Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Postbox incognito

Postboxes came in many shapes, sizes and colours until some uniformity arrived in the 1880s. One thing almost all did have in common was the royal cypher. However, there were rare exceptions, and I spotted one of these 'anonymous' boxes in Clifton, Bristol.

The cylindrical box we're familiar with today made its appearance in 1879. In 1883, though, a new batch was made in which the 'VR' was accidentally omitted. These were the anonymous boxes - produced until 1887 when the cypher reappeared, never to disappear again. What made them truly anonymous was the omission of the words 'Post Office' too.

There was another flaw in this particular model: the high aperture. Because it was so near the box's cap, mail was liable to get caught up. Later versions had a lower opening - although they didn't immediately correct the anonymity issue!


Minnie said...

Anonymous letter boxes? Never knew - or, rather, never noticed! Thank you for yet more eye-opening info.
In Dublin, they kept the existing letter boxes post 1922 - crowns/royal insignia and all. The govt simply had them painted a peculiarly hideous shade of sage green. And so they are to this day.

Hels said...

You find the most amazing pieces of postalia .. I love it.

When a stamp has a flaw, it becomes highly collectable and therefore more valuable. Watch out for future generations of letter box collectors - they will love the 1883-7 anonymous boxes :)

The high aperture was something else altogether. That error should have been picked up as soon as the model was tested, before it was installed in cities and towns.

CarolineLD said...

Hels, I think in testing the aperture was probably fine: it was only in real-life situations like posting a handful of letters one-handed in the wind that the problems became obvious! Similar issues with other models, such as rain getting in through badly-placed apertures, also seem to have emerged only once the box was actually on the pavement.

Minnie, it's interesting that Dublin have kept their royal insignia. Presumably thriftiness won over other sensitivities! In Scotland, postboxes don't say ERII (although they do have the crown) because she is of course the first Queen Elizabeth of Scotland.

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