.Glencall Letter boxes

Letter boxes UK
The British Post Box

A brief History

Other Educational links to Post Box sites
The British Postal Museum
The Bath Postal Museum
The Letter box Study Group
The History of British Letter boxes

GlenCall International Home Page letter boxes

In Britain the first pillar boxes were erected in Jersey in 1852;
The driving force behind this trial was Anthony Trollope, the novelist, who was employed at this time by the Post Office as a Surveyors Clerk, he had seen roadside boxes in use in France and thought that they would be an asset to the Post Office;
His idea was not entirely new since it had also been suggested by Rowland Hill in 1840 but not pursued;
In 1853 the first pillar box on the mainland was erected at Botchergate, Carlisle; During the next four years each District Surveyor chose his own design and manufacturer of pillar boxes;
In the Midlands in 1856 Beaufort, surveyor of the Birmingham District commissioned the Birmingham company Smith & Hawkes to produce a pillar box in the shape of a doric column with fluted sides;
It was agreed that from 1859 a single style of pillar box would be introduced for the whole country and in 1866 J.W. Penfold was commissioned to design a new standard pillar box, which is known today by his name; These hexagonal boxes were produced in three sizes by Cochrane, Grove & co of Dudley;

Roadside wall boxes first appeared in 1857 as a cheaper alternative to pillar boxes, especially in rural districts; These first boxes were manufactured by Smith & Hawkes; Minor changes in design have been made over the years but essentially today's wall boxes are little different to those of the 1930's; In the 1950's there was much complaint about the small posting apertures of the smaller wall boxes, as a result most of these boxes of Victoria, Edward V11 and George V were modified and received a wider slot
Lamp Boxes were first used in 1897, based on the U.S.A's pattern and were intended to be used where there was not a convenient wall or where the volume of postings did not justify a wall box; By the 1960's there were over 20,000 in use attached to lamp posts, telegraph poles or on their own free standing pedestal;
Back to Top of Page

The following information taken from the Bath Postal Museum website
  • Early Hexagonal Post Box Post box in the style introduced by Anthony Trollope
  • Barnes Cross; An example of this box still remains at Barnes Cross in Dorset; Made by Butt & Co of Gloucester
  • Fluted with vertical aperture; Same design was made in red and green; Made originally by Blaylock, iron founder, and later by W. Turner for use in Dubin; Some kept the vertical aperture but by 1856 the horizontal posting hole was becomming more popular
  • Crown & Cushion; Made by Smith and Hawkes, Birmingham; They had an elongated domed roof upon which rested a crown; Only size of these were ever made because of a design interpretation fault. This resulted in the finished boxes being over 8 feet high
  • London Special postbox; Highly decorative boxes made by Smith and Hawkes of Birmingham; Fifty were ordered and thirty one were used in London
  • In 1859 the design of post boxes was standardised;
  • Rochdale Box with lamp; Taken from a french idea; The original is in a local Museum in Rochdale
  • Improved standard wall box; Made by Smith & Hawkes this wall box had a better portch over the aperature; These boxes were introduced to rural communities whose inhabitants had previously had to wait at the roadside- in all weathers- for the arrival of the PO messenger;
  • Liverpool Special; The original interior bag had been replaced in earlier boxes by a wire basket; When earlier boxes were being emptied it would draw large crowds because the mail was visible, so Cochrane and Co were commissioned to produce these new attractive boxes with the old bag system, ensuring that letters would not get wet, and could not be seen;
  • Penfold Hexagonal; Known as the 'New Standard Letter Box' designed by J.W. Penfold and built by Cochrane in Birmingham; Examples of these can be seen in Pulteney Street, and Laura Place, Bath;
  • Lamp Letter Box; Residents in London's squares were campaigning for posting facilities within their squares, and so these small boxes began to be attached to lamp posts since walls were not often available for use; Later lamp boxes began to be fitted in rural areas;
  • Aperture in Door; Post Box design had been geared to smaller Victorian envelopes; As the size of envelopes increased larger apertures became necessary
  • Blue Air Mail Box; Special airmail boxes in blue were placed at important sites; They only lasted for eight years because rapid expansioin of the air service to Europe and the British Empire, made their usefullness redundant; One can still be seen outside Winsor Castle;
  • Edward VIII; Pillar box with Post Office sign on top
  • EIIR Post Box; This is the familiar and well known British post box still seen today; Some of this style box at special sites were painted blue during 1930-38
  • Double Aperture; This box was introduced in 1899 when six experimental boxes were tried out in London; Each aperture was marked 'Town' and 'Country'; In 1905 this scheme was extended to the provinces, but they became popular around 1960 when there were 309 in service; There were 200 in London alone
  • Modern Postbox; Constructed from impact resistant cast iron; Modern design with rotary dial indicator indicating next collection; Suitable for new housing development areas;
  • Central pole mounted postbox; Constructed from impact resistant iron; Mainly suitable for rural areas;

Back to top of this page