These postal workers really went above and beyond to deliver the mail and serve their customers.

As we give a #ThumbsUpForYourPostie during these challenging times thanks to the Royal Mail’s initiative, we take a journey back in time to celebrate the hard work of postal workers across the UK.

1. Climbing a Million Steps, 1934

When the lighthouse on the isle of Anglesey was first built it was only accessible via a cable and basket mechanism. By 1934, it could be reached by descending 403 steps and crossing a suspension bridge. The postman, Mr R Rees estimated he had walked down and up more than 1.5 million steps in the six years of his deliveries there.

South Stack – postman, 1934 (POST 118/36)

2. Forth Bridge, 1934

The Post Office Magazine covered stories of postmen making deliveries all over the country. Here a postman is checking a bag label, Edinburgh’s Forth Bridge is in the background.

Forth Bridge, Edinburgh, 1934 (POST 118/96)

3. Among the Oasthouses, 1935

During the Kent hop harvest around 40,000 men, women and children arrived from London each autumn. This massive influx meant services needed to be extended temporarily – including special hop-picking seasonal arrangements for postal deliveries and collections.

Postman delivering at Oast Houses, 1935 (POST 118/1151)

4. Shipbourne Road Post Office, 1935

Post Offices were often the hub of local communities. As well as selling stamps and other postal products and services over the counter, Shipbourne Road Post Office also sold groceries.

Shipbourne Road Post Office, 1935 (POST 118/354)

5. Telegram Messenger Boys, 1935

During the 1930s, the GPO started to explore ways of promoting its services to the public. The Belfast Post Office ran an exhibition on the history of the postal service which attracted over 170,000 visitors. These Telegram Messenger Boys sold over 5,000 issues of the 1 Penny Post Office Magazine at the Exhibition.

Belfast – Post Office Exhibition, May 1935 (POST 118/331)

6. The Ferry Postman of Fowey, 1935

Sitting on the mouth of an estuary in South Cornwall, the postmen of Fowey needed to use the ferry for part of their 15-mile delivery. The postmen were ferried over the water to make deliveries to the more remote houses at Polruan and Bidinnick.

Polruan – postman standing at quayside, 1935 (POST 118/250)

7. The Steel Hearted Hub of England, 1935

The Postman on his delivery to Hams Hall Electric Power Station in Birmingham.

Hams Hall Electricity Station, 1935 (POST 118/293)

8. Down Wapping Way, 1935

Part of the Post Office Magazine series ‘The Postman Everywhere’, which demonstrated the wide-ranging experiences of postmen across the country. Postman Mr J Anthony is shown here in an area of Wapping, East London. The author of the accompanying article described the area as ‘narrow, dirty and unsalubrious…’

Postman delivering mail in Wapping, 1935 (POST 118/252)

9. Post Tram in Manchester, 1935

Here a postman is boarding a post tramcar to clear a small posting box.

Manchester – post tram, 1935 (POST 118/477)

10. Fish Wharf Post Office, Great Yarmouth, 1937

A popular holiday destination, Great Yarmouth was also a thriving fishing port. On a normal day the Fish Wharf Post Office would handle one telegram. During the hectic herring season it had to deal with as many as 600 a day. The telegrams would be sent by buyers quoting quality and prices to customers all over the country.

Great Yarmouth – Fish Wharf Post Office, Nov 1936 (POST 118/589)

11. Basket Delivery at Greenock, Scotland 1938

The Postman’s basket contained mail from the Canadian Pacific Railways liner, the Duchess of Bedford. Beginning its journey in places such as New Zealand and China, once unloaded, the mail was then sorted in the open air ‘sorting office’ of the Princes Pier before being despatched for delivery across the United Kingdom.

Greenock – basket delivery, 1938 (POST 118/851)

12. Holy Island ‘Noddy’ 1938

Known to the locals as noddies, these horse-drawn traps carried mail across the water from the mainland of Beal to Holy Island. Guided only by the poles that mark a sandy causeway, the unusually high wheels allowed the vehicle to drive in to the waves.

Holy Island – mail cart, 1938 (POST 118/854)

13. Returned parcels at Mount Pleasant, 1938

1936 Post Office rules stated that game, including rabbits, could be posted with nothing but a neck label as long as ‘no liquid is likely to exude’. The postman here is holding some unusual mail found in the Returned Parcels section at Mount Pleasant sorting office, London.

Mount Pleasant Parcel Office – Returned Parcels Section, 1938 (POST 118/940)

14. In the Highlands, 1937

A Post Office van on its delivery route near Nairn in the Scottish Highlands.

Scotland – a Royal Mail van by the River Findhorn near Nairn, 1938 (POST 118/791)

15. Supreme Bloater Shop, 1939

Would you rather receive a fish or a postcard as a holiday greeting? Great Yarmouth holiday-makers sent off so many gift boxes of bloaters, that special collections were made from fish shops during peak season.

Postmen are collecting boxes of fish from the Supreme Bloater shop, 1937 (POST 118/671)

16. The Post Office at the Races, 1939

To allow customers easier access to telegraph, telephone and postal facilities in the 1930s, Mobile Post Offices were introduced and used at outdoor events such as agricultural shows and here at Ascot.

Berkshire – Mobile Post Office at Ascot, 1938 (POST 118/873)

17. Temporary Post Office, 1941

Although the Post Office Magazine shut down during World War Two, the Post Office still photographed the work that carried on. This temporary mobile post office was erected at the back of a mail van, to ensure that customers in bombed areas were still able to send their mail.

Temporary mobile post office, 1940s (POST 118/1344)

18. The Post Office Home Guard, 1946

The Post Office Home Guard was formed to defend the Post Office from enemy attack. It was essential that its communication channels were protected during the Second World War. Post Office staff could volunteer their services to the Post Office Home Guard provided that they did not spend more than 40 hours a month performing their duties.

City of London ‘Invasion’ exercise 29th June 1941 (POST 56/82)

19. Postman Stanley Barclay, 1949

On one of his walks in Westmorland, Cumbria, Mr Stanley Barclay was stranded by a heavy blizzard. On leaving Harbour Platt Farm five days later, the snow was still hedge top high. On his walk home he found rabbits frozen to death and sheep that had been buried in the snow for over a week.

Mr Stanley Barclay (POST 118/1432)

20. Trafalgar Square Post Office, 1963

In order to meet the needs of its city customers, the Trafalgar Square Post Office was redeveloped and then opened 24 hours a day. Boasting new facilities such as self service machines, and sound insulated telephone booths seen here, the Post Office showed itself to be at the forefront of new technology.

Interior of Trafalgar Square Branch Office, 1963 (POST 118/18760)

21. Rural delivery by boat in Northern Ireland, 1975

Postman John Rooney rowing across Lough Erne in Ulster. An article in The Courier from August 1972 describes his efforts to deliver mail to the solitary inhabitants of Inniscorkkish and Trannish islands in a boat that, ‘after a mere ten years in service, has yet to be christened.’

Postman John Rooney, 1972 (003-013-001)

22. Delivery by bicycle to Osea Island, 1987

Postman Ken Chaplin pushing his bicycle across a causeway to Osea Island, near Maldon, Essex. Islanders sent a letter of praise declaring ‘Ken rides his bike over whatever the weather… he expects no thanks for the many little jobs he does, (he) just gets on with it.’ Although he had never been stranded on the island, just in case, he always rode over in wellington boots. The rough and slippery causeway meant Ken fitted double tyres to his red heavy-duty bike.

Delivery by bicycle – Osea Island, Essex, 1987 (POST 118/CT00178)

23. High-tide delivery to St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, c. 1988

Associate postman Len Ritchie, who lived on the island, collected the mail twice a day from Marazion post office, near Penzance, and delivered to the handful of families on the island.

Delivery by boat – St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, 1989 (POST 118/CT00180)

24. Public House & Post Office, c. 1989

A pint, a pie… and a pension at the Swan public house in Little Totham, near Maldon, Essex. Publican’s daughter Christine Baxter serving a customer in the bar of her parents’ pub.

Swan public house in Little Totham (010-018-002)

25. High-rise delivery in London, c. 1988-1989

Postman Jamie Long sorting out his delivery to flats in Battersea, London.

Postman Jamie Long, 1988 (003-005-001)

26. Datapost, c. 1988

Datapost was launched in 1970 and provided express delivery services worldwide. A number of aeroplanes bore the brand livery and featured heavily in the marketing campaigns for the service.

A man carrying a parcel aboard an aeroplane bearing the Datapost livery (010-008-001)

27. Post Office at the London Stock Exchange, 1970

The Stock Exchange tower was completed in 1970 and the Post Office was intended to provide spacious and efficient services to the brokers and other city workers. The building was closed in 2004 when the Stock Exchange moved to Paternoster Square. The Post Office was demolished shortly thereafter.

London Stock Exchange Post Office – interior view of counter, 1970 (POST 118/6095)

28. Segregator Drum, Croydon Head Post Office 1970

A helping hand to posties. This segregator drum rotates and disperses mail allowing smaller packets and letters to drop through the slats and larger parcels to be deposited at the bottom. Sorting, either by hand or by machine, can then take place. The automation of mail sorting has developed significantly since the 1960s.

Croydon Head Post Office – interior of segregator drum, Medium Speed Letter Sorting Machine, 1970 (POST 118/6087)

29. Delivering whatever the weather in Yorkshire, 1976

A postwoman pushes her motorcycle up a snow-covered hill in Yorkshire.

A postwoman in Yorkshire, 1976 (H2806c)

30. Postbus Service, Wales c. 1969-1971

The Postbus was a vital service for rural communities. From isolated Scottish islands to rural communities in Kent, the Postbus enabled villagers to travel to and from towns in places where public transport was not commercially viable.

Royal Mail Post Bus, Llanidloes area, Powys, Wales, 1978 (POST 118/CT00286)

All the posties delivering the mail at these extraordinary times deserve a #ThumbsUpForYourPostie

Take a picture and post it on social media with #ThumbsUpForYourPostie to show your appreciation for their hard work and dedication.

– The Postal Museum Team

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