Did you know that there's a museum in Debden, out on the Eastern fringes of the Central Line? The British Postal Museum Store is a corker, well worth the trip, even if you're not an over-keen postie or stamp collector.
This is the place that Royal Mail stores all its bulky items: ancient post boxes, vintage delivery vans, a mobile post office and plenty more besides. They offer occasional public tours, and we popped along yesterday.
The two-hour tour was split into two halves, beginning with Post Office vehicles, breaking for a cup of tea, then concluding with a spellbinding (yes, really) history of the humble post box. The many highlights include:
- Capsules from the London Pneumatic Despatch Company, an unsuccessful Victorian scheme to deliver mail by underground tube powered by pneumatic pressure. The two capsules on show are the only known survivors.
- Mail Rail trains. Examples of carriages from the Post Office's more successful underground railway, which closed last decade.
- A penny-farthing-style delivery vehicle, never put into service.
- A row of thirty or so post boxes spanning 150 years of design evolution.
Click through the gallery above for more details.
The Museum Store offers occasional free tours, and the next one's on 5 September. They also welcome private bookings for groups. To make an enquiry, contact them on 020 7239 2570 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You'll never leave a post box unexamined again.
Royal Mail also operates a more centrally located archive, which coincidentally has an open day on 13 August. Find out more here.
With thanks to guides Vicky and Chris, who are both knowledgeable and passionate about their subject.
Other reviewed tours: