Tuesday, October 3, 2017


First post

Just inside the entrance to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in Lincoln is this post box. It was made in 1856 at the Handyside foundry in Derby and installed the following year at Gosberton Bank near Spalding. In 1969 is was moved to the museum, as an example of a very early type of post box – from the time before there was an accepted standard design. A number of the early post box designs were octagonal like this one and like the Penfold, of which a number survive. The Lincoln example, ten years earlier than the Penfold, is rarer still and almost as striking.

With its vertical slot and octagonal shape, it looks quite unlike modern cylindrical boxes and as the red finish wash’t standardised until later, it might originally have been a different colour too. But many features – the royal monogram, the panel showing collection times, and the words ‘Post Office’ are all similar to those on the boxes we use today.

I don’t often feature here items from museums, but there are so few opportunities to see these early boxes on the street that I didn’t want to let this one slip by. And there’s a twist. Although it’s in a museum, this post box is still in use, and visitors are encouraged to post their letters in it – this is Lincolnshire’s oldest working post box. As the first post box appeared on the British mainland in 1853,* it is also one of the oldest in the country. Mr Handyside did the Post Office proud.

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*The Channel Islands got them the year before.


Hels said...

I started looking at letter boxes when my favourite author, Anthony Trollope, was honoured for designing one of the first, in St Helier Jersey. 1854 in the Channel Islands and very soon after in London.

Your 1856 version made in Derby is a totally different shape, much more elegant than Trollope's. I love it.

bazza said...

It's a delight to come across a Penfold pillar box, which I have done in Walthamstow. I wonder which is the oldest working pillar box in Britain?
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s exultant Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: I *think* the oldest is in a village in Dorset called Holwell.