Postal Museum & Mail Rail (20.5.2018)

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Postal Museum & Mail Rail – LondonPostal Museum & Mail Rail – London

We got on the Thames Link Train at West Sutton which carried us straight up to Farringdon in around 50 minutes. The Postal Museum & Mail Rail are situated about 15 minute’s walk from Farringdon Train and Tube Stations (situated in Clerkenwell, Islington). The Postal Musem is ‘free’ to enter, but the Mail Rail and Special Children’s Playroom (which is a make believe town replete with interactive postal service) must be booked and paid for in advance. Although the staff at the Postal Museum suggest that you should ride the Mail Rail, there is not need to do so. The Postal Musuem is situated about 20 meters from the Mail Rail, as both places are in two different (purpose built) locations on either side of the same road. The Postal Museum is well planned with a good cafe serving excellent tea and light snacks. The toilets are clean, tidy and spread regularly throughout the building. The Postal Museum charts the development of the modern Postal Service – the Royal Mail – which developed during the Victorian Era from previously existing messenger services (usually used by the rich and powerful, as in the old days very few people could read and write). Post boxes appeared (originally ‘green’) during the Victorian Era, but the colour was eventually changed to the more familiar ‘red’. The post was carried by horse and coach, watched over by armed guards and postman who had to protect the post with their lives! The first stamps cost 1 penny and had to be paid by the sender (and not the recipient). This was a flat charge across the UK. As technology developed, the ”General Post Office’ (GPO) took-over telephone communications as well as postal deliveries. Royal Mail was privatised under Thatcher’s Tories in the 1980’s. Later, around two-thirds of postman were sacked (amounting to some 60,000) and around two-thirds of Post Offices were also closed by ‘New’ Labour in the early 2000’s. As the London streets were known to be busy and congested, the Mail Rail was built in the mid-19th century, and consists of a small, narrow gauged tube train that carried the mail under the city streets. Mail Rail was finally closed by ‘New’ Labour in 2003 as part of the continued privatisation of formerly public assests. During WWI, the Post Office was by far the biggest employer in the UK – and 73,000 postal workers volunteered for the Post Office Battalion – many being killed in action. After WWII, the biggest employer in the UK became the National Health Service (NHS). One intriguing fact I learned was that special post vans that carried mail in and out of rural areas also cted as the local bus service for many years!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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