THE adhesive postage stamp was invented in the UK in 1837 by schoolmaster and social reformer Sir Rowland Hill.
Amongst Sir Roland’s other achievements was the creation of the first uniform postage rates that were based on weight rather than size.
This made the prepayment of mail postage possible and practical and laid the foundations for the modern Royal Mail. Previously, letters were hand stamped or postmarked with ink. Postmarks were the invention of Henry Bishop and were at first called “Bishop marks” after the inventor. Bishop marks were first used in 1661 at the London General Post Office. They marked the day and month the letter was mailed.
Following Sir Rowland’s invention, the first issued postage stamp began with Great Britain’s Penny Post. On May 6, 1840, the British Penny Black stamp was released with its famous engraving of Queen Victoria’s head,
Twelve years later the first Post Office pillar box was erected in Jersey and the following year they became common place in mainland Britain. The Post Office’s national telephone service was opened in 1912. In 1968 that second-class stamps were introduced and the National Giro Bank opened.
Under the Post Office Act of 1969, the General Post Office changed from a government department to a nationalised industry and in the mid-1970s the system of post codes was introduced.
After Margaret Thatcher came to power, the telecommunications arm of the postal service split off to form British Telecom. In 1986 the letter delivery, parcel delivery and post office arms of the mail service was split into three separate businesses under the name Post Office Group.
In 1990, Girobank was sold to the Alliance & Leicester Building Society and the Royal Mail Parcels business was rebranded as Parcelforce.
In 2001, the Post Office Group was renamed Consignia in a massive, but short-lived, rebranding exercise which cost £2 million. Some 15 months later the postal service was again renamed, this time to Royal Mail.
Lord Mandelson, the Labour business secretary, launched an attempt to part-privatise the Royal Mail. The bid failed after the Communication Workers Union stirred up a back-bench revolt. David Cameron’s premiership saw the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition announce its intention to sell off the Royal Mail’s delivery business, but retain the Post Office network in public ownership.