Museum collection

The Postal Museum holds an astonishing and varied collection of objects that reflect the development of postal history over the decades.

It is strongest in the last 150 years, when the introduction of iconic street furniture and a state owned mail vehicle fleet evolved. The collection’s diversity and breadth is both surprising and informative.

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Our holdings

Here is just a taste of the kind of materials held in our Museum collection:

  • postbox

    Post boxes

    Our wide-ranging collection of post boxes includes pillar boxes, wall boxes, lamp boxes, Ludlows, Private Boxes and prototypes. It shows every major introduction in post box design since they were first used in 1852.

  • River Postman Uniform

    Uniforms

    Our uniform collection is very large and varied, including examples of over a century of uniforms worn by delivery and post office counter staff and contractors, ranging from stiff formal wear to the more casual clothing favoured today.

  • bicycle-2

    Cycles

    Much of our collection of cycles date from the period of standardised design between 1929 and 1992. We hold examples from many manufacturers, and rarer examples including two tricycles and a five-wheeled ‘Centre-Cycle’.

  • bus

    Vehicles

    The collection mostly reflects the major aspects of a largely state-owned mail fleet: Morris Minors, motorcycles, large Mail vans – even a TV Detector van, Postbus, horse-drawn mail van and a 1930s art-deco Mobile Post Office.

  • pistol-grey

    Weapons

    The Postal Museum holds two distinct collections of weapons: flintlock pistols and blunderbusses testament to the hazards faced on the road and at sea, and a later collection from the late 21st century used in attempted thefts of post offices.

  • scales

    Scales and Balances

    Accurate assessments of weight and size have been a constant necessity for the mail service. Our collection ranges from beautiful Victorian beam scales, through small pocket scales, to more modern digital scales used on moving mail trains.

  • badges

    Badges and buttons

    Our collection of badges and buttons numbers in the many thousands, ranging from ornate and expensive brass uniform buttons to cheap mass production of plastic badges and buttons; a surprisingly diverse and important record.

  • victoria-cross

    Medals

    The collection of medals includes those issued to commemorate an event, such as long service, and those awarded as a distinction, for sporting prowess and in time of war. Includes a Post Office Rifleman’s Victoria Cross.

  • handstamp

    Handstamps

    Every British post office in the country and abroad had handstamps for cancelling mail or issuing official instructions. Our collection reflects these, from wooden stamps used in rural towns to one-off commemoratives.

  • oral

    Oral History

    The Oral History collection is a small but growing collection that captures the personal recollection of many postal workers recounting of their life, experiences, worst and best memories of decades of mail service.

  • card

    Valentines and Greetings cards

    Amongst our vast collection of postal ephemera and stationary, poignant, the intriguing and often complex and beautiful cards produced for Valentines and at Festive periods evoke memories for many.

  • furniture

    Furniture, fixtures and fittings

    Most of our collection of furniture is typical of the low-status functional equipment used in sorting offices and post offices across the decades. Made in huge numbers in their time, they are uncommon survivors.

  • mail-rail

    Mail by Rail

    We have examples of rail carriages that transported mail above and below ground from Victorian times to today, including a beautifully restored 1908 Travelling Post Office.

  • toys

    Toys and Games

    The postal service has long been a favourite subject for toy manufacturers, and the collection contains a wide variety of toys and games, including beloved children’s characters.

  • machine

    Stamp Cancelling Machines

    Large, heavy, functional and fascinating. The collection of stamp cancelling machines includes examples cranked by hand and electrically powered.

  • model

    Models

    The Postal Museum collection includes dozens of models of postal vehicles, post boxes and postal staff and even contemporary scale replicas of Mail Coaches.

Accessing the collection

The Postal Museum welcomes enquiries from researchers wishing to access the stored collection for study purposes.

Prior to contacting the curatorial department, please check the online catalogue to make sure the information you require is not included as part of the catalogue description.

The collection is spread across a number of sites and physical access may be limited to specific days of the week, or take a little time to arrange. Some objects cannot be seen by the public, this may be for a number of reasons. Objects may be on loan, on exhibition or undergoing conservation treatment. The curatorial department will advise if this is the case.

Those wishing to access the collection for study are encouraged to contact the Curatorial team to discuss their requirements.

Vehicles and other assorted items from the Museum Collection in our store at Debden