The Evolution Of The Postbox

By M@

Last Updated 27 January 2024

The Evolution Of The Postbox

Psst! You can buy the Evolution of the Postbox as an exclusive print.

A graphic showing a range of postboxes from different reigns
Click or tap for larger version

Welcome to your new hobby... postbox spotting.

A postbox is not just a postbox. Over the decades, hundreds of variations have been installed across Britain. It's a geeky joy to spot the different types and try to make sense of it all. And now we have a graphic to help.

The first postboxes were installed on the Channel Islands in 1852 under the direction of Anthony Trollope (the same one who would later become a famous novelist). They quickly spread to the mainland and the first reached London in 1855.

The earliest boxes were a bronze-green colour, to blend in with surroundings. This proved unhelpful as nobody could find them. In 1874, the familiar red colour began to appear. The change was not to everyone's tastes, with one columnist lamenting the "inflammatory hue", which he feared would scare horses.

As you can see from our diagram, postbox design had little standardisation in the early years. By 1879, though, a form not so different from modern boxes had emerged as the most common. Even so, the design has been tweaked many times over the decades. Our diagram captures the most common forms (along with some interesting novelties), but could never be comprehensive.

This article is part of the Trilogy of Street Furniture, along with our Family Tree of London Bollards, and Evolution of the Phone Kiosk.

To suggest additions or corrections, please email [email protected]