40 years for the Postcode

10 April 2014

This week Royal Mail has been celebrating 40 years since the allocation of postcodes to every town in the UK, which was completed in 1974. So, as a lot of people use postcodes to send cards every day, we thought we’d hit the history books, and see where it all came from! The first UK postcode system was introduced by Rowland Hill in 1857. This postcode system was identified by capital letters, which split London into ten postal districts. In 1917 this system was modified into alphanumeric format and numbered subdivisions of postal districts to deal with the increasing population of the nation’s capital, as well as to assist the women who took over the sorting work from men who had gone to war; this meant that no time was wasted in learning the districts, road names and house numbers. Jumping through a few decades, we find ourselves in 1965, where the government announced that the UK postcode would be spread to the entire country over the next few years, foreseeing the mechanisation of the sorting system and growth of population across the country. Today, there are now around 1.8 Million postcodes covering the United Kingdom’s growing 29 Million addresses. Optical recognition machines read the postcodes and automatically convert them to phosphor dots; these are then read by the sorting machines which handle the mail correctly, and incredibly fast! Postcodes are also used today for confirming Identities, reducing fraud, and of course to support Satellite Navigation systems!

So remember! Next time you write a postcode on a letter, it’s so much more than just a sequence of numbers and letters!

Did you know?

- High Street is the UK’s most common road name

- The most popular house name is The Cottage

- One of the most unusual street names is Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate, York, YO18BL (YES. It’s real, check it out yourself via its postcode)

- Royal Mail believes that the longest street name is Stoke Newington Church Street.