Guernsey on the Map – The First and Oldest Post Box in the British Isles
A SEMINAL IDEA
The idea of providing permanent box es at convenient positions through- out a city , enabling people to post their letters, dates back to 1653. These first post boxes appeared in Paris though were not received with much enthusiasm by the Parisians. After a short trial period the boxes were removed although they were re -introduced in 1758. Gradually the scheme gained public support and by 1829, post boxes could be found throughout most regions of France.
Anthony Trollope, later to become the famous novelist, worked as a Post Office surveyor who district included the Channel Islands. During a visit to France he had inspected their post boxes and felt the system could work in Britain . As a small area of Britain would be required to test public opinion, Trollope paid an official visit to Jersey from 4th to 12th November, 1851, then to Guernsey to ascertain whether the islands would be suitable for his requirements. On his return to Exeter to his boss, the chief surveyor of the Western District of England, and put forw ard his proposition concerning the installation of post boxes in the Channel Islands. The scheme was passed on up to the Postmaster General, Lord Clanricarde, who sanctioned t he experiment.
On 23rd November, 1852, the first post boxes in Britan became operational in Jersey. These were situated in David Place, New Street, Cheapside and St.Clement’s Road. They proved extremely popular and on the 8th February 1853, the inhabitants of Guernsey were also able to make use of post boxes. Number 1 was situated in Union Street, number 2 in Hauteville and number 3 at The Piette.
All the post boxes used in the Channel Islands were cast in Jersey each costing £7.00 to make. The boxes were emptied each morning , except Sunday, in time for any mail destined for the mainland to be despatched to London the same day. The experiment proved so successful that after two years the Post Office introduced boxes throughout London, after which little red boxes could be found the length and breadth of Britain.
A POSTAL LEGACY
Over the years all the original post boxes in the Channel Islands. except the number 1 in Union Street in Guernsey. were either replaced or transferred to postal museums. In October 1980 the Post Office changed their image by painting all their boxes deep blue. Guernsey’s number 1 box was situated in the grounds of a hotel. When the Post Office workers arrived, armed with paint and brushes, the owner of the hotel stopped them from applying blue paint to the oldest box in the land . He contacted certain States members and over the next few years numerous debates and letters concerning the colour of this one particular post box filled the pages of the Guernsey Press.
In September, 1987, the workers returned to Union Street, only this time their paint pot contained the original maroon paint.
The number one post box is still in use today and one can only wonder as to just how many letters and cards have been ” Popped in the Post ” during its many years of service.