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Secrets of the British Post Box

When strolling through the charming streets of Britain, it’s hard not to notice the ubiquitous presence of the British Royal Mail postboxes.

These iconic red letter hampers, with their distinctive shape and design, stand proudly on street corners, outside post offices, and in various public spaces, serving as a testament to the nation’s rich postal heritage.

With just over 100,000 of these post boxes scattered throughout the country, they have become an integral part of everyday life for millions of people, embodying both functionality and historical significance.

The Different Types of Royal Mail Post Boxes

British post boxes

Despite their uniform red color, British Royal Mail postboxes come in two distinct types: Type A and Type B.

These types are not merely aesthetic differentiations but hold historical significance.

Each post box carries markings akin to the rings on a tree, indicating its age and the era in which it was installed.

This marking system, known as the Royal Cypher, consists of a prominent ‘R,’ symbolizing the Latin title for King (Rex) or Queen (Regina).

Royal Cyphers
Royal Cyphers (Image Credit: Postal

The Difference Between Type A & B

The difference between Type A and Type B post boxes lies primarily in their design and the historical periods they represent:

Type A Postboxes

  • Associated with the reigns of Queen Victoria, Edward VII, George V, and George VI.
  • Reflect the design aesthetics of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, characterized by more ornate detailing and a slightly narrower aperture for letters.
  • Feature the Royal Cypher with markings indicating the era of installation, typically denoted by the initials of the reigning monarch (e.g., VR for Queen Victoria, GVIR for George VI).
  • The Type A post boxes include those installed during the brief reign of Edward VIII, which are particularly rare and sought after due to his historic abdication of the throne.

Type B Postboxes

  • Associated with the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, the current reigning monarch.
  • Represent a more modern design compared to their Type A counterparts, with cleaner lines and a slightly wider aperture for letters.
  • Carry the Royal Cypher of Queen Elizabeth II, denoted by the initials ER or EIIR.
  • Reflect the evolution of postal service technology and design preferences, maintaining functionality while adapting to contemporary standards.

    A Sense of Nostalgia & King Edward VIII

    These postboxes are reminiscent of a bygone era and evoke a sense of nostalgia for the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

    However, among these, the Type A post box installed during the brief reign of Edward VIII is exceedingly rare, with only a few examples remaining across the country.

    Edward VIII Post Box
    A King Edward VIII Post Box

    Edward VIII holds a unique place in history as the first English monarch to abdicate the throne voluntarily, making post boxes from his reign particularly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts.

    On the other hand, Type B post boxes are associated with the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, the current reigning monarch.

    Queen Elizabeth II Post Box
    Elizabeth II Post Box (Rodhullandemu, CC BY-SA 4.0)

    These post boxes, often found alongside their Type A counterparts, represent a more modern era while still retaining the timeless charm and functionality of their predecessors.

    Their presence on British streets is a testament to the enduring legacy of the monarchy and the postal service’s commitment to tradition and service.

    Symbolism and Cultural Significance

    British Flags

    Beyond their utilitarian function, British Royal Mail postboxes hold deep cultural significance for the nation.

    They are symbols of connectivity, community, and communication, embodying the importance of written correspondence in British society.

    For centuries, these postboxes have served as the primary means of sending and receiving mail, facilitating communication between individuals, families, and businesses across the country.

    Moreover, the sight of a red post box is often associated with feelings of nostalgia and national pride.

    Whether it’s the excitement of sending a letter to a loved one, the anticipation of receiving a long-awaited parcel, or simply the familiarity of seeing a familiar landmark on the street corner, these post boxes evoke a sense of belonging and identity for many Britons.

    Special Editions and Commemorative Post Boxes

    Gold post box

    In addition to the classic red post boxes, there are a few notable exceptions that stand out among the rest.

    One such example is the rare gold post box, which has been painted in honor of British gold Olympic medal winners.

    These special post boxes, scattered across the country in the areas where British Olypions were born, serve as a tribute to the nation’s sporting achievements and celebrate the spirit of excellence and perseverance.

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