First Post Office Pillar Box
We see them so often that they are not even noticed anymore, pillar boxes which are literally part of the (street) furniture. It is to be hoped that in future times this adornment of the urban environment does not go the way of Giles Gilbert Scott’s red telephone box , rapidly disappearing from view.
The first boxes were erected in Jersey, thanks to novelist and postal official Anthony Trollope , sent to the island and neighbouring Guernsey in the spring of 1852 by Sir Rowland Hill , then head of the Post Office and of course the genius behind the universal post and inventor (we British claim) of the postal stamp . The islands’ special circumstances had made letter delivery to post offices problematic. Mail packet services were subject to wind and tide, meaning offices could be closed some time before ships sailed, so an unmanned method of holding letters safely after delivery was called for.
Trollope suggested what became the pillar box (sadly he may have seen one in Paris previously). The first four were put on Jersey, cast iron creations made by local firm Vaudin & Son, on November 23 1852. The following year Guernsey was given three - one still stands in Union Street, St Peter Port Guernsey: the only other example is to be found in the British Postal Museum at Freeling House in London , that one still the original green – the familiar red hue only dates from 1874.
The first mainland pillar box was given to Carlisle in 1853. London had to wait breathlessly until 1855, when it received five, placed in Kensington ; Fleet Street; Pall Mall; Piccadilly ; and The Strand.
Pillar boxes were practical in more ways than logistically: their use was anonymous, a liberation for secret lovers.
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