Thursday, July 17, 2008

Red letter boxes

The pillar box is a protected species.

Photo from Flickr user Redvers. Creative Commons licence.
George V pillar box

The first one was set up in 1852 on the island of Jersey, octagonal in shape and painted green. Red became the standard colour in 1874, although ten more years elapsed before every box in the UK had been repainted. At first each area could have its own design, until 1859 when a standardised version was adopted.

Apart from the stand-alone pillar box, there are also wall boxes:

Photo by Flickr user DavidT2006. Creative Commons licence.
Queen Victoria wall box

and lamp boxes. Lamp boxes were designed to be attached to lamp posts but often have their own post.

Photo by Flickr user Ingy the Wingy. Creative Commons licence.
Elizabeth II lamp box

They all bear the Royal cipher of the reigning monarch when manufactured. There are over 100,000 in the UK. There are even some in Ireland, where they were retained after independence, but painted green, and still bear the Royal cipher.

English Heritage agreed a joint policy (pdf file) with the Royal Mail in 2002 for the retention and conservation of these boxes. Some 198 of the oldest and rarest versions were already “listed” before this agreement was made.

This is a serious subject as presented by our mutual friend, Sheila, who really can't cope with the idea of anyone introducing Henry into to any of her letterboxes. Too unseemly.


  1. Cool article. Hang on to the post boxes, now that the empire's gone !

  2. i miss the red post boxes, they have silly blue ones over here, that look like they are going to eat you up.

  3. I took photos of a couple of boxes while I in the U.K. a few years back, really nifty things.

  4. "introducing Henry into to any of her letterboxes. "

    lmao :)

  5. It's not uncommon for post boxes in particularly nationalist areas of Northern Ireland to end up painted green, too!

    I'm actually a big fan of the red post box - I think they're very iconic and easy to spot, just like the big red phone boxes are/were.

  6. Yes, we hang on to all sorts of things, anonymous :)
    Why do the blue boxes look as though they are going to eat you up Caroline? A big gaping mouth? Teeth? They have silly yellow ones in France.
    They do seem to be tourist attractions Descartes, though why they are escapes me a little. I've never seen anyone taking photos of French ones.
    Claire, I didn't think you'd miss that :)
    I didn't know they painted them green in N Ireland too Catherine. Now that's something else for Max to note about the province when he gets back. If he gets back. I have visions of all of us continuing on indefinitely, all on our own ....

  7. That was really interesting, A. Thank you for the posts. I know it was needed at the last minute. I also know what a good friend you are. So thanks again. :)



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