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We will discuss pillarboxes in great detail & please view our large photo gallery of interesting & unusual post office related images located throughout ireland.
Following Irish independence in 1922, existing British pillar boxes were retained, and when the Irish Free State left the commonwealth following the declaration of the Republic of Ireland in 1949 existing pillar & wall boxes were then painted green. Many of these are extant around the country, retaining the monogram of the monarch who reigned at the time of the box's installation. The Department of Posts and Telegraphs continued installing similar pillar boxes and wall boxes, but with the initials SÉ (for Saorstát Éireann), a harp or the P & T logo, instead of a monarch's monogram. Since 1984 An Post, the current Irish postal administration, use the An Post logo to adorn their posting boxes.
History of the Pillarbox.
A pillar box is a free-standing post box, in Great Britain & Ireland, and in most ex-British Empire or Commonwealth of Nations countries, such as Australia, India and Gibraltar, where mail is deposited to be collected by the Royal Mail, An Post or the appropriate postal operator and forwarded to the addressee. Pillar boxes have been in use since 1852, just 12 years after the introduction of the first adhesive postage stamps and uniform penny post.
Mail may also be deposited in lamp boxes or wall boxes that serve the same purpose as pillar boxes but are attached to a post or set into a wall. According to the Letter Box Study Group, there are more than 150 recognised designs and varieties of pillar boxes and wall boxes, not all of which have known surviving examples. Royal Mail estimates there are over 100,000 post boxes in the United Kingdom.
The most famous of the early designs is that named after the architect who designed it, J W Penfold.
The Penfold boxes come in three sizes and altogether there are nine different types. They are very widespread, with the biggest accumulations in London and Cheltenham. Others are spread across England, Ireland (example in New Ross Co Wexford) , India (Including locally-made copies), British Guyana, Australia and New Zealand. There are no original Penfolds in Scotland, but 1989-built replicas have been erected in these areas, as well as other deserving locations where they are suitable. The first replica Penfold was erected at Tower Bridge, in London, on the south embankment and carries a commemorative plaque. Genuine Penfolds can be seen at the British Postal Museum & Archive Museum Store in Debden, Essex, The Farm Museum in Normanby by Scunthorpe, the National Railway Museum at York, Beamish Open Air Museum, the Black Country Museum, Crich National Tramway Museum, Oakham Treasures, near Bristol (see link below), The Isle of Wight Postal Museum near Newport, Isle of Wight and Bygones Museum in Basingstoke, whilst the Severn Valley Railway and the Talyllyn Railway both have replica Penfolds. Penfolds, distinguished by their hexagonal construction and Acanthus bud surmounting the cap, were originally exclusively city-based, but have now found their way into rural areas as well.
About 300 were made, of which 150 survive. Nearly 100 replicas have also been installed.
The New Zealand boxes are the only Penfolds to bear the cipher of King Edward VII;
all others have the cipher of Queen Victoria.
Late 19th and early 20th century boxes
New post box designs were ordered in 1887 for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. For the first time there was a lamp-post mounted letter box for use in London squares, but which soon established themselves in rural areas (see lamp boxes). For the big cities, a double aperture oval shaped pillar (designated Type C) was introduced, partly to increase capacity and certainly in London, to allow mail to be pre-sorted by region, normally with apertures marked separately for "London" and "Country". All pillar and lamp boxes now had the distinctive imperial cipher of Victoria Regina, whilst the wall-mounted boxes continued to show only a block cipher VR. The new pillar box design saw out the reign and remained little changed until 1905, when the basic design was refined.
Edward VII box with aperture on door, post 1905, fitted with Telephone direction sign
The Edward VII boxes now had the posting aperture as part of the door, rather than the body of the box. That eliminated the chance for mail to get caught up in the top of the box. This basic design remains the same today, having served well throughout the reigns of George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II.
An experiment of 1932 was the addition of a Stamp Vending Machine to the end of the post box. This necessitated an oval planform for the box even though it was only provided with a single posting aperture. At one end of the oval is the stamp machine and at the other is the posting aperture. The boxes have two doors; one for clearance of mail and one for emptying the cash and reloading the stamp machines. The machines were set to vend two halfpenny stamps in exchange for one old penny, the stamps being supplied in a long continuously wound roll known as a coil. Boxes were again made in two sizes, designated Type D and Type E, and carried raised lettering on the castings indicating the position of the stamp vending machine, as well as an array of small enamel plates warning users of the danger of bent coins and the need to wait for stamps to be issued before inserting more money. Several of each have survived in use in England and in the Isle of Man.
A return to cylindrical boxes followed with the so-called Anonymous boxes of 1879. Andrew Handyside of Derby was the foundry, but omitted the Royal Cipher and the words "Post Office" leading to the Anonymous soubriquet. It took 13 years before this error was corrected, even though the box had undergone a major design change during that time. This involved lowering the position of the aperture relative to the top of the box. The original "High Aperture" design was prone to communications becoming caught under the rim of the cap. This was solved by lowering the aperture so that it falls centrally between the two raised beading lines. Consequently the second style is known as "Low Aperture
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19thC extracts from 'The Illustrated London News' Kilkenny to Thurles Royal Mail