Parish Post Boxes

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Ilsington Parish Post Boxes

 The first roadside post boxes appeared in 1852 in the Channel Islands and ever since that time a wide variety of differing boxes have been placed across the streets of mainland UK to facilitate the posting of letters and cards to family, friends and others.  Each of the boxes made of cast iron and painted red for distinctiveness, bear a Royal Cipher that consists of two letters to signify the monarch under whose reign they were manufactured.  For example some boxes within the Parish have VR (Victoria Regina) and GR (George Rex) on their facades.  In the case of George VI and our current queen, Elizabeth II, Roman numerals have been inserted to distinguish them from previous monarchs.  At the last count there were 14 boxes within the parish boundary. There are essentially three different types, pillar, wall and lamp.

Pillar Boxes

 These are perhaps the best-known type of box. They are tall, cast iron receptacles of differing sizes for the collection of large volumes of mail, hence they are usually found in towns and cities where the population is greatest.  Although the first Victorian pillar boxes were painted green, nowadays the preferred colour is red, designed to catch our attention as we pass. We are fortunate to have our own Elizabethan pillar box standing outside Liverton Post Office (PO) and Stores at Exeter Cross on the old A38.  This particular box, manufactured in c1992, was a fairly new addition to the Parish in the mid 1990s and replaced an earlier lamp box, which was way too small to cope with the growing demand.  Before that there was a Georgian wall box at the PO.  The door of the box bears Queen Elizabeth II ’s cipher and the words ‘Royal Mail’.  The maker’s name of ‘Machan’ can be seen on its black painted base.

Liverton Post Office

Wall Boxes

 These were first introduced in 1857 to accommodate rural settings and slowly but surely started to appear in the numerous hamlets and villages across Devonshire.  As their name implies they were either built into walls, brick pillars at the road edge or sometimes into the side of buildings but only had a small capacity. Today, Ilsington Parish retains three wall boxes from the Victorian era, in the hamlets of Sigford and South Knighton and outside the Welcome Stranger public house, all dating from 1882 and one at Narracombe Farm dating from around 1875.  There are also three surviving from the reign of George V, at Smokey Cross below Haytor Vale, in Liverton village centre and at Cummings Cross, all of which date from c1933.

Cummings Cross Liverton Sigford Smokey Cross South Knighton Welcome Stranger Narracombe

 Lamp Boxes

 Small detachable letterboxes were introduced in 1897 onto the streets of London and as their name suggests were fixed onto lamp posts throughout the city to facilitate the growing trend of people writing late letters late at night.  Eventually lamp boxes extended to rural areas and today they can be seen attached to telegraph poles, stone posts and atop freestanding pedestals.  Sometimes, where nothing appropriate could be found to fix it to, a lamp box would be placed in a wall.  We have one such example in the Parish at Bag Tor House.  Just one lamp box from George V’s era can be found this one stands outside the Rock Inn at Haytor Vale.  Although this particular letterbox is an important postal artefact dating from c1933, it was only put in place after the closure of the PO in early 2005.  A Georgian wall box at the old PO has now been removed.  In turn, following the closure of the Post Office, the replacement lamp box, because of capacity problems, was eventually superseded by a much larger and modern so-called Bantam box that was first manufactured for Royal Mail by the Romec Company in 1999.  The distinctively shaped pillar box type was set on a pedestal some 50 metres or so along the road to Ilsington in early 2006 and reflects a policy by Royal Mail to replace older boxes with this new design.  There have been some recent installations in Bickington and at New Park near Bovey Tracey to confirm this trend.  The older Georgian lamp box outside the Rock Inn has now been sealed and although out of service to the public has been retained by the Inn in conjunction with Royal Mail as a significant postal artefact, set as it is in an appropriate rural setting.
Two lamp boxes from George VI’s era can be found at Lewthorne Cross and the aforementioned Bag Tor House, both of which date from c1937-47. The remaining lamp boxes date from Queen Elizabeth II ’s reign and can be found on a stone post at Summerhill Crescent in Liverton (c1952-55), in Green Lane (c1969-76), and outside Ilsington PO (c1983-85).

Bagtor House Green Lane Ilsington Post Office Lewthorne Cross Rock Inn Summerhill Crescent
Rock Inn - Old Box


For those interested in the history of letterboxes the following texts and articles are recommended:

 Jenkinson T (2002) Posting A Letter on Dartmoor: A Brief History of the Red Post Box Dartmoor Magazine no 69 Winter

 Robinson M (2000) Old Letter Boxes Shire Publications Buckinghamshire

Young Farrugia J (1969) The Letter Box: A History of Post Office Pillar and Wall Boxes Centaur Press Ltd Sussex

 There is also the Letter Box Study Group (LBSG), who provide information on the various types and locations of post boxes throughout the United Kingdom. Click here to access their website.

Thanks to Tim Jenkinson of Liverton for submitting the information and most of the pictures for this page.

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