LONDON: Who wouldn't recognise the iconic British crimson red postbox,
as much a defining feature here as the (now defunct) red routemaster bus
and red phonebox.
But a gold postbox sounds like an April fool's joke -- until the Royal
Mail unveiled the first of its kind outside Westminster Abbey on July
As an honour to British athletes who win gold medals in the Olympics
and Paralympics, Royal Mail will paint a postbox in the athlete's
hometown gold. In a team event, the chosen location will be one relevant
to the whole team.
This will be the first time since 1874 that the postbox undergoes a colour change. The early postboxes were painted green to blend in with the
countryside. However, this was later changed to red for better
No other country has honoured their Olympic champions in this manner before.
The postbox or pillar box was first introduced to the United Kingdom by
the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, who was a postal surveyor at
the time. Charged with solving the problem of erratic mail collection on the
Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey by the Post Office boat because
of weather conditions, he decided to emulate the French use of pillar
boxes for mail collection.
At the time, outgoing mail would be taken to a receiving house, usually
a coaching inn, where the mail coach would drop and pick up mail and
passengers. The first postbox was introduced on Jersey island in 1852 and on Botchergate, Carlisle, on the main island the following year.
Since then, the postbox has undergone several layers of transformation to its cylindrical and oval shape.
The hexagonal postbox was designed by an architect named Penfold in
1866. Some 150 of them are still in use today, a testimony to the
quality and durability of the cast iron boxes.
Indeed, when the Irish Republican Army bombed the Arndale Centre in
Manchester in 1996, the only thing that survived the attack was a
Victorian pillar box dating back to 1887. The postboxes all bear the royal cipher of the reigning monarch, for
example, VR for Queen Victoria and E II R for Queen Elizabeth II.
A discerning tourist in London will be able to spot the different types
of postboxes bearing the royal cipher of the different reigning
monarchs over five periods:
Victoria: 1837-1901 Edward VII: 1901-1910 (In picture above) -- www.smkevii.edu.my George V: 1910-1936 George VI: 1936-1952 Elizabeth II: 1952 - present day
This British icon, which has found its way to every Commonwealth
country, has been immortalised in Disney movies like Mary Poppins and
Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Next time you find yourself in the UK, don't just walk pass a postbox
-- you might get to pose next to a piece of postal history.