retaining two structures.

One is at Craigmillar police station and houses the “gas governor” which controls the pressure of gas entering the station.

The other is at Gorgie’s Ardmillan Terrace and is virtually enclosed by a council structure comprising public toilets and a shelter.

Offers and inquiries can now be made to the city council’s services for communities department, while proceeds will go to the Scottish Police Authority for general force spending.

Alasdair Copland, deputy property and estates manager at Police Scotland, said: “This is the final tranche of police boxes for sale and offers members of the public the opportunity to buy a unique piece of Edinburgh history for personal or commercial use.”