Several Bathonians played important roles in the development of our modern postal system but before l give credit to them l want to let one Virtual Museum follower express his feelings about the state of a familiar postal object we pass every day on our streets.
‘Go to the red post box, which is in the London Road, just up from the traffic lights at Cleveland Bridge – up towards the mini-roundabout at the section of London Road and Walcot Street, ‘ says Tony Howell.
‘ Take your camera with you, and look at the front of the post box. It is an utter disgrace. The paint has faded, it has peeled/is peeling off, the box is covered in green mould, and there is a plastic bag stuffed between the stamp machine and the box. It sums up eloquently what is wrong with Britain today.’
Well – as you can see from the images l have recorded – l did. The box is very faded and damaged. It’s attached stamp-dispenser is also in a sorry state.
The pillar is embossed with the letters ‘GR’ which means it can be dated to no later than 1952 – the year George VI died – and one hundred years after the first pillar box was erected in Jersey in 1852.
You can find out much more about post boxes and Bath’s connections with the postal system by visiting http://www.bathpostalmuseum.co.uk – a website which will also tell you where the museum is in the city and when it is open.
Henry the Eighth is credited with inventing the postal system with the appointment of a Master of the Posts in 1516. This job title became the Postmaster General in 1710.
Ralph Allen (1719-1763) was a Cornishman who became Postmaster of Bath and then developed and expanded Britain’s postal network. He organised mail coaches – some provided by Williams and Company of Bath – and made enough money to buy up the stone mines around Bath – just as the Georgian building boom was taking off.
Then there is John Palmer (1742-1818) theatre owner and the man who introduced efficient mail-coach delivery services in Great Britain during the late 18th century. Our Mr Palmer was a local brewer who had inherited his father’s theatre in Old Orchard Street and then bought up the Theatre Royal in Bristol. His fast coaches also used to carry actors between the two venues.
John Palmer was twice Mayor of Bath and once the city’s MP. He is buried in Bath Abbey.
None of this of course helps the plight of that poor old letter box on the London Road. Today Royal Mail has become a public company with shareholders. As of 2013 Royal Mail employs 150,000 permanent staff with an extra 18,000 extra casuals taken on over the Christmas period.
All credit to the ‘postie’ out in all winds and weathers.
As for the letter box. Could we not have ‘adopt a post box’ schemes? Give us the ‘Letterbox Red’ paint and l am sure even our Tony Howell would be a dab-hand with a brush!
Freelance Journalist, broadcaster, columnist and local historian. Director of Bath Newseum. Married and lives in Bath.
Interested in local history, architecture and visual display in museums and urban spaces.
View all posts by Richard Wyatt