The traditional red telephone boxes in Sidmouth’s Market Square have been turned into mini museums for displaying art and antiquities.

The kiosks were decommissioned by BT in 2021 and taken over by Sidmouth Town Council.

They have now been refurbished by Sidmouth School of Art to create two tiny exhibition spaces, for displaying ‘the old and the new’. The phone boxes have been restored, sanded and painted, with lighting and new signage added - whilst retaining the old ‘Telephone’ signs - to create The Museum of Contemporary Art and The Museum of Antiquities.

Sidmouth Herald: Passers by enjoy the display

The first displays have been installed to coincide with Folk Festival week. The ‘old’ is an exhibition of Pelham Puppets from Sidmouth Toy and Model Museum, and the ‘new’ comprises the Plasticine models that were photographed for the latest Sidmouth Wallspace art billboard.

What are Pelham Puppets?

The Pelham Puppets were originally created by Bob Pelham, known as the Wonky Donkey Officer for the toys he made during WWII. They were popular during the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, with many popular childrens’ TV characters having their own licenced Pelham Puppet version.

Sidmouth Herald: Pelham Puppets on display in phone box

Sidmouth School of Art contacted Bob Pelham’s official biographer David Leech, who said he was delighted to hear about the exhibition. David, who has provided images to help create the backdrop for the puppets, said: “Although Pelham Puppets are no longer produced, Bob Pelham’s legacy lives on through the lives and work of many professional puppeteers today.”

Ian Gregory of Sidmouth Toy and Model Museum said: “It is perfect timing for this new exhibition of traditional toys that evoke so many memories to open at the start of Sidmouth Folk Festival, as we are simultaneously partnering with the festival, Little Seeds Music and Sidmouth CofE Primary School to create a series of new songs inspired by toys of the past.”

Read more about that project here.

More information about the puppets and their history can be found at

Sidmouth Herald: The Plasticine figures by Wilfrid Wood

The 'Museum of Contemporary Art' will open on Monday, August 7, displaying the ‘Classic English holidaymaker’ figures on the Sidmouth Wallspace billboard that was installed on Friday, August 4. They were modelled by Wilfrid Wood, who used to make latex heads for the satirical TV show Spitting Image - read more here

Coco Hodgkinson, Sidmouth School of Art’s Artistic Director said: “Working on the telephone boxes in the market square has generated a lot of interest with people wondering what they will be used for and expressing their delight that they are being cared for, smartened up and used in a creative way. People have shared their memories of making calls from them, meeting people at them and - yes - seeing how many people can fit in them!”

There has also been plenty of interest in the history of the boxes themselves, with local people and visitors asking which model they are. Sidmouth’s telephone boxes are the K6 model, constructed in cast iron with a concrete base. They were commissioned by the General Post Office in 1935 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George, and were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

More details about the project can be found here.

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