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The Pillars Posts and Wall Boxes of Launceston

Did you know that Launceston boasts a very rare type of Victorian pillar box?

You can find this one in Northgate Street, just below where it crosses Tower Street, set back in a little garden below the level of Tower Street.

It must have been installed soon after 1879, when this design replaced the earlier octagonal ‘Penfold’ pillars. This design is known as the 'Anonymous' since the specification left off both the Queen’s initials, VR, and the words 'Post Office'.

The postbox at Newport

The arm on the top would have held a sign pointing to the nearest Post Office. In the 1880s it probably pointed to the new post office at Newport trains where replacing the mail coaches.

Following the introduction of the Penny Post (1840) and the spread of the railways, a letter from Launceston could be delivered anywhere in Britain within 24 hours. There were several deliveries every day and within a town you could post a letter in the morning and it would be delivered that afternoon.

Wall boxes like this were introduced in 1857 for locations where there was no space for a pillar. There is a Victorian one in Launceston, not far from the centre of town – can you find it?

Another Victorian wall box is located a couple of miles east from the town centre – this probably predates the pillar in Northgate street as it is on the old coach route to London. Victorian wall boxes have survived better than the pillars, and there are more within a few miles – keep your eyes open when out walking the dog.

V R wall box at Dunheved.

When Edward the Seventh came to the throne the initials ER included the letters ‘vii’. We don’t seem to have an EviiR pillar box in town, but there are a few Edwardian wall boxes around the area. Here’s one a couple of miles west of the town to discover for yourself.

For George the Fifth boxes the Roman numerals were omitted as unnecessary. The pillar at the old Newport Post Office is a plain GR, so perhaps replaced an earlier one if that office opened in Victorian times with the railway.

George the Sixth was designated as GviR, but, since his reign was mostly wartime, his boxes are pretty rare. Elizabeth’s boxes are labelled EiiR to distinguish her from her grandfather – except in Scotland where they do not recognize Elizabeth 1st as their queen, so nationalist fervour led to EiiR boxes being vandalised. Strangely the Cornish Nationalist movement never objected to these obvious signs of imperialist dominance.

The lamp-post box had been introduced in cities in Victorian times, but few survived. Elizabeth saw the introduction of the free-standing box with its own post, often found in rural areas.

Now, of course, we await the arrival of the first Charles the Third box – the big question is whether his boxes will be designated by a plain CR like his great grandfather’s GR, or the more florid CiiiR like his great-great grandfather EviiR ?

Perhaps one of the new housing estates being built will be given a Charlesian box, although at the moment so few people write letters there may be no need until the public internet runs out of electricity.

Liftondown wall box


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