Gosport’s Victorian Penfold Pillar Box
The first post box installed in an England town was in Carlisle in 1853. It now has a replica box marking the spot. The most famous Victorian boxes are those designed by John Penfold, distinguished by their hexagonal construction and crowned with Acanthus buds. They came in three sizes and altogether thirteen different variants idetified by the Letter Box Study Group. They became very widespread. The most survivors are in London (including Hampstead) and Cheltenham, where there are eight still standing (all listed). Other examples can be found in Buxton (listed), Cambridge, Dorchester (listed), Ilkley, Rochester and Shrewsbury (and the village of Budby, Nottinghamshire).
Gosport has one in Spring Garden Lane, adjacent to the old railway station. It was Grade II Listed on 20.04.83
Listing NGR: SU5870301371
The following contribution is by Terry Rendall
I was walking past this post box outside the old Gosport Railway Station last week, the sun was shining and it looked particularly striking in its red jacket and black pedestal, so out came my pocket camera and took these photos. When I was a young boy this post box was neglected and never looked this good.
This pattern of Victorian pedestal post box was designed by J.W. Penfold, manufactured in cast iron in three sizes and nine types by Cochran Grove & Co Dudley but for a short period of time, 1866-1879 because they were too costly to make. What a fantastic looker it is with it’s hexagonal design, wide molded plinth, slim body, and roof with molded edging and decorative balls. On top the distinctive raised outline of six Acanthus leaves finished with a bud finial, on the main body Queen Victoria’s monogram and royal coat of arms. It might have had a white enameled letter aperture flap marked letters. Style, quality, durability, a British made gem! What more would you want from a post box???
These original mark one Penfold post boxes are VERY RARE, there are only TWENTY left and still in use, we in GOSPORT have one of them. Greedy Cheltenham have a cluster of seven original and one latter! They are all grade two listed, our one on 20 April 1983, could it be the OLDEST?
There are 90 plus latter but still old Penfolds in use around this country and some exports. In the late 1980’s around 100 replicas were made for use here.
At first post boxes were painted in many colours, then later mostly green, it is said people complained they couldn’t see them as they blended into background hedges, so around 1874 the first red one appeared. I think it took around ten years before all the existing ones were repainted, there are a few green, white and gold around.
Recently the green post box in the photo was removed from a remote spot in the Brecon Beacons before it was stolen, now restored and in a museum.
In one photo you will see a demolished post box laying on the pavement, crikey looks like a mark one! That was knocked over by demolition contractors backing their lorry into it, how ironic, In Cheltenham I think. They were saying it’s un-repairable because it’s made of cast iron, a tricky job I know but I think I could do it.
On our way home from Newtown School Grove Avenue, I was about five, mum and I would sometimes stand by the railway station post box and watch the steam train crossing Spring Garden Lane on it’s way back from Royal Clarence Yard, That keyhole shown in one of the photos was just too tempting, I was able to get my whole finger in there, or sometimes a stick, ?? now I can’t even get my finger tip in. I think they must have changed the lock! ??
|The architect of the famous hexagonal pillar box. The Penfold Pillar Box named after him was introduced in 1866, in green which was the standard colour, and that remained until 1874 when they were changed to red to increase visibility. The pillar box was topped with acanthus leaves and ball, made in three sizes, with five distinct types, and the design lasted for 13 years. There are about 100 surviving. A replica box painted in green was erected in Haslemere in 1991, and there was at one time a Penfold Corner where he lived.
The cartoon ‘Dangermouse’ had a sidekick called ‘Penfold’ (after JWP) as his secret hideaway entrance was in a pillar box in Baker Street.
John Wornham Penfold born 3rd Dec 1828 died 15 July 1909 at Sheringham, aged 80, and was buried in Haslemere churchyard.
Ludlow Wall Boxes
These are are built into stone pillars or the walls of buildings and are never found free-standing. They were nearly all made by the now-defunct company of James Ludlow & Son of Birmingham, whose name they take. Ludlow style boxes have been in use since 1885 and were in continuous manufacture until 1965. They are made largely of wood and they are of two standard sizes, small and large. In the smaller style the front door is surrounded by a cast iron decorative beading and surmounted by a cast aperture or mouth-piece which bears the cypher of the reigning British monarch at the time of supply. Below the aperture casting is a wooden door which is faced with thin sheet steel at the top and a decorative enamel plate at the bottom.
Gosport has two Victorian ones, one in Bury Road at Gosport and the other in Gosport Road at Lee on the Solent.