This year Royal Mail is commemorating the 500th anniversary of the knighting of Brian Tuke, the first Master of the Posts, by Henry VIII, an event that it says was the catalyst for the creation of Royal Mail as we know it.
To celebrate, Royal Mail has issued a special set of stamps and, in conjunction with the British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA), has created an online gallery of 500 objects, people and events that help tell the story of the postal service and its contribution to society. Key dates include:
1516: Henry VIII knights Brian Tuke, the first Master of the Posts. Tuke is given the authority to establish key post towns across the UK and build a formal postal network.
1635: The postal service is opened up to the general public by King Charles I. Before, it operated only for the King and Court. A Letter Office is established in London and six post roads are formalised to carry mail across the country.
1660: The Post Office Act creates the publicly-owned postal service.
1661: The first Bishop mark (or postmark) is used to identify the date of dispatch. It is named after the then Postmaster General, Henry Bishop.
1711: The Post Offie Act paves the way for a unifid postal service across Scottish and English administrations (inc. Wales) following the 1707 Act of Union. Ireland followed in 1808.
1840: The reform – over a number of years – of the Post Office by Rowland Hill and others forms the basis of the modern postal service.
1840: The Penny Black, the first adhesive postage stamp, is launched. The introduction of the Penny Post marks the origins of the Universal Service, under which postal rates become uniform across the country, and heralds massive expansion in the popularity of mail. Mail volumes rise from 67 million in 1839 to 242 million by 1844 and more than one billion by 1875.
1883: The launch of Parcel Post reflcts the popularity of sending and receiving parcels. The growth of parcels sees the term ‘Letter Carrier’ replaced with ‘postman’.
1911: The fist scheduled airmail service fles from Hendon to Windsor, as part f the celebrations for the Coronation of King George V.
1959: Postcodes are introduced on a trial basis in Norwich and then rolled out nationally from 1965-1972.
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