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The English Royal Mail – from 1516 AD to Present Day

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Rating: 5.0/5

The Royal Mail in the UK is one of the most iconic British institutions and as such I thought it would be an idea to write about this great icon. The Royal Mail traces its history back to 1516, when Henry VIII established a “Master of the Posts”, a post which eventually evolved into the office of the Postmaster General. The Royal Mail service was first made available to the public by Charles I on 31 July 1635, with postage being paid by the recipient, and the General post office (GPO) was officially established by Charles II in 1660.

Between 1719 and 1763, Ralph Allen, Postmaster at bath, signed a series of contracts with the post office to develop and expand Britain’s postal network. He organised mail coaches which were provided by both Wilson & Company of London and Williams & Company of Bath. The early Royal mail Coaches were similar to ordinary family coaches but with Post Office Livery.

In December 1839 the first substantial reform started when postage rates were revised by the short-lived Uniform Fourpenny Post. Greater changes took place when the Uniform Penny Post was introduced on 10 January 1840 whereby a single rate for delivery anywhere in Great Britain and Ireland was pre-paid by the sender. A few months later, to certify that postage had been paid on a letter, the sender could affix the first adhesive Postage Stamp, the Penny Black that was available for use from 6 May the same year. Other innovations were the introduction of pre-paid William Mulready designed postal stationary letter sheets and envelopes.

As the United Kingdom was the first country to issue prepaid postage stamps, British stamps are the only stamps that do not bear the name of the country of issue on them.

By the late 19th century, there were between six and twelve mail deliveries per day in London, permitting correspondents to exchange multiple letters within a single day.

The Royal Mail Time Line:
1516: Royal Mail established by Henry VIII under Master of the Posts.
1635: Royal Mail service first made available to the public by Charles I.

1654: Oliver Cromwell grants monopoly over service in England to “Office of Postage”.
1657: Fixed postal rates introduced.
1660: General Post Office (GPO) officially established by Charles II.
1661: First use of date stamp. First Postmaster General appointed.
1784: First Mail coach (between Bristol and London).
1793: First uniformed delivery staff. Post Office Investigation Branch formed, the oldest recognised criminal investigations authority in the world.
1830: First mail train (on Liverpool and Manchester Railway).
1838: Post Office Money order system introduced.
1839: Uniform Fourpenny Post introduced.
1840: Uniform Penny Post introduced.

1840: First adhesive stamp (the Penny Black).
1852: First Post Office pillar box erected (in Jersey).
1853: First post boxes erected in mainland Britain.
1857: First wall boxes installed Shrewsbury and Market Drayton
1870: Post Office begins telegraph service.
1870: Post Office Act banned sending of `indecent or obscene` literature; introduced the ½d rate for postcards; banned the use of cut-outsfrom postal stationery; introduced the ½d rate for newspapers; provided for the issue of newspaper wrappers.
1880: First use of bicycles to deliver mail.
1881: Postal order introduced.

1882: Army Post Office Corps formed from GPO employees (see British Forces Post Office)
1883: Parcel post begins.
1894: First picture postcards.
1912: Post Office opens national telephone service.
1919: First international airmail service developed by Royal Engineers (Postal Section) and Royal Air Force.
1941: Airgraph service introduced between UK and Egypt. The service was later extended to: Canada (1941), East Africa (1941), Burma (1942), India (1942), South Africa (1942), Australia (1943), New Zealand (1943) Ceylon (1944) and Italy (1944).
1941: Aerogram service introduced.
1968: Two-class postal system introduced. National Giro bank opens.

1969: General Post Office changes from government department to nationalised industry.
1971: Postal services in Great Britain were suspended for two months between January and March as the result of a national postal strike over a pay claim.[19]
1974: Postcodes extended over all UK.
1981: Telecommunications services split out as British Telecom. Remainder renamed as “Post Office”.
1986: Separated businesses of delivering letters, delivering parcels and operating post offices.
1988: Postal workers hold their first national strike for 17 years after walking out over bonuses being paid to recruit new workers in London and the South East.

1989: Royal Mail establishes RoMec (Royal Mail Engineering & Construction) to deliver Facilities Maintenance services to its business. RoMec becomes owned 51% Royal Mail and 49% Haden BML in a joint venture.

(GPO) was officially established by Charles II in 1660.
1990: Girobank sold to the Alliance & Leicester Building Society.
1990: Royal Mail Parcels re-branded as Parcelforce.
1999: A new business: Royal Mail ViaCode – or ViaCode Limited – was launched. This wholly-owned subsidiary of the Post Office offered online encryption services to businesses, using “digital certificate” technology. The short-lived venture was wound up in 2002.[20]
2004: Reduction of deliveries to once daily. Travelling post office (“Mail Trains”) end.[21] SmartStamp is introduced.
2005: Mail Trains re-introduced on some lines.

2006: Royal Mail loses its monopoly when the regulator,[22] PostComm, opens up the Postal Market 3 years ahead of the rest of Europe.[23] Competitors can carry mail, and pass it to Royal Mail for delivery, a service known as Downstream access. Also introduces Pricing in Proportion (PiP) for first and second class inland mail.
2006: Online postage allows Royal Mail customers to pay for postage on the web, without the need to buy traditional stamps.
2007: Royal Mail Group PLC becomes Royal Mail Group Ltd in a slight change of legal status.
2007: Official Industrial Action takes place over pay, conditions and pensions.
2007: Sunday collections from pillar boxes end.[24]
2009: (September) CWU opens national ballot for industrial action.[25]
2010: Bicycles begin to be phased out, 130 years after they were first used.

Source: free press release

The English Royal Mail – from 1516 AD to Present Day, 5.0 out of 5 based on 6 ratings

published February 20th, 2011