River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Royal Mail- a Proud History

May 2008

Pammie gives an describes the development of the Royal Mail

The Royal mail traces its history back to King Henry VIII who established Royal Mail under the Master of Posts in 1516. Under Queen Elizabeth 1, the Royal Mail was required to sound the horn every 10 minutes as the Royal coach proceeded to its destination on the monarch's business! In 1635 the Royal Mail's service was first made available to the public the postage being paid by the recipient. In 1660 Charles II established the General Post Office and by 1784 mail was being delivered by mail coaches, similar to private coaches, but distinguished by the Post Office livery, between Bristol and London.

Under Queen Victoria, Great Britain became the first country anywhere in the world, to issue postal stamps. Up until this time sending a letter could be a very expensive business for ordinary citizens- the cost of sending a single letter could easily be the cost of the whole weeks wages. However, in 1840 the uniform penny post introduced a single rate of delivery anywhere in the United Kingdom, and the first adhesive stamp known as the Penny Black, depicting the head of Queen Victoria and the words" one penny", came into being. Even now British stamps are the only stamps that do not bear the name of the country of issue on them.

1852 saw the introduction of the traditional red postboxes. If you examine one you will discover that it carries the Latin initials of the reigning monarch for example current postboxes will be the insignia ER II (Elizabeth Regina the second)

In 1830 the first Mail Train between Liverpool and Manchester was introduced in 1880 bicycles were first introduced to speed up postal deliveries in towns and villages and finally, in 1919 the first airmail service was introduced.

Historically, the Royal Mail, had always been a government department and it became responsible for the universal mail collection and delivery throughout Britain. However, in the year 2000 it became a public company wholly -- owned by Her Majesty's government. The following year the Royal Mail, for the first time, began to issue licences to private companies for the delivery of mail and the 350-year-old monopoly came to an end.

The results of this decision to open the Royal Mail to competition has, unfortunately, proved disastrous for that most cherished of village amenities -- the village post office. And so, sadly, we need to bid an affectionate farewell to a proud institution, which simply has not been able to survive in its traditional form, in the face of the rapid modernisation of our society and communication systems.

Pammie Walker

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