Chancellor gives new budget box first public outing
Chancellor George Osborne has given the new budget box its first public outing at today's budget announcement, after the previous 150 year old budget box was retired by The National Archives last year for preservation. The new box is now set to embark on its tenure of public duty serving future Chancellors on budget day for the next century.
The previous budget box was named after William Gladstone, Chancellor four times during the reign of Queen Victoria. Unique to other ministerial despatch boxes, tradition saw it held up by Chancellors outside 11 Downing Street on the day of every budget announcement of the last 150 years. The most photographed despatch box in history, the iconic red box became a public record in its own right.
The Gladstone budget box was retired following 2010 guidance from The National Archives whose conservation experts were of the view that it was in an advanced state of deterioration and disrepair and therefore should be withdrawn from use. The National Archives has a legal duty to ensure important public records are preserved for future generations.
Made in Britain, the replacement budget box is expected to serve at least as long as the 150 year old 'Gladstone' box, before being accessioned as a public record following its lengthy tenure.
Now part of The National Archives, Her Majesty's Stationery Office is likely to have commissioned the original. The National Archives commissioned and paid £4,300 (£28.67 per year of its tenure) for the new box, which was hand-made using traditional techniques and materials by a team of experts including carpenters, bookbinders, and engravers. It is intended to emulate the manufacture of Gladstone's box when it was first made in the mid-19th century. The new box differs in only one significant way, displaying the cipher 'ER II' rather than 'VR' to reflect the change of monarch.
The Gladstone budget box is currently on loan to the House of Commons, where it will be on public display in the Division Lobby for as long as preservation conditions allow.
Following its time at the House of Commons, the Gladstone box will be returned to its permanent resting place on exhibition at the Cabinet War Rooms, part of the Imperial War Museum.
Click on the image above to view the old and new budget boxes.