Monday, 9 November 2009

'Pillar' Boxes

One of my recent birthday presents was a set of stamps from Bryony and Mark. I don’t normally collect stamps nowadays but this one struck Mark as ideal for me when he noticed it in the Post Office – and it is. I have a thing about letter boxes.

I could bore you to death about letter boxes but here are a few fascinating (to me) facts about them:-

Although correctly called letter boxes they are known colloquially as pillar boxes – even the ones that are not in pillar form but are set into the wall.

There are 120,000 red letter boxes in the UK.

Ten years after the introduction of the adhesive postage stamp, the novelist Anthony Trollope was sent to report on the problem of collecting mail in the Channel Islands. His report included a recommendation to try pillar boxes out in St Helier, Jersey. It was approved and the pillar box was introduced to Britain in 1854 in the Channel Islands.

Trollope did not invent the pillar box – he had seen one in 1852 in Paris and took the idea from there.

Originally painted sage green, it was not until 1874 that they were painted the familiar ‘pillar box red’. The first pillar boxes were rectangular with a large ball on top.

Trollope displayed his humour in his novel “He Knew He Was Right” (published 1869) by commenting on the new pillar boxes as follows:-

“Miss Stanbury carried her letter all the way to the chief post-office in the city, having no faith whatever in those little subsidiary receiving houses which are established in different parts of the city. As for the iron pillar boxes which had been erected of late years for the receipt of letters, one of which--a most hateful thing to her--stood almost close to her own hall door, she had not the faintest belief that any letter put into one of them would ever reach its destination. She could not understand why people should not walk with their letters to a respectable post-office instead of chucking them into an iron stump as she called it out in the middle of the street with nobody to look after it. Positive orders had been given that no letter from her house should ever be put into the iron post.”


  1. How funny. I like pillar boxes too. There's one on a side road in Essex which I love. You come zooming along the road, go round a bend -- and there it is stuck in what appears to be a hedge. I've often wondered how frequently the postman remembers it's there and stops to pick up the letters.

    I'm glad no news is good news. Shall be keeping our fingers crossed for you in the weeks to come.
    Take care, Canadian Chickadee

  2. Oh I loved reading about Postal boxes! It is almost a thing of the past with all the new housing developements going on here. There is a communal post box in our subdivision or PUD (planned urban development). 50 or more all together. Not like the good ole days when you actually KNEW your postman and called him by name because he dropped off your mail right at your doorstip. There were days when all you had to do was open your door and reach into your post box...never more than your arm going outside! It was good when it was a cold winter day. And he even WALKED his route!

  3. This post must have come via snail mail - it's taken for ever for Blogger to deliver it to me! Happy Birthday-as-was.


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