Sunday, November 04, 2012

time and relative dimensions in Newport

As I've said before, you can keep your Hanging Gardens of Rutland and your Great Pyramid Of Hull, we've got stuff just as good right here in Newport. Some of it might be, shall we say, slower to reveal its charms, but it's still there.

Here's a case in point: I drive along the stretch of Chepstow Road between my house and the M4 a couple of times a day (during the working week anyway), but it's only recently I noticed that there is an old blue police box standing by the junction between Chepstow Road and Hawthorne Avenue, a couple of hundred yards at most from our house. It turns out that not only is this a Grade II listed building, but that it's recently been the recipient of a major repair job worth over £10,000 funded by a grant from the Welsh ancient monuments people Cadw. Incidentally if you click on that Google StreetView link you'll discover that the Googlemobile managed to snap this vital architectural landmark at the precise moment that a skip lorry obscured the view; nice work. Track left or right for a better view, or just click on the unobscured image on the right which I snapped while out for a walk with the bairn yesterday.

So anyway, the significance of the box in historical terms (it being just a big concrete lump painted blue in architectural terms) is that there aren't many original police boxes still around today, most having been demolished since they stopped being actively used by the police in the 1960s. It's surprisingly difficult to answer the obvious next question, i.e. well, how many are left then? Or, at least, it's difficult to answer it by trawling round the internet, not least because of the difficulty in sifting the wheat of actual historical information from the chaff of endless bollocks about Dr. Who.

There is a sort of Dr. Who connection here, though, in that the Newport box is apparently affectionately known as the Somerton TARDIS by locals, and in fact prior to the repairs had a Tom Baker-style scarf painted on it. Anyway, back to the numbers - this map which suggests there are no more than half-a-dozen or so real ones left must be wrong, since it omits the Newport one; this list (map towards the bottom of the page) seems more plausible, and suggests there are maybe 20 or so around Britain, with the Newport box being the only one remaining in Wales. Plan your visit now! Parking is available in a nearby side-street; refreshment and gift-shop facilities are currently minimal (though there is a slightly ropey Chinese take-away up the road). I do plan to set up a stall selling blue TARDIS-shaped fudge any day now, though.

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