Post Boxes

 ROYAL MAIL POST BOXES in Pembury

Compiled by Jane Grooms

Background

Post boxes were introduced in St Hellier, Jersey in 1852 as a trial. Their popularity resulted in pillar boxes being introduced to the main British Isles just a year later in 1853. They varied in size and design until March 1859 when a First National Standard was introduced and in 1866, the hexagonal Penfold pillar box was used to improve design further.

Originally, pillar boxes were painted in dark green to blend into the background but this advantage meant it was also a disadvantage when trying to find one! From 1874, pillar boxes began being re-painted in red as they are today. In 1879, the cylindrical shape became the standard shape and two sizes became available, Type A and a narrower Type B. in 1899, a Type C, oval box with two apertures to help sort mail was introduced.

In addition to pillar boxes, post boxes can also be found mounted in a wall, known for obvious reasons, as a ‘Wall Box’ and also mounted on a pole, known as a ‘Lamp Box’ because the original shape looked like a lamp.  Wall boxes and lamp boxes are lower capacity and are used in rural, less populated areas. Production of wall boxes stopped in 1980.

Royal Ciphers

Generally, post boxes have a ‘Royal Cipher’ indicating which monarch was on the throne when they were installed. The image below (British Postal Museum) shows the various Royal Ciphers that can be seen on post boxes today. However, between 1879 and 1887, pillar boxes were made without a Royal Cipher by accident. These are known as ‘Anonymous’ Boxes (an example exists on the corner of Frant Road/Montague Road in Tunbridge Wells). Anonymous boxes are Victorian.

 

The following table records as many post boxes as possible – past and present.    List is not ordered.

 

 1    Type B Pillar Box on the corner of the High Street and Woodhill Park.

The Royal Cipher shows this Pillar Box was made in the reign of George VI between 1936 and 1952.

2   Type B Pillar Box outside Pembury Pharmacy, High Street.

The Royal Cipher shows this Pillar Box is from the reign of our current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II so dates from 1952 onwards.

Note the bracket on the top which originally held a ‘Post Office Directional Sign’. The bracket would have been angled so that the arrow pointed to the Post Office. When it was decided to remove the sign, the Engineer should have collected the post box keys from Tunbridge Wells, unscrewed the bracket from the inside and then fitted a bolt cover over the bolt hole before returning the keys to Tunbridge Wells. As this was time consuming, Engineers would often use a lump hammer to break the bracket instead as what appears to have happened to this post box. Source: The Letter Box Study Group.

Below is an example of the sign attachment.

Picture S016 on this page show the Post Office sign on top of the box.
https://pembury.org/history/pictures-of-the-past/donated-photos-streets/

3   Type B Pillar box on Hastings Road, at the top of Bellfield Road.

This Pillar Box is positioned outside the former Post Office at 47 Hastings Rd.

It dates from the reign of George V between 1910 and 1936.

   George VI Wall Box (1936-1952) on Bo Peep Corner.
(Junction of Henwood Green Rd & Hastings Rd).The 1938 map below shows an ‘LB’ for Letter Box in the same location as the existing Wall Box. It is likely the current Wall Box is the same one as shown on the map.
5    George V Wall Box (1910-1936) on the corner of Henwood Green Road/Canterbury Road.

The Kelly’s Directory of 1916* makes reference to a Wall Letter Box in Canterbury Road. As 1916 is within the reign of George V and the current Wall Box in Canterbury Road has a GR Royal Cipher, it is likely to be the same Wall Box from 1916. The map from 1938 below shows ‘LB’ for Letter Box in the same location as the existing Wall Letter Box.

6   George VI Wall Box (1936-1952),     Romford Road.

Approx mid way between Henwood Green Rd and Heskett Park.

7   Elizabeth II Lamp Box, Romford Rd, near Romford Farm from 1952 onwards.
8   Victorian Wall Box, Little Stanton House, Woodside Road. Dates before 1901. The oldest Post Box in Pembury. In Mary Standen’s Pembury in old picture postcards, Nicky Stiles, a postman circa 1910 “would stand by the post box at Stanton House and blow a whistle. The people living there knew that they had five minutes to post any letters. Nicky cleared the box at 7 p.m. He would receive a nice Christmas box each year as a reward for this service.”

Kelly’s Directories from 1898, 1903 and 1904 refer to a Wall Letter Box at ‘Romford’. As the current Stanton House Wall Box is Victorian so made before 1901, it is possible that the ‘Wall Letter Box’ referenced in Kelly’s at Romford is actually the one at Stanton.  The 1892-1905 map below shows an ‘LB’ for Letter Box at Stanton House. The 1911 Kelly’s Directory lists Wall Letter Boxes at Romford AND Stanton House. It is possible that the Romford Letter Box referred to in the 1916 Kelly’s Directory* is a new one and the Victorian Wall Box is re-referenced as “Stanton House”.

9   Type B Pillar Box on the corner of Lower Green Road and Church Road.  It has an Elizabeth II Royal Cipher so dates from 1952 onwards.

A pillar box was outside the Post Office (72 Lower Green Rd) on the other side of the road. This may be the same one that has been moved.

10  A recent Elizabeth II Lamp Box on the corner of Amberleaze Drive.

This was installed after the George V Pillar Box was removed from Lower Green Road (next to the current pedestrian crossing).

11  Lower Green Road, by pedestrian crossing near Belfield Rd path.

Removed when item 10 (above) was installed

12   72 Lower Green Road.  Post Office – Kings.  Brick post box to right of shop.
No longer present.   Type unknown.King’s Stores and Post Office existed from 1965 to circa 1974. However, the Wall Post Box set in a pillar of bricks in the image could have been installed earlier than 1965. A circa 1922 image of the same shop run by Mr Beeching does not show the same Wall Box.  It follows it was installed between 1922 and 1965 so was likely to be either a George V, George VI or Elizabeth II Wall Box.
13   72 Lower Green Road.  Post Office – Beeching.
Embedded post box under right-hand shop window, next to man in apron.Enhanced portion of picture shows the box has 3 levels of text –

V (crown) R

Post Office

Letter Box

No longer present.   Type unknown.

Prior to 1910, it was the postmaster’s responsibility to provide a letter box at his premises at his own expense. Poorer postmasters would get a local carpenter to make a box known as Carpenter’s Box. From 1910, the Post Office rescinded this unfair requirement. Source: Letter Box Study group

14   47 Hastings Road.  Post Office.
The Post Office moved to 47 Hastings Road (formerly 29 Hastings Road – see History of the Postal Service in Pembury) in 1935.  The unused Wall Box is a ‘Ludlow Box’ named after its maker, James Ludlow of Birmingham. They were made in large and small versions and this one is a large version. It dates between 1929 and 1936 so would have had an enamel plate covering part of the box with the Royal Cipher of George V (see example). It follows that the Wall Box was likely to have been installed when the Post Office opened in 1935. Ludlow boxes are made of wood with a metal facing plate and cast-iron aperture casting. Being made of wood, they are likely to break if moved. The GRV Wall Box at 47 Hastings Road is recorded as in use until 2004 and painted black in 2005.  Source: Letter Box Study Group

 Above: post box is under the narrow window at the side of the old Post Office.

 

 

 

Right : Example of a large Ludlow Wall Letter Box.

George V Royal Cipher on Enamel Plate.

Believed to be how the Wall Box looked at 47 Hastings Road when in use.

15   31 High Street
Embedded post box in the wall next to 31 High St (the old telephone exchange).
No longer present.   Type unknown.
16   Church Road, approaching Kent College.
Queen Elizabeth II Lamp Box  made from 1952 onwards
17   Lost 1882 Victorian Pillar Box, Lower Green?
Kelly’s Directories of 1882 and 1886 list one letter box in Pembury namely a “PILLAR LETTER BOX at Lower Green, cleared at 5.30 p m”.  As 1882 was within the reign of Queen Victoria, and assuming Kelly’s is correct, this would have been a Victorian pillar box which no longer exists in Pembury. The Post Office at Lower Green was established in 1887 so the V R slot in the Beechings shop image (see above) is assumed to have been installed in 1887, five years later. No mention is made in 1892 Kelly’s Directory of a Lower Green Pillar Letter Box but the 1904 Kelly’s Directory refers to a Wall Letter Box at Lower Green. This could be the slot in the wall of Beeching Stores. Was the Lower Green Victorian Pillar Box removed or was it never there?Extract from the 1882 Kelly’s Directory
18    Lost 1892 Victorian Pillar Box, Romford Road?

Kelly’s Directory of 1892 refers to a “PILLAR LETTER BOX at Romford”. However, future Kelly’s Directories only refer to a Wall Letter Box at Romford. Was Kelly’s correct or was the Letter Box at Romford always a Wall Letter Box?

19     Lost Wall Letter Box at Romford.
Kelly’s Directories from 1898, 1903 and 1904 refer to a Wall Letter Box at ‘Romford’. From 1916, Kelly’s list Romford and Stanton House separately. As the current Lamp box in Romford Road was made after 1952 (see image above) and the 1916 Kelly’s Directory* lists the Stanton House Wall Letter Box and Romford Wall Letter Box separately, it is possible to conclude that the Romford Wall Letter Box in the 1916 Kelly’s Directory no longer exists.
20       Lost Wall Letter Box, 37 Hastings Road
The first known reference to a Wall Letter Box in the Kelly’s Directories for Hastings Road was in 1904. The 1911, 1912, 1914, 1916* and 1919 ** Kelly’s Directories also refer to a “Hastings Road” Wall Letter box.  The OS map from 1909 shows an ‘LB’ for Letter Box at the end of the drive for what is now (in 2021) Anand Lodge:

OS map 1909 and location of the former Letter Box.

 

 

A Wall Letter Box installed in 1904 during the reign of Edward VII is likely to have had the ERVII Royal Cipher. In 1904, there was no Post Office in Hastings Road so the Wall Letter Box could be the one shown on the 1909 OS map above.

There is no Wall Letter Box in this location today (2021).

 

 

 

An example of an Edward VII Wall Box is shown here:

 

21      Lost Wall Box, Knight’s Place
The 1916 Kelly’s Directory* makes reference to a Wall Letter Box at Knight’s Place. If installed in 1916, it could have been a George V Wall Box.*Extract from Kelly’s Directory, 1916
22      Lost Wall Box/Pillar Box, Hawkwell Place
Kelly’s Directory of 1919** makes reference to a Wall Letter Box at Hawkwell Place (now Kent College).  If installed in circa 1919, it is likely to have been a George V Wall Box.
**Extract from Kelly’s Directory, 1919
23 Lost Wall Box/Pillar Box, outside Hawkwell Farm
Article 16 September, 1955 reports on a theft of a letter posted in a box outside Hawkwell Farm.

All recent & local photos by Jane Grooms

If any corrections or additional information is forwarded please quote the reference number of the specific post box.

History of the Postal Service in Pembury    by Jane Grooms