P.O. Counter Services

The first post office was established in October 1635 in Bishopgate Street. It was opened by Thomas Witherings. In 1854 the first post offices owned and run by Royal Mail opened. These were known as crown offices while those run by agents were known as sub-offices. In 1986 Royal Mail was reorganised into Royal Mail Letters, Royal Mail Parcels, and Post Office Counters. In 1987 Post Office Counters Ltd. became a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Mail. In 2001 Post Office Counters Ltd. was renamed Post Office Ltd.

Post Office Counter Services are an important element of postal operations. For this reason, material can also be found throughout our various collections.

Within our Archive, archive class POST 22 covers all aspects of counter services work including the management of sub-offices, staffing issues, counter mechanisation, postal services at the Festival of Britain 1951, computerisation, and agreements between the Post Office and the Treasury. These records date from 1929 to c.1990.

Our Museum collection holds roughly 100 objects (excluding our collection of over a thousand handstamps) used in Post Office branch offices. These include typical fittings such as wall clocks and Victorian inkwells, modern pens and a wide range of counter accessories such as stamp moisteners, handstamps, coin holders and labelling machines. Bringing the collection fully up to date, we have a range of computerised equipment used in branches over the last few years.

We also hold a large number of scales and balances which are essential tools of a Post Office branch. These show the development in weighing devices from intricate Victorian four beam balances to the electronic machines used today.

Examples from our Collection

Here are some examples of items relating to Post Office Counter Services in our collection:

Image of Cover of the first issue of The Sub-Postmaster, September 1899

Cover of the first issue of The Sub-Postmaster, September 1899

Issue 1 of the journal for the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters.

Image of Photograph of King Edward Building Money Order Counter, 1938

Photograph of King Edward Building Money Order Counter, 1938

King Edward Building was the London Headquarters of the Post Office.

Image of Parcel scales, 1940-1947

Parcel scales, 1940-1947

These scales manufactured by Salter would have been used to weigh parcels up to 15lb.

Image of Cover of guide to handling counter transactions, c.1970

Cover of guide to handling counter transactions, c.1970

Manual aimed at newly appointed counter staff.

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