1. ITV Report

Royal Mail: A short history

Royal Mail's root date to the time of Henry VIII Photo: Press Association

Over 200 extra seasonal workers have been taken on at Sheffield's Mail Centre to cope with the Royal Mail's busiest time of the year.

The centre in Brightside handles 2.6 million items every 24 hours and works round the clock to ensure all those Christmas parcels and cards are delivered on time.

The Royal Mail Sheffield depot in full swing Credit: ITV Yorkshire

As the company get into full festive gear, here are some of the key points in the company's history:

  • February 1512 - Brian Tuke appointed as first 'Master of the Posts', under a young King Henry VIII
  • July 1653 - First public postal service created by Charles I. Letters were carried between 'posts' by post-boys on horseback. Later that year, six 'post roads' created.
  • The earliest public post offices were usually housed at inns and were known as letter receiving houses.
  • 1657 - Parliament fixes postal rates, based on number of sheets and distance.
  • 1784 - John Palmer - a theatre owner from Bath - organised a rapid carriage service to transport actors and props between theatres. He believed a similar scheme could improve the postal service. Its introduction cut post times by two thirds.
The first Royal Mail uniforms were introduced in 1973 Credit:
  • The first official Letter Carrier's uniform was a black hat with gold band, scarlet coat with blue lapels and gold braids. It first started with the General Post in London in 1793 and was originally intended to detect men 'loitering and mis-spending their time in Ale Houses'.
  • January 1838 - George Karstadt, a Post Office surveyor, was the first to suggest using a special railway carriage for the sorting of mail whilst en route. On 20th January 1838 the first Travelling Post Office was born. It lasted until 2004.
  • May 1840 - The world's first adhesive stamp, the Penny Black, was introduced. Over 68 million stamps were used in the first year.
Over 68 million Penny Black stamps were used in their first year Credit: Press Association
  • 1852 - First pillar box introduced. They were originally green. The current version was created by accident in 1879.
  • September 1868 - cats were officially appointed by the Post Office to catch rats and mice.
  • 1883 - Parcel service introduced.
  • 1885 - Special mail trains, exclusively for Post Office use, were introduced between London Euston and Aberdeen.
  • September 1911 - The first scheduled air mail service from Hendon to Windsor began as part of the celebrations for the Coronation of King George V.
  • 1933 - Motorcycles were adopted by telegraph messengers. But only messengers over 17 who had their parents' consent and a declaration of fitness from a doctor were allowed to ride them.
The first post boxes were hexagonal Credit: ITV Yorkshire
  • June 1934 - The first experimental flight carrying mail by rocket was made over the Sussex downs.
  • 1959 - First postcodes introduced.
  • 1985 - The last cat employed by the Post Office dies.
  • 1990 - Royal Mail Parcels become Parcelforce.
  • January 2001 - Self adhesive stamps launched. Later that year the company was re-branded as 'Consignia'. The re-brand was short lived, and changed back within a year.
  • January 2004 - First digital stamp introduced.

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