Monday, January 11, 2016

Martock, Somerset

Edward, Edward…

The first time I went through Martock, I paused for just long enough to notice the bold black lettering painted around the curving corner of the Post Office. It looked like a nice touch in a small town that seemed proud to have retained this key local service when so many places have lost their Post Offices since email replaced letter-writing for so many people and some of the services provided by Post Offices moved elsewhere or declined in popularity. My eye having been caught by this strong lettering, I started to look at it a little more closely (noticing how that final ‘E’ looks a little cramped, and how the effect varies slightly as you move around and the curve) and then realised I soon needed to be somewhere else. So I took a swift photograph, jumped in the car, and drove away.

Later, looking at the photograph, I kicked myself for not examining more closely the post box to the left of the door. The splash of red with a white plate above told me that it must be a Ludlow – a type of box, distinguished by this white enamelled plate, the lack of a rain hood over the slot, and, if one could see how it’s made inside, a wooden inner body. I’ve noticed Ludlow boxes (named for their manufacturer) before. Months later, I was talking to someone who knew a lot about the history of post boxes and she mentioned this box in Martock as an uncommon example of one made and installed in 1936 with the monogram of King Edward VIII, who was king so briefly that he was not even crowned. When I was passing near Martock more recently, I stopped again and saw that there’s an ‘E R’, in a very curvaceous, ornate letterform. 

But which Edward does this monogram refer to? Now, I’m no expert in the minutiae of post-box design. This ‘E R’ is certainly different from the plainer, more classical one used in connection with a Roman number ‘II’, on the boxes marked with the monogram of the current queen, Elizabeth II. However, the curvy letterform on the Martock box is similar to that on some boxes said to be of the earlier Edward VII period, whereas most Edward VIII pillar boxes have a still more curly E made up of two loops. Online sources seem to disagree about all this. But it’s a charming bit of lettering anyway, and worth a pause. I’m pleased I managed to go back and see it.


Peter Ashley said...

I think I may have the answer. The definitive book thus far on the subject is Jean Young Ferrugia's 'The Letter Box' (Centaur 1969). This on Edward VIII boxes:

'In the early part of Edward VIII's reign, pending approval of his special cipher, letter boxes made by Messrs.Ludlow were given the obsolete cipher of Edward VII. In 1937, to avoid embarrassment upon the accession of George VI, the enamelled plates on each of the 28 Ludlow boxes that had been made with Edward VIII's cipher were replaced, as unobtrusively as possible, with ones bearing the cipher of the new monarch.'

My guess is the Martock example is one that slipped through the net.

JudyBG said...

That box is so beautiful and intriguing that it might almost be worth a trip just to see it.

But note I did say "almost".

Thanks for posting it!

Evelyn said...

I think of them all I like the Liverpool box the best. It looks royal and is just so unique. I learned a bit today. Thanks !
The Castle Lady

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: Thank you. That's really interesting. And I'll clearly have to put Jean Young Ferrugia's book on my 'to look out for' list!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Judy: Glad you liked it! Keep your eyes open - there are other boxes like this scattered around the country, so a special trip may not be necessary!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Evelyn: Thank you! The Liverpool box is a stunner, isn't it?