A Curator Explores....Again: Part 2
Our Senior Curator Julian is back exploring various post box and telephone kiosk designs. This time he takes us along the Norfolk Coast Path.
I mentioned in part one of this blog how I completed the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail in April 2017. This is very much a walk of two halves and when I hit the coast, east of Hunstanton, on my fourth day, the flavour of the walk changed dramatically.
This is a popular part of Norfolk and there is still quite a large resident population living in the many villages and towns that nestle up tight to the coast. As a consequence of this, I found that the small lamp boxes that I mostly encountered on my walk through rural and lonely Norfolk inland were largely replaced with wall boxes and pillar boxes capable of holding larger volumes of post. It wasn’t long before I encountered a big and impressive A type pillar box, cast by Machan, in the village of Thornham.
This EiiR box was similar to the box I had seen at Castle Acre the previous day, but unlike that box, this one sat next to another example of Post Office street furniture – a K6 telephone kiosk, still with a working telephone and the crown picked out in gold paint. There were five manufacturers of K6 kiosks: Carron, Macfarlane, Mc Dowall Steven, Bratt Colbran and the maker of this kiosk, the Lion Foundry.
Sadly, with falling volumes of mail being posted, some post boxes have fallen from use. Set into the flint and brick garden wall of Dormy House in Brancaster was a sad looking wall box made by W. T. Allen. The small crown and cipher on this small wall box indicated that it was made early in George V’s reign. An example of a box made later was situated only a little further along the coast. This C type wall box (below), also made by W. T. Allen, in the wall of the Maltings in Burnham Overy Staithe has the larger crown and cipher.
I reached Wells-next-the-Sea in time for lunch on my fifth day of walking and the town was alive with visitors. This is still a successful fishing port and popular place to visit, which may explain the need for the large wall box to be found alongside the main quay. Unlike my earlier wall boxes though, this box, carrying the cipher of EiiR, had been cast by Carron, who also made many pillar boxes for the Post Office. The last daily collection time of 09.00 a.m. can be appreciated by few though.
I did pass boxes similar to those I had seen on the Peddars Way; another M type and a later casting of a ‘Tinnie Lizzie’, but I had to wait until the end of my trail in Cromer before I found anything new to the walk. This was a lovely small pillar box from EviiR’s reign. This box, looking a little dilapidated with fading paint and broken collection plate holder, was cast by McDowall Steven.
Personally, I think that this pinnacle in pillar box design, was made before certain design aspects were altered. This B type pillar has a curved collection plate holder; later designs had a ‘squared off’ design. It also has the better proportioned aperture, before they were made larger and jutted out. A handsome looking piece of street furniture, it can be seen that this box dates from after 1904 when the design was altered slightly so that the aperture was included in the door, rather than above it. This solved the problem of letters being trapped and left behind during collections.
There was one final addition to my variety of post boxes encountered on my trek. Cheating slightly, this was on my train journey home afterward. Changing trains, I was delighted to find that Norwich Railway Station is one of the declining few still to have a pillar box on its concourse. Mostly hidden away behind the flowers was another B type pillar box.
This was a much later box than that seen earlier in the day at Cromer. Cast during the reign of the current monarch- Elizabeth the Second, this pillar box sports the jutting, 10-inch wide aperture.
It had been interesting six days on my walk. Not only had I seen striking changes in geology, a wealth of natural history and traces of county inhabitants stretching back to the Bronze Age, but a diverse selection of post boxes and telephone kiosks had also added variety to my trail. I hope you found it of interest.
– Julian Stray, Senior Curator