Sunday, 5 July 2015

Pillar to Post

The mysterious 'bonus' offered by Violet Sky for anyone showing a Queen Victoria stamp some weeks ago was to choose a theme.  Yippee!   It was a nanosecond before I chose something postal or the post box and here is why.  There are hundreds postbox variations in the UK but more pertinent is that this year is 200th anniversary of the birth of the author Anthony Trollope, an employee of the post office from 1834 to 1867 and as a Surveyor's clerk involved in the logistics of providing roadside boxes.  Letters at the time could only be handed in to Receiving Houses and long distances might be traveled to post letters. Countries like France and Belgium had been using roadside boxes for some time and Trollope believed it was time to introduce them into the postal system here and installed an experimental box on the island of Guernsey.   This, the oldest pillar box in the British Isles, was installed on 8 February 1853 and is celebrated on the Guernsey FDC.  I believe the box is still in its original location in the centre of St Peter Port.  The stamp is a photograph of it with the background specially treated to give the pretty effect of a watercolour.

Of course the box was a great success so mainland Britain got one and it was in my neck of the woods

just up the road (or rather the M6) in the city of Carlisle (which is the postmark).  Unfortunately it no longer exists and neither does the Victorian post office it stood near, but there is a plaque on the wall informing passers by of the date - 1853 - when the first mainland post box was installed in Botchergate and directs the reader elsewhere to the replica pillar box outside the Old Town Hall.  The FDC's Victorian drawing on the left also shows a box that no longer exists which was one of those first five roadside boxes in London erected in 1855 (No 1 was in Fleet Street), all destroyed in the World War II blitz bombing. The stamps used on the cover are of a Green 1857 Pillar Box (one of a set from 2002). This wonderfully ornate box was designed by the Department of Science and Art. The posting aperture was in the roof of the box which shows a certain optimism of expecting dry weather and sunshine in these rainy islands. The first of these boxes even had a ceramic compass set into the roof.

Here is the rest of the 2002 stamp set showing the different types of pillar boxes through time on a FDC produced by the Trollope Society, which unfortunately I do not own but when I first saw it portrayed have lusted after it ever since.    
The envelopes surrounding Anthony Trollope are all addressed to characters from his novels.

The Victorians in their usual enthusiastic manner produced a great variety of pillar boxes until 1859 when the Post Office decided to standardise the design.  The growing demand for roadside posting facilities also resulted in a cheaper method of meeting that desire, the installation of small wall boxes from 1857
Here is a miniature sheet of four different types of wall boxes. These were also later also attached to lamp posts but today are attached to a variety of types of posts but still referred to as lamp boxes.  The royal insignia on the boxes are an easy indicator of their age. One of my favourites is the enamel plated Ludlow box (second from the left) so called because they were made by James Ludlow who won the contract in 1912 to supply boxes to sub post offices (many also had a rear door which opened inside the post office).  The one shown must have been one of the last to be installed as it bears the ER royal insignia (Queen Elizabeth's coronation was 1953) and from 1954 they were made without the enamel plate. Is it time to collect the mail now?

Postie had just opened this one in Suffolk when I was passing by.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme of - Post Boxes or Postal Themed - more postings  here


Heleen said...

Thank you for your explanation and for sharing such beautiful stamps, fdc and photos!

VioletSky said...

I love how your post boxes are different - ours are all exactly the same (though with very slight modifications through the years). I could happily take a tour of post box hunting through the British Isles!

Bob Scotney said...

Brilliant post. I shall pay more attention now to the post boxes that I see.

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

I've always loved the post box stamps that have been issued. The box in my avatar is a Victorian pillar box I found in Gloucester.