Post boxes have stories to tell

Today marks one year of blogging about my community and giving a sense of just how rich this area is in terms of history, heritage and culture.  A theme that runs through the writing is how the ordinary becomes a little more, once you take the time to look more closely or ask some questions.  On Nationwide I mentioned how even the trees and rocks have stories to tell around here and through the weekly blog and daily facebook posts I try to illustrate that.  The blog today is a case in point.  It was the first I wrote, exactly one year ago today, but unlike most which now reach about 100 views per week, this made a modest 20+. 

Not sure that I ever paid much attention to post boxes until very recently.  They are functional and I guess once you know that a letter pushed through the slot gets collected and delivered by the Postman then you are probably satisfied with that.

But although we probably take them for granted a little curiosity can reveal some interesting history.  Now we have a couple of post boxes in the area and they all have some history attached.  Directly below is the Post Box from a wall at Cheekpoint Quay.  It’s in the wall directly in front of you as you walk up from the main quay, in a wall that was once part of the home of Denis Doherty RIP and family.

The curious thing is that it has the British crown on the top aside of which is marked VR. This VR cipher stands for Victoria Regina which signifies that it’s from the reign of Queen Victoria when Ireland was ruled from London.  Made of cast iron, the first of these “wall box” types were erected in 1857 in the UK. 

Another distinguishing feature, it was manufactured by WT Allen of London – many of the Irish boxes were made under licence by Irish foundries. Haven’t been able to accurately date this one but WT Allen started manufacturing in 1887. Victoria died in 1901 so our post box in Cheekpoint is  obviously in situ sometime between these dates. 

On a related point, I once quipped on a tour that the only real difference between today and when it was first erected was the colour, it would have been “pillar box red”.  I was challenged on this by a gentleman who correctly told me that the first post boxes were actually green, in an attempt to blend them into the background,  However on looking more closely at it, and in line with the dates of it’s likely origin the Cheekpoint box was most probably red initially, so in fact I was more than likely right!  The first boxes were trialed in 1853 and by 1859 were universally introduced not just in Britain but across the colonies also. While these were generally green in colour by 1874 a decision was taken that the boxes would be red in colour and it took a decade to achieve.  The reason for the change? – the Green colour was too effective a disguise and the British public complained at not being able to find them!  maybe An Post should take note…

There are two others locally, at Ben’s shop at the Crossroads and Faithlegg.  The latter post box is a later design than the wall box in the village. It carries the gaelic print of the Dept. of Post & Telegraphs which was formed in 1924. The first Irish boxes carried an “SE” Cipher to denote Saorstat Eireann. This box probably dates from between 1937 – 40. Its builder was the Jessop Davis Foundry of Enniscorthy whose name is found near the base. This foundry operated between 1890-1964.  You can find out more about the Irish postal service here.

So maybe the next time you post a letter you might take a moments pause to consider the receptacle you’re using? It’s a great way for children to learn a little history.  It’s an interesting fact to swap with another consumer of the service.  However, in my experience it’s probably best to keep well out of the way if Postman is coming to empty it…they do not tend to hang around!

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