Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Out of place?
It has recently been announced that the Royal Mail, the service that delivers letters in the UK, is about to become a private company. This state-owned letter-delivery service can trace its history back 497 years to the reign of Henry VIII, although in its present form it could be said to have had a new beginning in 1840. This was the year when, with the introduction of the penny post and the first pre-paid postage stamps, the service guaranteed to deliver any letter posted to an address in Great Britain for a uniform rate, paid by the sender.
An essential element in the postal system is the mail box, and I've blogged before about some of the various kinds of box found in England, including pillar boxes and wall boxes of various types. Here's another kind, the compact metal container known as a lamp box because it is designed not to be inserted into brickwork, as in my photograph, but attached to a lamp post or telegraph pole by means of pair of metal loops fixed to the side of the box. Lamp boxes originally had steeply curving metal tops, but this design, with a shallower curve, came in the time of George V and lasted into George VI's reign (1936–52) – the later king's monogram is cast into the front of this example. The gently curving top reminds me slightly of the roof of a telephone box and harks back to the time when telephone and postal services were both run by the same body.
If this lamp box is rather out of place with its side loops removed and set into a brick pillar, it's clearly still doing its job. And how often have I seen the happy blend of a red rural post box and a growth of green ivy working its way around the metal, to be cleared away occasionally but never obliterated? Will the postal service be out of place in the public sector or manage to accommodate itself to the demands of shareholders, pressing around its edges like the invasive ivy around this box? Time will tell.