A number of people are only just figuring out why Britain’s iconic red box postboxes often have different symbols on them, each one representing a distinct period in British history
Image: PAUL GILLIS / Reach PLC)
The classic red postbox remains a fixture in towns and villages across Britain, but many most likely won’t stop to consider what the varying symbols mean, and their significance in terms of local history.
Taking to a local Facebook community page, one history buff remarked that he imagined plenty of people weren’t aware that post boxes bear the royal cypher of the reigning king and queen at the time of construction.
Sharing a pic of his own local postbox, the man noted that it was marked with the cypher of Queen Elizabeth II’s father King George VI, meaning it would have had to have been built more than 70 years ago.
PAUL GILLIS / Reach PLC)
PAUL GILLIS / Reach PLC)
The amateur historian remarked: “Just a fun fact for those of you who probably walk past this every day and don’t know its history.”
A number of people were pleased to learn this interesting nugget of information and vowed to pay more attention to postboxes while out and about in the future.
One person commented: “Posted many a card and letter in it lived round the corner over 60 years and didn’t know that.”
Another wrote: “Excellent! Love this kind of trivia! Thanks for sharing.”
According to the Postal Museum website, royal cyphers were first inscribed on letter boxes during the reign of Queen Victoria, with one of the oldest of these boxes still in existence erected in the Channel Islands. The very first postbox cyphers bore the letters VR – Victoria Regina, and those that bear this marking could date back as far as 1937.
When Edward VII ascended the throne in 1901, his crown-topped cypher was made up of interwoven letters, ER for Edward Rex, as well as the regnal number for seven in Roman numerals VII.
Edward VII’s reign ended in 1910, after which his son King George V opted for a simple GR, without the regnal number. He was succeeded in 1936 by King Edward VIII, who reigned for just 326 days. Postboxes which bear the abdicated king’s cypher are understood to be particularly rare.
Postboxes bearing the GR cypher were built during the reign of King George VI, who was on the throne from 1936 up until 1952. The ER cypher can be seen on boxes built during the lengthy reign of his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned for a record-breaking 70 years and 214 days.
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