Britain's 150-year-old budget box, first used by William Gladstone, takes its last bow

LONDON (AP) — A red wooden box that has carried the government's budget to the House of Commons since 1860 made its last official appearance on Tuesday.

Treasury chief George Osborne struck the traditional pose, holding the box aloft for photographers, before he set off to the House of Commons to announce the government's budget plans. But he left it behind.

The box was first used by William Ewart Gladstone in 1860, and most Chancellors of the Exchequer have used it ever since. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was an exception, using a new red box during his 11 years heading the Treasury.

The old box will be retired to a permanent display in the Cabinet War Rooms.

"We've had a close look at the box and, given the fragile state it's in, we believe now is the time to retire the box from public life," said Oliver Morley, acting chief executive of The National Archives. "If it isn't retired, it may end up being destroyed completely."

Gladstone was elected to Parliament as a Conservative, but became a Liberal and served four terms as Chancellor of the Exchequer at various times between 1852 and 1882, as well as four terms as prime minister between 1868 and 1894.

In an echo of Gladstone, the box made its last appearance in the service of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government formed in May.

The National Archives said a replacement box, using traditional materials and techniques, has been commissioned.