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This is it! I've given up work -retired from the rat race and am about to start on a 10 year adventure, doing all those things I've been meaning to do but never had the time to do them. I've offloaded my responsibilities and it is now my time. So follow my adventures and see whether I actually manage anything!

Monday, 27 November 2017

Postal Museum (London Museum #32)

The Postal Museum has finally reopened in new premises. Ever since visiting Debden on the Central  line where the Royal Mail storage depot is situated, I have awaited tho opening of this new museum with great excitement. Not because of the fine postal memorabilia but because of the mail train!

There are lots of historical items in the museum such as this Queen Victoria 'London Ornate' pillar box 1857-59.

Lots of letters were carried along the post roads in the 1700s. But there were two problems -speed and security. Post boys who carried the mail were often slow and unreliable. They were an easy target for highwaymen, despite the threat of execution. In 1784 new mail coaches replaced post boys along key routes.

This is an example of a frock coat worn by a mail guard. The guards carried guns as well as a post horn. The mail coach had priority over all other road users. The post horn's blast blast warned others to move out of the way.

Red pillar boxes are a familiar sight on our streets but this wasn't always the case. The Post Office first installed pillar boxes in the Channel Islands in 1852. They were very successful and green, cast iron boxes appeared throughout the country. However, people in the countryside thought they looked dull and hard to see so in 1874 red became the preferred colour.
There used to be blue pillar boxes for air mail letters.


When Edward VIII came to the throne in 1936, the Post Office produced stamps showing his portrait and over 160 new pillar boxes. But Edward VIII reigned for less than a year before he abdicated and George VI became king. The Post Office had to produce new stamps again and when the Edward VIII pillar boxes were repaired the initials were changed to GVI. So these pillar boxes are very rare.

The original art work for the stamp.

The museum isn't just about the post but other forms of communication such as the phone.

Remember the old A and B telephones?

There was also a display of posters.



1937 Outposts of the Empire, Barbados


There are a number of sets of stamps on view.
Battle of Britain and Churchill stamps.

This is a plaster cast of the Queen wearing the diadem rather than a tiara (1966). This is used to finalise the design of the Queen's head on  stamps.
There is a lot to see and a number of interactive displays at the Museum but I was very keen to have a go on the Mail Rail. This was in another building across the road and had to be booked in advance. The Mail Rail transported the mail under the streets of London from 1927 to 2003. By the turn of the 20th century congested streets and fog meant that mail transported between the main Post Offices and train stations was severely delayed.

In 1911 an electric driverless railway was suggested and an act of Parliament was passed in 1913. The new railway would consist of six and a half miles of tunnels linking the East and West ends of London with 8 stations including Paddington, Mount Pleasant and Liverpool Street. Due to the war the railway didn't open until 1927. The tunnels were used in the first world war to store and protect art treasures from the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. In the 1990s more than six million bags of mail were carried below ground each year. That's four million letters a day.
These trains were built for mail bags not people.

Here's an old photo of the mail bags being loaded onto the train.

It was very cramped inside and we were asked not to touch the sides as the train would automatically stop. Easier said than done.

There was a very interesting commentary when we stopped at the different platforms.

The trains have been updated with seats etc but they are still the same size as the Mail Rail.

I really enjoyed my visit to the Museum and a ride on the train.


  1. Very thorough and detailed trip through the museum. Thank you for educating me! I am fascinated by all the history. :-)

  2. What a fabulous trip down memory lane - I do remember those old phones with the A and B buttons! Wow - I'm older than I thought :-) Thank you for sharing.

  3. I've almost all the queen stamps.. in todays world getting snail mails is very rare, so getting beautiful postal stamps is also very rare.. Once I used to collect stamps, and still keep them.. I'm not going to give them away.. they are very near to my heart.. :)

  4. I would love to visit but will make do with my virtual visit here. So no one touched the sides and wrecked the train. The posters are very attractive too.

  5. I would enjoy this place....Great post.

  6. That's interesting - a mail train does make a lot of sense in a city like London.

  7. Awesome, when you said mail train I thought you meant the one on the main railway, forgot about the one that ran under London. A place I would like to visit that

  8. Very interesting to see how the post changed !

  9. Very nice museum, always love to see those old items.

  10. That is a fascinating insight. I do miss the red phone boxes but we still have a few red hole-in-the-wall letterboxes.

  11. Hello, what a great our tour of the postal museum. It would be a must see for the stamp collector. I like the cute mail train. Happy Tuesday, enjoy your day!

  12. What a great idea for a museum! Interesting history. Wonder if something like this exists in the US?

  13. Beautiful post (pun intended) and photos of the Postal Museum

    Happy Week to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  14. I didn't know a post office museum would be so interesting. I do remember the A and B phones.
    I had no idea about the Mail Rail and lucky you, to ride it!

  15. Another example of "you learn something new every day" - I know a lot about the UK but had never heard of the underground mail system. Cool!

  16. I would enjoy visiting this museum. My favorite novelist, Anthony Trollope, had a lot to do with establishing the red mail pillar boxes in England. I hope the museum describes his role.

  17. That sure is a comprehensive museum.

  18. I heard about the mail train opening as well. It sounds like a great way to see something different.


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