British Post box in the countryside

British post boxes in Derbyshire

19, Feb 2018 | Derbyshire

Take a closer look at our letter boxes

Victorian post box and Olympic letter box

I recently posted some postcards for a guest at our local post box at Matlock Green and noticed the Victorian Royal Cypher and how unusual it was. That got me thinking about their history. Will these objects of British heritage become as nostalgic as the red telephone box?

Many post boxes are quirky and unique, some are listed and protected for their historic importance and unusual features (including the Matlock Green box). Derbyshire has its own share and is considered a particularly good hunting ground.

The first official British boxes were introduced in Jersey in 1852 under the direct supervision of the novelist Anthony Trollope (1815-82) after he had mooted the idea of a ‘letter-receiving pillar’. In 1853 post boxes started to be used on the mainland and were declared a success.

Post boxes were originally painted green, however people often complained they could not be found at night, so in 1874 a 10-year programme begun to repaint them “Royal Mail Red”. Blue boxes have also been used for air mail. In 2012 gold boxes appeared to mark gold medals won by competitors at the Olympic and Paralympic games in their home towns.

Hand YSide postbox marker in the base

In 1879 The famous Derby Foundry of Andrew Handyside and Co successfully tendered for the mass-manufacture and supply of pillar boxes. As such countless surviving UK boxes bear the cast mark ‘A. Handyside & Co. Ltd. Derby & London’.

The Handyside Company ceased trading in 1931 but briefly revived under the new name Derby Castings until finally succumbing in 1933. As such, Derby Castings boxes, are relatively uncommon – among a number of Derbyshire examples is the rather rare George V wall box in Western Road, Mickelover made in 1933.

A large capacity Penfold post box

Walking around Matlock and Derbyshire you will find that post boxes come in a range of shapes and sizes. Some date back to Queen Victoria, others mark the reign of other 20th century monarchs. The cypher bearing the initials of the monarch is the best way to date the post box. In 1866, John Penfold succeeded in introducing his striking hexagonal model. These ‘Penfolds’ were used until 1879 and are now sort out by enthusiasts – a rare large-capacity Penfold survives in Buxton near the Opera House. A replica Penfold can be found in the village of Hartington, which was placed there in the 1980’s. Incidentally, Hartington has a great cheese shop, another reason to visit!

So, if you have a postcard to send check out the post box as it may be significant historical find.

A rare George V wall post box

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