The humble postbox is often overlooked and taken for granted as a facility for depositing mail to be distributed all around the country, or even the world, by the Royal Mail postal service. In the UK little is known about the origins of the iconic bright red postbox, which before the inception of the Internet, was once a beacon of communication, dotted around towns and cities; often relied upon in order to keep friends and families in touch with one another, at a time before travel became common place, communicating news of births, deaths and marriages, as well as facilitating business transactions. Now the bright red postbox is very often unheeded, unless looked for.
It is widely believed that the origins of the very first postbox can be traced back to Paris, to as far back as 1653, when the first postbox was installed in France’s capital city. The postbox was then to become far more widely used across the country over the proceeding 200 years, and so by the year 1829, there were far more postboxes to be found in France, not just in Paris, but all across the country, as the postbox became the very first communication network, both convenient and expedient, to establish itself at that time.
The very first postbox made available for public use was located in Poland and installed in Warsaw, much later than those deployed in Paris, in the year of 1842. In Britain, the oldest postbox is believed to be that which was installed in Wakefield in West Yorkshire, it is dated 1809; indicating that the postal network came to Britain considerably later than the inception of the postbox across the English channel in France, over one hundred and fifty years previously. This very early example of what is thought to be the first postbox installed in Britain is now on proud display at the Wakefield museum.
Throughout history, the style of the postbox has changed, and in 1852 the first pillar box postbox was installed in Jersey. And so, just a year after the first pillar box had been erected in Jersey, the first pillar style postbox found it’s way to Britain, and from there the postal network flourished, with postboxes of different shapes and sizes making an appearance just four years later, as wall boxes installed in roadside locations began to spring up around rural districts, proving to be a far cheaper alternative to the iconic freestanding vibrant red pillar style postbox that has come to be synonymous with the British postal network today.