London postal district

London postal district

The London postal district is the area in England, currently of 241 square miles,HMSO, "The Inner London Letter Post", (1980)] to which mail addressed to the LONDON post town is delivered. The area was initially devised in 1856 [ IGWE] - John Marius Wilson, "Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales" (1870-72)] and throughout its history has been subject to periodic reorganisation, contraction and division into increasingly smaller postal units. It was integrated into the national postcode system of the United Kingdom during the early 1970sBritish Postal Museum and Archive - [ Information Sheet: Postcodes] ] and now corresponds to the N, NW, SW, SE, W, WC, E and EC postcode areas.Royal Mail, "Address Management Guide", (2004)] The postal district has also been known as the London postal area and as the inner area of the London postal region.



By the 1850s, the rapid growth of the metropolitan area meant it became too large to efficiently operate as a single post town. A Post Office inquiry into the problem had been set up in 1837 and a House of Commons committee was initiated in 1843. In 1854 Charles Canning, the Postmaster General, set up a committee at the Post Office in St. Martin's Le Grand to investigate how London could best be divided for the purposes of directing mail. In 1856, of the 470,000,000 items of mail sent in the United Kingdom during the year, approximately one fifth (100,000,000 items) were for delivery in London and half of these (50,000,000 items) also originated there.

The original London postal district was devised by Sir Rowland Hill in 1856 as a circular area of 12 miles radius from the central post office at St. Martin's Le Grand, near St Paul's Cathedral in central London. As originally devised, it extended from Waltham Cross in the north, to Carshalton in the south and from Romford in the east to Southall in the west.Chambers, W., "The Postman's Knock", Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, (1857)] Within the district it was divided into ten large areas which operated much like separate towns. Each was constituted "London" with a suffix (EC, WC, N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, and NW) indicating the area it covered; each had a separate head office. The system was introduced during 1857 and was completed on 1 January 1858.Richardson, J., "The Annals of London", (2000)]

Changes to NE and S

The NE and S divisions were abolished following a report by Anthony Trollope. In 1866 NE was merged into the E district, transferring places such as Walthamstow, [" [ Walthamstow: Transport and postal services] ", A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), pp. 250-251. Date accessed: 14 December 2007] Wanstead and Leytonstone. [" [ Wanstead: Introduction] ", A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), pp. 317-322. Date accessed: 22 December 2007.] Also at this time the outer boundary was retracted in the east, removing places such as Great Ilford from the postal district altogether. [" [ Little Ilford] ", A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), pp. 163-174. Date accessed: 14 December 2007.] In 1868 the S district was split between SE and SW. The NE and S codes have been re-used in the national postcode system and now refer to the NE postcode area around Newcastle Upon Tyne and the S postcode area around Sheffield.

Numbered divisions

In 1917, as a wartime measure to improve efficiency, the districts were further subdivided with a number applied to each sub-district. This was achieved by designating the area served directly by the head office in each district "1" and then allocating the rest alphabetically by the name of the location of each delivery office. Exceptionally, W2 and SW11 are also 'head districts'. The boundaries of each sub-district rarely correspond to any units of civil administration such as parishes or boroughs; despite this they have developed over time into a primary reference frame. The numbered sub-districts were later used as the outward code (first half) of the postcode system implemented during the 1970s. There have been a number of ad-hoc changes to the organisation of the districts, such as the creation of SE28 from part of SE2 because of the construction of the high density Thamesmead development.

High density districts

Due to high demand, some high density postcode districts have been split to create new, smaller postcode districts. This is achieved by adding a letter after the original postcode district, for example W1P. Where districts are used for purposes other than the sorting of mail, such as use as a geographic reference and on street signs, the subdivisions continue to be classed as one 'district'. The districts that have been subdivided are E1, W1, EC1, EC2, EC3, EC4, WC1, WC2 and SW1.

Relationship to London boundary

The initial system was designed at a time when the official London boundary was restricted to the square mile of the small ancient City of London. The area London covered ('the metropolis') consisted of parts of the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire. In 1889 a County of London was created which was somewhat smaller than the postal district. Around 40 of the sub-districts created in 1917 were outside its boundary with Leyton in Essex, Ealing in Middlesex, Totteridge in Hertfordshire and Wimbledon in Surrey served by the London postal area but outside the County of London.

In 1965 the creation of Greater London caused London's boundary to expand to include these places for local government as well as postal purposes. However the new boundary went far beyond these postal districts. Royal Mail were unable to follow this change and expand the postal district to match because of the prohibitive cost. [The Times, "G.P.O. To Keep Old Names. London Changes Too Costly." 12 April 1966.] Places in London's outer boroughs such as Harrow, Enfield, Ilford, Romford, Bromley, Richmond and Croydon are therefore covered by parts of twelve adjoining postcode areas (EN, IG, RM, DA, BR, TN, CR, SM, KT, TW, HA and UB) in five former postal counties. Royal Mail now has a policy of changing postcodes only if there is an operational advantage to them and has no plan to change the postcode system to match up with the Greater London boundaries. In 2003 the then Mayor of London expressed support for revision of postal addresses in Greater London. [cite local authority|url=|type=Authority|name=Greater London| title=Mayor answers to London: London postal address|accessdate=2008-03-24]

The London postal district currently includes:


External links

;Additional information:* [ Establishment of London postal districts -- mailing list discussion] :* [ British Postal Museum Information sheet on postcode history]

;Maps, photos, and other images;* [ postcode map] ;*Museum of London has a [ clickable map] . ;* [ Map of London in 1859 with NE and S districts shown] ;* [ Map of districts in 1900] ;*

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • postal district — [postal district] noun a district of a British town or city that has been given a particular ↑code by the ↑Post Office. Most postal districts have one or two letters for the town, and a number for the district. For example, the districts of… …   Useful english dictionary

  • postal district — n a district of a British town or city that has been given a particular code by the Post Office. Most postal districts have one or two letters for the town, and a number for the district. For example, the districts of Oxford are OX1, OX2, etc. In …   Universalium

  • London (disambiguation) — London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom.London may also mean:PlacesPlaces in the United Kingdom*London, the capital city of the United Kingdom **City of London, the small, ancient city (and root of most other Londons) **London… …   Wikipedia

  • London N20 — is a London postal district that covers the Totteridge, Whetstone and Oakleigh Park areas of the London Borough of Barnet in North London. (Strictly, the southern part of Totteridge extends into London N12.)It includes a large amount of green… …   Wikipedia

  • London N3 — is a London postal district that covers the Finchley Central and Church End areas of the London Borough of Barnet in North London. It is bounded on the south by the North Circular Road. parts of …   Wikipedia

  • London N11 — is a London postal district that covers the Friern Barnet, New Southgate and Bounds Green areas of the London Borough of Barnet, London Borough of Haringey and London Borough of Enfield in North London …   Wikipedia

  • London N14 — is a North London postal district that includes the Southgate, Oakwood and Osidge areas (parts of Oakwood are in EN2). The first two form parts of the London Borough of Enfield while Osidge is in the London Borough of Barnet …   Wikipedia

  • London N12 — is a London postal district that covers the North Finchley and Woodside Park areas of the London Borough of Barnet in North London.The north west part, although generally regarded as Woodside Park, is also sometimes considered part of Totteridge; …   Wikipedia

  • Postal codes in the United Kingdom — UK postal codes are known as postcodes.UK postcodes are alphanumeric. These codes were introduced by the Royal Mail over a 15 year period from 1959 to 1974 mdash; the full list is now available electronically from the Royal Mail as the Postcode… …   Wikipedia

  • Postal code — For computer POST codes, see Power On Self Test. Postcodes are generally clearly visible outside Australia Post offices …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.