Following the introduction of Rowland Hill’s Uniform Penny Postage in 1840, the volume of mail increased significantly. As the number of post offices was limited the public urged the Post Office to adopt the continental practice of installing roadside letter boxes. As early as 1653, boxes had been erected in Paris.
But we can go further back than this, to the 1500's when Charters, proclamations, and decrees were sent out on a regular basis by messengers on horse back. These people were in fact our first postmen! And so it came to be that the postal service was nationalised. Not only could the Government, Royalty, and other Government services send their post and mail for free, but they could start to recoup a little of the costs by letting everybody use their messenger services.
The post office in Rishton started out on the corner of High Street and Henry Street. The clock, which is still prominent today (2003), was given to the post office by the Victoria Mill Company, who also used it to make sure that their workers arrived on time for work.
In 1926 the council applied to the postmaster at Blackburn for a new post box to be place at number 93 Spring Street. There is no post box there as of 2002.
They also requested that the post office remain open from 9 am till 8 pm, and to remain open during lunch hour and Wednesday afternoon.
The clerk reported that with regard to the question of a full Post Office under the Crown, he had heard from the Post-Master General, Major H. A. Proctor, and the head Postmaster of Blackburn that same was receiving the necessary attention on the 6th June 1936.
The Postmaster called for attention to the small Letter-box apertures and asked the Council's co-operation in this matter, by affixing to approved Plans for Houses a slip calling the attention of the Architect or Builder to same on the 3rd December 1936.
A request was made to the Post Office by the Rishton Urban District Council on the 1st June 1939 to affix stamp machines to the pillar boxes in the District. On the 20th July his reply was received; A letter was read from the Head Postmaster at Blackburn regarding the Councils application for a stamp machine to be fixed at Blackburn Road, Cutt Lane pillar box, intimating that it was not possible to provide such facilities.
The first pillar boxes
On 23 November 1852, the first four British pillar boxes were introduced as an experiment in St Helier, Jersey, following a suggestion made by the Surveyor’s Clerk, Anthony Trollope (now famous as a novelist). The red painted hexagonal boxes were designed locally by John Vaudin. After the success of these trials a further three boxes were erected on Guernsey in February 1853.
When pillar boxes were first erected on mainland Britain in September of that year, they were octagonal and painted dark green. The very first stood in Botchergate, Carlisle. The first six London pillar boxes appeared on 11 April 1855.
The Council Chairman stated on the 11th June 1936, that he thought it desirable that the Rishton Post Office be converted to a full Post Office under the Crown, as fuller facilities would then be afforded to the public of Rishton, and explained the various advantages they would derive from the same.
"Resolved that we make application to the Postmaster General to have our local Post Office converted to a Full Post Office under the Crown"
A copy of the resolution was posted to the Head Postmaster in Blackburn, the Postmaster General, and the member of Parliament for the Division.
On the 2nd November 1939, the Council clerk read correspondence received concerning the Order in Council amending the Shops (Hours of Closing) Act, 1928. The Council resolved that the application for extension to 8 pm on the late night and 7 pm on other evenings should be approved, and it was further resolved that the Council clerk should communicate with the postmaster requesting the extension of Post Office hours similarly, and that Councillor. G. Thomlinson M. P., and Major Proctor, M. P., should be informed that this request had been made to the Postmaster.
A reply was received on the 14th December 1939. The Council clerk reported upon correspondence from Councillor Tomlinson, M. P., and Major Proctor, M. P., intimating that the closing hours for Post Offices were to be extended to 7 pm in those districts where the shop hours had been extended to 7 pm.
Correspondence was read from the Head Postmaster, Blackburn, on the 12th October 1944, concerning an earlier postal delivery on Saturday afternoons.
On the 12th October 1944. the Council Surveyor was instructed to make arrangements for the illumination of the public clock in High Street, which was placed above the Post office.
There are currently 7 post boxes in Rishton, these are situated on;
Blackburn Road, near to the junction with Sussex Road (more later) on the edge of the Esplanade.
The corner of Church Street and Blackburn Road, at the side of the Church.
Outside the main post office, although this has also been moved from the wall on George Street (see the picture here), to a pillar box on High Street, next to the post office window.
Stourton Street, near the junction with Cliff Street, in the wall of the former Co-op building.
Walmsley Avenue, approximately halfway down, near to the junction with Beech Close, and across from the junction with Elm Close.
Tottleworth Village, outside Manor Farm, were the former number 9 Tottleworth once stood.
and on the corner of James Street and Hermitage Street, again in the wall of the former Co-op building.
It should be noted that the post box on Stourton Street still bears the emblem of King George, rather than Elizabeth, and is the only one left doing so in Rishton.
The Council Surveyor was instructed to inspect the condition of Tottleworth Road on the 17th January 1946, and draw the attention of the Dunkenhalgh Estate thereto. The attention of the Police was also to be drawn to the broken lamps and that the attention of the Post Office authorities be drawn to the necessity for the provision of a Post box.
The Public clock was repaired where necessary and it was painted by the Contractor carrying out decorations at the Post Office on the 13th June 1946. The Officials were requested to investigate the question of an overhanging sign outside a building in High Street.
Also on the 13th June 1946, The Council Clerk was instructed to make a request to the Postmaster for a later despatch of letters in the evening. The Clerk submitted a letter received on the 11th July 1946, from the Head Postmaster, Blackburn, stating that an earlier collection of letters will be made in the evenings, namely: - 6 p.m. from the boxes and 6-15 p.m. from the Sub-Office. An interview was sought with the Head Postmaster in order to discuss postal facilities in this area. The Council Clerk submitted a letter on the 5th September 1946, from the Head Postmaster at Blackburn stating that the mail would be collected from the Cutt Lane Pillar Box at 7 p. m. instead of 6 p. m. in accordance with the request of the Council.
A letter from the Head Postmaster, Blackburn, stating he was unable to install postage stamp machines was read to the council on the 14th August 1947. The members were asked to advise the Clerk of any tradesman who would be prepared to sell postage stamps at his premises.
National Standard pillar box
The National Standard pillar box was first introduced in March 1859. It incorporated the best features of earlier boxes together with a protective hood on the roof covering a horizontal posting aperture and an internal wire cage to hold the mail when the door was opened. For the first time the boxes were also available in a choice of two sizes.
The Penfold pillar box
The desire for a more attractive pillar box was met seven years later in 1866, by the introduction of a hexagonal box topped with an acorn. It was designed by J. W. Penfold, an architect and surveyor. The ‘Penfold’ was made in three sizes and the design lasted for 13 years during which a number of small alterations and improvements were made.
From 1874 letter boxes were painted bright red as opposed to green in order to increase their visibility. These pillar boxes, however, remain very popular and in 1989 copies of the Penfold were reintroduced at various historical and tourist sites.
A letter was submitted from the Head Postmaster of Blackburn, asking whether Rishton Council had any objection to the closing of the Rishton Sub-Office on Saturday afternoons at 5 p.m. instead of 6-30 p.m. on the 9th October 1947, and it was Resolved That the Head Postmaster be informed that the Council had no objection to the proposal.
Anonymous pillar boxes
A new cylindrical design, introduced in March 1879, has remained virtually unchanged until the present day. By accident, pillar boxes made between 1879 and 1887 bear no royal cipher or crown, only the maker’s name, Handyside. It is for this reason that they are referred to as ‘Anonymous’. In 1887 the Post Office corrected this oversight and subsequent boxes were cast with the wording ‘POST OFFICE’ and the ‘VR’ cipher. Since this time all boxes have a cipher of the current monarch. In Scotland E II R (of Queen Elizabeth the second) is replaced with the Scottish crown.
The Council Clerk submitted a letter from the Head Postmaster regarding the action taken by him to endeavour to eliminate the cause of the stamps sticking in the machine at Cutt Lane on the 13th March 1952.
An estimate for the repair and overhaul was submitted on the 12th June 1952, the amount being of £70-£80. Quotations and designs, including electric clocks, were obtained from various firms for the supply of a new clock.
A new rectangular pillar box was erected opposite St Paul’s Cathedral in October 1968. The shape allowed a new internal mechanism, which meant that the box could be emptied much faster. Two boxes could also be placed side-by-side to form a double aperture box. Made of steel rather than cast iron these boxes, unfortunately, did not stand up to the British weather.
In 1974 they were replaced by new oblong cast iron boxes.
These were known as the ‘G’ type pillar box and had an angled notice plate for easier reading and a rotary dial which displayed individual collection tablets.
At the end of July 1980, The Post Office unveiled its new cylindrical ‘K’ type pillar box. This box, designed by Tony Gibbs, had a much smoother look and a slightly recessed aperture within its door. The box did, however, retain the angled notice plate and the rotary collection dial.
The words ‘Royal Mail’ first appeared on a British pillar box in 1991.
The post box on Blackburn Road was moved from its original location at the corner of Cut Lane in October 1996, when mail bosses were forced to move the post box 200 metres down the road - after a series of unwanted deliveries from local dogs!
The pillar box on Cut Lane, Rishton, had become a favourite stopping-off point for pets on their way to and from Cut Wood park. But the stench of their doggy deposits was becoming too much for local posties, prompting the Royal Mail to switch it to a grass verge on The Esplanade.
Residents had been baffled when the post box was moved from its convenient street corner site. Newsagent Mr Les Smalley said the curious transfer of the Rishton box had been a talking point with customers in his High Street shop who had no idea what had prompted the move. But today the Royal Mail cleared up the mystery and blamed pet owners who allowed their dogs to go to the toilet against the box. Area collection manager Tony Rigby said: "We had been receiving complaints from postmen and customers about dogs fouling the sides of the post box. We decided to move the box away from the park for health and safety reasons."
Mr Smalley added: "No one in Rishton could understand why they had moved the box. It isn't really any inconvenience for us, but we all think it looks ridiculous and sticks out like a sore thumb."
In 2003, the Post Office in Rishton was in danger of closure under Government reform proposals made in 2002. The proposals included closing sub post offices such as Rishton, and transferring the business into other businesses, such as supermarkets etc.
Post Boxes in Rishton are situated on Church Street, Walmsley Avenue, the Post Office, James Street, Stourton Street, Tottleworth Village, and the Esplanade.
Council Minutes 1925-26
Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 31st October 1996.
POST 14: Inland mails organisation and circulation
POST 15: Inland mails organisation, letter books
POST 30: England & Wales minutes
POST 33: General minutes
POST 92: Post Office publications
Young Farrugia. J. 1969 The Letter Box.
Robinson. M. 1986 Old Letter Boxes (2nd Edition, 2000).
For further information about pillar boxes contact:
The Letter Box Study Group