The first pillar boxes were erected in 1852 at St Hellier in Jersey, in 1853 the first pillar box on the British mainland was erected at Carlise.
In 1879 came the cylindrical design of pillar box, which apart from a few recent experiments has changed very little since. The early boxes had no royal cipher and are known as 'anonymous' boxes. This oversight was corrected from 1887 when the words POST OFFICE were also placed either side of the aperture.
Gibraltar’s second-oldest surviving letter box is a Victorian pillar box; it is known as “The Vic”. Queen Victoria was great-great-grandmother to Queen Elizabeth II. It is a Type A, (1887-1901 version) cast by the foundry of Andrew Handyside & Co Ltd (Derby & London). The company's output ranged from garden ornaments to railway bridges. They produced lamp posts for the new gas street lighting and were one of the first to produce the new standard Post Office letterboxes.
This Victorian Type A post box had been originally sited opposite the residence of HE the Governor at The Convent, in Main Street. It was moved to its current location by the Court House on the 10th October 2014, following extension works to No 6 Convent Place.
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.