S.W.A.L.K. A Brief History of the Royal Mail.

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S.W.A.L.K. A Brief History of the Royal Mail.

Post by LadyCentauria »

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Temulkar wrote: There was a momentous royal anniversary in 2012. No I’m not talking about Lilibets little soiree on the River Thames. Last year the Royal Mail was 500 years old. From its origins in the Tudor times, to public deliveries a hundred years later, by stagecoach and later railway, through wars, coronations, love affairs, divorces, births, deaths and marriage it has carried the hopes and dreams of a nation. Now before it is broken up and sold off by corporate criminals UBS we should remember what we are losing.

It all began, as so much in our history has with the Tudors. The late Plantagenet kings had developed a system of Royal Post Riders to carry the increasing directives of central government. After Bosworth in 1485 Henry Tudor refined and expanded this system. Fresh horses were provided for post riders as a renaissance pony express was developed. Duncan Cambell Smith in his excellent history of post office “Masters of the Post,” recounts just how efficient the system that Henry Tudor developed had become by the end of his reign. In 1507 Henry Tudor needed to send an urgent message to the Emperor Maximillian in the Low countries. He sent a young chaplain off from Richmond upon Thames via Gravesend, Dover and Calais to the Low countries to deliver his message. The chaplain managed the journey there and back again in 80 hours. Even the normally hard to please Henry Tudor was impressed. The impressive Postman would go on to become Cardinal Wolsey.

The first mention of the title Master of Posts comes in 1512 with the appointment of Brian Tuke to the role by Henry VIII. A word of caution to young journalists, do not rely upon Wikipedia to produce an article for which you are going to be paid. Wikipedia gets it wrong and journalists should do their research. Copying and pasting incorrect information from Wikipedia is frankly shoddy work even if it wins you awards.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/ ... rvice.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Mail" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Brian Tuke with a background as a Royal Official in Calais would take responsibility for Henry VIII’ post under Wolseys direction. In 1516 Tuke was knighted and in 1517 made Governor of the Kings Posts. Despite Wolseys fall during Henrys messy first divorce and through the subsequent political upheaval of the break with Rome, Tuke remained at his post delivering the mail until his death in 1545.


Whilst the Royal Mail was assured swift and safe delivery, the rest of the population reliant upon irregular private carriers. Deliveries were uncertain, mail was often lost and the cost of a secure delivery put even this out of reach for most people. Charles I changed all this in 1635 when he made the Royal Mail available to the public. Payment would be on delivery by the recipient. Thomas Witherings already responsible for foreign mail got his hands on the lucrative monopoly. Charles did not do this out of any feeling of care for his people. Having thrown an almighty royal tantrum with his early Parliaments, Charles was in the middle of his personal rule. Unable to raise taxes without calling Parliament he used any opportunity to raise money. When later waiting for his execution, Charles Stuart may well have reflected that this was when the rot set in.

During the Protectorate the Royal Mail was in the first line of defence against the plots of Cavalier counter-revolutionaries. Under the control of John Thurloe (Cromwell’s Spymaster).Mail was intercepted deciphered and then delivered without the recipients being alerted. The intercept operation was run by Isaac Dorislaus who could intercept deliveries at the London Letter Office at 11pm identify from handwriting letters of interest. The letters would be opened, copied, translated if needed and back at the Letter office by 4am the next morning. With such an efficient operation protecting him it is little wonder Cromwell died in bed an old man.

After the restoration in 1660 the postal service developed alongside the rapidly improving road network. It was the age of the “Dandy Highwayman”. One of the first was Claude Duvall a French born highwayman who made it a point of honour never to use violence, even dancing with the wife of one of his victims during one hold up. Duvall set the standard for his successors; the inscription on his tomb in St Pauls Church Covent Garden has the lines,

"Old Tyburn’s glory; England’s illustrious Thief,
Du Vall, the ladies’ joy; Du Vall, the ladies’ grief."

Another was John Nevison whose exploits and aversion to violence mirrored Duval. It was Nevison who would make the famous ride from London to York that would later be attributed to the far seedier Dick Turpin. Much of Turpin’s legend was created after his death for a public eager for sensational accounts of Highwayman in the age of the stagecoach. Their careers all ended the same way with a noose, but even that would help build their legends. One highwayman, Sixteen String Jack Rann had a pea green suit specially made and carried a posy of flowers to his death, enjoying a joke with the crowd and the hangman, gallows humour at its very darkest. When he was hung, Rann was only 24.

The Royal Mail Coaches had replaced the system of post riders in 1787 and they would build the most efficient postal service in the world. The coaches with a Guard armed with a Blunderbuss carried the mail along the new toll roads. Dressed in scarlet livery the Guard also carried a horn to alert the toll houses that the Royal Stage was approaching. The Guards were responsible for delivery of the mail even in the event of the coach crashing. They were well paid for their work and given a hefty pension for their public service. It was a hard job and they deserved the pay; robbery was a constant threat and there are even reports of Guards freezing to death.


The age of the train heralded the end of the stagecoach but the Royal Mail quickly took advantage of new technology. Packet trains to the ports left London regularly and soon the rail network transported the mail from Lands End to John O Groats. In 1839 standard delivery was introduced for fourpence this was quickly superseded by a uniform delivery anywhere in the UK for a penny. The payment was prepaid which soon saw the development of the first stamps and quickly the first stamp collectors. Today stamp collecting is one of the most popular hobbies in the world and although out of fashion for many children it was a Sunday afternoon pastime for generations. Somewhere I have my father’s collection gathered in the 1950s with exotic stamps from the colonies carefully stuck into a display book with gum. Britain the first country to develop stamps is the only country which today does not have to display the name of the country of origin on them.


The Post Office was at the forefront of social change in Britain in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth century’s, The Post Office was one of the first institutions to employ the disabled, something that increased after the First World War. In 1932 rules were drawn up for the employment of the disabled on preferential duties with the same rights and benefits as the able bodies staff. The Post Office established roles for women’s employment before the war which was expanded when many of the male employees joined the Post Office Rifles to fight in the trenches.

In 1870 the Post Office took over five private telegraph companies taking responsibility for the delivery of telegrams around Britain. The Cornish village of Porthcurno became the Information hub of the empire as it was the location for telegraph cables from the America and Europe. The introduction of telegrams however would soon lead to the Royal Mails most poignant role in the nation’s history. With the outbreak of war in 1914 the delivery of mail became a soul destroying job. Every house feared the knock in the door and the words on the telegram “The War Office regrets to inform you” The growth of letter writing during the war led to an exceptional amount of mail being delivered to and from the front. n 1917 over 19,000 mailbags crossed the channel each day with half a million bags conveyed in the run up to Christmas. During World War 2 the volume of mail was even higher with troops in the Far East being regularly supplied with mail from home. The post was one way of ensuring high morale.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... cU-YkcdpCI

One development during the war years was the development of lovers acronyms on letters such as SWALK (Sealed with a loving kiss). An innocent missive between lovers perhaps but some were more explicit. Do you know what was meant on your parents or grandparents letters by BURMA? EGYPT? Or ENGLAND? It might make you blush.

The modern world saw the Royal Mail harnessing modern technology, Air Mail had been established in 1911. Responsibility for the telephone exchange soon followed. Even the burgeoning film industry was dabbled in by the Post office. The GPO Film Unit was set up in 1933 to produce documentary films. The most famous Night Mail featured music by Benjamin Britten and a poem by WH Auden.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... kLoDg7e_ns

The Royal Mails importance continued after the War Years and in 1963 the most spectacular robbery in British History took place. £2.6 million was stolen during the Great Train Robbery about 40 million in todays terms. It was a stunning theft, however most of the robbers were soon rounded up. The fireman and driver had both been severely coshed during the robbery and this led to the charge of Armed Robbery and sentences of thirty years. The escape after the trial of Ronnie Biggs and Charlie Wilson as well as the scale of the robbery turned the Great Train Robbers into anti-heroes in the 60s. Their lives were dramatised and Biggs in particular played up to his reputation in exile in Brazil. Buster Edwards’ life was turned into a Hollywood film with Phil Collins playing the lead role.

The Sixties marked the high point of the Royal Mail. In 1965 the Post Office Tower was opened dominating the London Skyline to improve telecommunication. However the election of Margaret Thatcher saw the Royal Mail monopoly challenged. Telecommunications were privatised under Thatcher although even she balked at selling off anything with the word Royal in its name. In the 1990s under Labour the Post office was split into different companies and Blair made an attempt to re-brand the company Consignia. It was not popular and was soon dropped. In 2012 with the Olympics the Royal Mail demonstrated its support for team GB by painting postboxes gold in the towns of medal winners such as Jessica Ennis.

The Royal Mail, has been part of the nation for half a millennium. It has carried our hopes and dreams, made us smile and break down in tears. As children our faces would press against the window waiting for the knock of the Postie bringing cards from distant relatives at Christmas or for our birthdays; never realising the heritage carried in that Royal Mail sack. Today as our leaders place only financial value on its service to the Nation remember what the Royal Mail has done for you.

BURMA = Be Upstairs and Ready My Angel
EGYPT = Eager to Grab Your Pretty Tits
ENGLAND = Every Naked Girl Loves A Naked Dick.
This time, I'm gonna be stronger I'm not giving in...
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