More proof that our county was the craddle of civilisation. Cork street furniture expert Tom Spalding makes some startling discoveries..." />

The Oldest Post Box in the World

Posted on Jul 23, 2009 in Cork Street Furniture


Boxed up in Kent Station

As I feel that these pages have been sadly bereft of street-furniture related material since the visits of Vank Van Oofer, I offer the article below, the first of a series of five on the subject.

1. The Oldest Post Box in the World(of Cork)

Royal Red pillar post boxes may be a symbol of Great Britain, but despite what our neighbours across the sea may think, they aren't a British invention, or sadly, a Cork one. In fact, they were quite common on the Continent for many years before being introduced to the mainland (i.e. here).

We have Anthony Trollope, the author, to thank for their presence in our city. Trollope's day job was working with the Royal Mail, and whilst he was based in Dublin for many years, he travelled about Ireland and the UK.

He was sent as a trouble-shooter to Guernsey in the Channel Islands to see how their postal service could be improved. After some thought he hit upon the inspired idea of copying the Continentals and using post boxes at the side of the road to allow customers drop their letters securely, when the Post Office was shut. This was 1852.
The idea spread rapidly, and in combination with the railways and steamships, helped create a Victorian internet.

Large cities could expect ten or more mail collections a day, with next day delivery to much of the country. The Kent Station post box, which dates between 1857/9, was probably installed in the original Pembroke Quay railway station, but when our new station was built in 1893, it was re-installed there.

T'was a while before they realised how the mail was getting wet....

It was the last collection point for mail to Dublin, and one can easily imagine stressed-out Victorian clerks and office-boys legging it out of town and up Lower Glanmire Road to catch the post. Punters were guaranteed a delivery the next day, but at a premium price.

The letters themselves were sorted on-board train Post Offices, a tradition which continued until 1994 when this link between the post and train was severed.

The Kent Station post box itself is unusual in several ways: it's the oldest post box in the city by a margin of 20 years, its tiny (only 4' tall), to save cash it doesn't have a royal monogram on it as most later British boxes did, the letter slot is on the top (a design flaw which was no doubt noticed when similar boxes were installed on the soggy city streets) and, after the demolition of its twin in a car crash, it is now unique in the world.

So, in a way, it is the oldest post box in the world (or Cork).

Text and Photographs © Tom Spalding, 2009

See also Tom's book, available on the PRoC site, click here

"Cork City: A Field Guide to its Street Furniture"
With thanks to Mr. Chris Williams, the Letter Box Study Group.




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