This post was contributed by Danielle Butlerson, a freelance writer, creating pieces on a wide array of industries such as courier services and parcel delivery services. Whether sending an eBay or an Amazon parcel delivery, it is vital to survey all the possibilities online to ensure that you get the best service possible.
It might seem almost old hat in these times of instantaneous global communication thanks to the internet, but the trusty old postal service is not to be sniffed at. After all, millions of items are handled by the Royal Mail each and every day here in the UK, and other postal services all over the world remain similarly busy. Indeed, postage has endured in Britain for centuries, so perhaps those of us who have been so quick to declare its inevitable demise have been a little premature. Let’s take a quick look at the history of postage in Britain, and how it has evolved over the ages.
In the 12th century, Henry I appointed a group of messengers to dispatch letters for his government. Estimates suggest that these messengers carried around 4,500 letters in the years between 1100 and 1135. However, these messengers were not available for the use of private individuals – they had to sort things out for themselves. Some four centuries later, in 1516, the Royal Mail was created by decree of Henry VIII, with the establishment of the role of ‘Master of the Posts’ – a post which would later come to be known as that of the Postmaster-General.
Soon after coming to the throne in 1603, James I relocated his court to London and subsequently established a royal postal service between London and Edinburgh.
The Royal Mail service was finally made available to the public in 1635 by Charles I, with Thomas Witherings handed control of the monopoly. However, Parliament revoked the monopoly from Witherings five years later and parliamentarian Thomas Prideaux would make a lucrative living from running the parliamentary postal service during the years of the Civil War and the establishment of the First Commonwealth. In 1653, all previous grants for postal services were set aside by parliament and John Marley received the contracts for domestic and overseas mail. The improvements instituted during these years were considerable, and by 1655 the Royal Mail was brought under the direct control of the government.
Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the newly-crowned Charles II officially established the new General Post Office. There was rapid expansion of the network during the 18th century, but the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post in 1840 – providing a single delivery rate for any location in the UK and Ireland – proved to be a major milestone in the evolution of the British postal service. The Penny Black stamp was launched on May 6th that year.
The pace of change within the Royal Mail accelerated in the 20th century, with the organisation becoming a statutory corporation in 1969. The role of Postmaster-General was abolished, while responsibility for telecommunications was handed to the newly-formed British Telecom in the 1980s. Whilst the subsequent telecoms boom has completely transformed the way we do business and communicate with one another, the traditional methods of postage remain widely used. There is now widespread competition among couriers, with many specialist parcel delivery firms offering such services.