ER II Lamp Box 1940 pattern Gorham's Cave Complex
Lamp boxes are the smallest of the post boxes used by the Royal Mail in the UK, Commonwealth of Nations as well as in Ireland. They are called lamp boxes because they were designed to be affixed to lamp posts, although they may equally be found embedded in walls or mounted on poles.
Lamp boxes were introduced on an experimental basis in September 1896, being used in parts of London as an inexpensive means of supplementing the existing Pillar box network.
The oldest Elizabeth II lamp box in Gibraltar moulded in the 1952 LB214 design which was the first of around twenty variations of the earlier "1940 pattern" type box. It is located at Europa Point and commemorates the Gorham's Cave Complex.
Seven Elizabeth II lamp boxes held by the RGPO are of the LB222/2 Abbott Engineering design which follows the "1977 Pattern" and can be differentiated by the fact that in this pattern design the cast front is now fitted to the galvanised steel back by four riveted lugs rather than 6 internal screws. These lamp boxes can also be identified by the name of the manufacturer which appears on the bottom right hand corner of the box door and by the designation Post Office above the flap.
In 1994, the letters business of the Post Office in the UK was split from the retail business. The former retained the title Royal Mail Letters whilst the later became Post Office Counters Ltd. This necessitated changing the castings yet again so that in future they would read Royal Mail rather than Post Office. Three of the ER II lamp boxes are now designated as Royal Mail which would identify them with the LB223 or Machan design, although none of the three boxes include the name of the manufacturer on the box door.
THE ROYAL GIBRALTAR POST OFFICE
The first organised postal service in Gibraltar dates from 1749, when Governor of Gibraltar Sir Humphrey Bland appointed a Civil Secretary and entrusted him with responsibility for the posts. There was then no regular mail service by sea between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom. Letters were carried by ships whenever possible because the overland route was more precarious, as the roads were unsafe.
In 1806, the British Post Office appointed a Packet Agent for Gibraltar and commenced a regular monthly Packet Service to Gibraltar from Falmouth on contract mail boats, which were known as Packets. Prior to 1830, they were sailing vessels. Steam then supplanted sail. The Civil Secretary continued to run the Overland Post Office.
This led to confusion as there were two post offices in Gibraltar, in separate places, one handling only maritime mail, mainly carried by the official mail packets; the other handling overland mail.
On the 1st January 1857 the Packet Agency and the Overland Post Office were amalgamated to form the Gibraltar Post Office. The entire postal service in Gibraltar then came under the control of the Postmaster General in London.
A new Post Office was then built. It is still in use today as the General Post Office. The last Gibraltar Packet Agent, Edmund Creswell, was eventually appointed a Deputy Postmaster-General and Surveyor of the Mediterranean. He was based in Gibraltar.
It was in Creswell’s time that the first postage stamps were introduced in Gibraltar. Overprinted British stamps were first sold in Gibraltar on the 3rd September 1857. They prepaid letters to all countries except Spain, for which letters had to be prepaid in Spanish stamps in order to benefit from lower postal rates, a matter of importance to the poorer classes at the time.
The local delivery of mail was then introduced on the 1st October 1858. Prior to this, all mail had to be collected from the Post Office. It was then decided to introduce pillar boxes. Three were originally ordered.
One was positioned in Governor's Parade (where there is still an Edward VII pillar box today). The other two were intended primarily for the military garrison and located near the Guard House on New Mole Parade and on Europa Road close to the junction with Windmill Hill. The pillar boxes came into use on 22nd December 1858 but none of the original three survive.
In 2005, the Gibraltar Post Office was granted the title of “Royal” by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Gibraltar is the only Commonwealth or British Overseas Territory Post Office outside the United Kingdom to be honoured with this title.