Paul's Unofficial Letterbox Pages: History of British Letter Boxes - Part 2

History of British Letter Boxes- Part 2

1900 to 1999

In 1924 oval signs showing the direction to the nearest post office were used on top of pillar boxes for the first time. It was also in 1924 that the first experimental Telephone Kiosk no. 4 was produced which incorporated a post box and stamp vending machine.

Pillar boxes for airmail letters were introduced in London in 1930. The first of these was sited outside the General Post Office in King Edward Street, London. Originally these were simply a type 'B' box painted blue with an oval sign saying AIR MAIL placed on top, but from 1932 they were produced with a double collection plate, one for collection times and one for air mail postage rates. This service lasted until 1938 when the first box to be erected was also the last to go.

Figure 12.
K4 telephone kiosk incorporating a post box

Red telephone box with post box in one side.
Photo copyright © Rosalind Wicks

Figure 13.
Air mail letter box with double collection plate

Blue pillar box with AIR MAIL sign.
Photo copyright © Rosalind Wicks

Figure 14.
Direction sign on top of a type 'B' Edward VIII pillar box, 1936

Edward VIII pillar box with POST OFFICE direction sign.
Photo copyright © Rosalind Wicks

During the short reign of Edward VIII in 1936 only a relatively small number letter boxes were made, with the larger type 'A' pillar box being much rarer than than the narrower type 'B'. It is believed that there is only one surviving example of an Edward VIII Ludlow type letter box.

Figure 14.
Edward VIII Ludlow at Bawdsey, Suffolk.

Wall box with a white enamel plate.

In 1935, towards the end of the reign of George V, a new design of lamp box was introduced with a flatter roof. Another design, with a rectangular front, was introduced during the reign of George VI.

Figure 15.
Early lamp box

Lamp box with rounded roof.
Photo copyright © Rosalind Wicks

Figure 16.
Later lamp box

Lamp box with curved roof.
Photo copyright © Rosalind Wicks

Figure 17.
Third type of Lamp box

Lamp box with rectangular front.
Photo copyright © Rosalind Wicks

In 1954, after it had been pointed out that Elizabeth II of England was only the first Elizabeth to reign over Scotland, the EIIR cipher was not used in Scotland. Letter boxes were made with just a Scottish Crown on instead.

There was very little further change in the design of letter boxes until an experiment in 1968 with rectangular boxes (Type F). These were made from sheet steel and proved not to be very hard wearing and so a cast iron version, the Type G, was introduced.

For their next design in 1979 the Royal Mail went back to the cylindical shape, this time without the familiar pillar box cap. This box is known as Type K. Finally, on modern postboxes the words POST OFFICE have been replaced by the words ROYAL MAIL.

Figure 18.
Scottish pillar box

Pillar box with a Scottish crown and no cipher.
Photo copyright © Rosalind Wicks

Figure 19.
Type F

Sketch of rectangular pillar boxes.
Photo copyright © Richard P Wicks

Figure 20.
Type G

Rectanglar pillar boxes.
Photo copyright © Rosalind Wicks

Figure 21.
Type K Pillar Box

Modern red pillar box (with no cap).
Photo copyright © Rosalind Wicks

Figure 22.
Type M Letter Box

Small red letter box on a post.
Photo copyright © Richard P Wicks

Figure 23.
Royal Mail (Type C) Pillar Box

Double post box with the words ROYAL MAIL.
Photo copyright © Rosalind Wicks

Copyright © Paul Wicks 2002