logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Posting (mailing)
in 1940s and 1950s Britain

YOU ARE HERE: home > communication

The word 'mail' is a comparatively recent introduction into the English language. While I was growing up in 1940s and 1950s Britain, we 'posted' letters, we didn't mail them, and the postman delivered the 'post' not the 'mail'.

to top of page

Postal collections

Late postal collections in the mid 20th century

While I was away at University in the 1950s, I could cycle to Exeter St Davids station and post letters and cards home to Cambridge as late as 11.00 at night. The sorting was on the train and everything always arrived the next morning.

Neil Cryer

There were several collections a day and they were extremely reliable. What was more, we always knew whether or not we had caught the post at a post box because the there was a small white enamel tablet which stated when the next post would be. It was changed at every collection.

to top of page

Letter boxes /post boxes /pillar boxes

George VI UK postbox of the sort mounted on a pillar

Georgian UK post box. Photographed in Bath Postal Museum.

Note the small white tablet, just below the postage slot, which informed when the next collection would be and which was changed at each collection.

Detail of a George VI post box indicating a date of between 1936 and 1952

Detail confirming that a post box is a George VI one

The 'Georgian' refers to George the Sixth, as indicated by the small Roman VI between the G and the R.

Chris Hayward

Georgian UK postbox

Georgian UK post box. Photographed in Fagans Museum of Welsh Life.

George V or George VI post boxes?

This Georgian post box has no numeral, so it must be from the time of George the Fifth. Before him there had not been a George for 80 years, which was before the establishment of the Penny Post in 1840. Furthermore, the post box is a more traditional-looking one, with a smaller white panel for details of collection times, etc.

Chris Hayward

We posted letters in what were variously called letter boxes, post boxes and pillar boxes.

I suppose that 'letter box' and 'post box' were general names and that 'pillar box' was for freestanding column-style boxes, but people just seemed to use whatever term came first to mind. The term 'mail box' was never used.

Post boxes were always red and showed the name of the monarch at the time of installation, but as I was never interested in this at the time, I took little notice. In view of the Second World War and the austerity afterwards, I doubt if there were many new post boxes when I was a child. Victorian post boxes were probably still in use.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

to top of page

facebook icon twitter icon

This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.