Post office evolution | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Post office evolution

Where would we be without post offices! Believe it or not, but post offices did not always exist. You can learn about their origins in The British Newspaper Archive. You may also discover details about your local post office — when it opened or when previous iterations closed!

The Sketch | 24 July 1895

Among detailing the post office’s evolution, the above article also includes an anecdote that relates to a time when the recipient of a letter was obliged to pay the postage:


‘The terms “post-chaise”, “post-boy”, “postillion”, &c., still linger among us as interesting souvenirs of the old-fashioned method of postal delivery. Early in the last century, the postman announced his approach by blowing a horn or by ringing a bell. He carried a bag on his arm, for the collection of letters in rural and outlying districts. Samuel Taylor Coleridge used to tell a good story about the old system of paying for the carriage of letters on delivery. “One day, when I had not a shilling which I could spare”, he said, “I was passing by a cottage not far from Keswick, where a letter-carrier was demanding a shilling for a letter, which the woman of the house appeared unwilling to pay, and, at last, declined to take. I paid the postage, and, when the man was out of sight, she told me that the letter was from her son, who took that means of letting her know that he was well; the letter was not to be paid for. It was opened, and found to be blank”. Many of the old customs associated with the collection and conveyance of letters were, however, destroyed when penny postage was introduced. The old bellman was no longer required, and died a natural death. Steam has annihilated the old mail-coach, and the introduction of adhesive postage-stamps has done more than any other invention to increase the usefulness and scope of our postal system. […] The General Post Office was not originally situated at St Martin’s-le-Grand. A letter-office in connection with the principal mails was established in 1635. In 1656 the Long Parliament passed an Act ordering the creation of a central General Office’.


Closing of the most historic post office | The Sphere | 5 November 1910


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