Post Boxes - they are everywhere
For many years, the humble Post Box meant only one thing for me. Some where to post my letters, never took any more interest than that. OK During my school years I was at a talk where the speaker spoke of the ‘oldest Post Box still in use in Bournemouth’. A hexagonal one not far from Bournemouth College. There is an older one in the wall of the local museum but this is no longer in use. So those bits of trivia stuck with me but that was it. Post Boxes are red and you post letters in them. They have no other interest apart from that. If only it was that simple. The Post Box keeps rearing it head.
First of all after I took up Geocaching. You know, the GPS related treasure hunt, where you try to find boxes hidden by others. Also in the early days there were location-less caches. These are where you had to find objects of a certain type and on one, someone challenged people to find Victorian Post Boxes.
When a post box is made it bears the initials of the monarch on the throne at the time. So all Victorian ones had VR on them. Current ones have ER etc. Of course the VR ones are the oldest but not the rarest, those fall to the Edward VIII ones, only a few of them.
Out came my Victorian maps, to see what streets excited in those days, as they are the ones that are going to have any VR boxes, and off Sue and I set trying to log as many as we can.
That game finished with the threat of legal action from the Post Office, who didn’t want us to publish the locations of Post Boxes as the information might be used by terrorists, their words not mine. We did try to point out that it could also be used by people who post letters and there are more of them than there are terrorists, but they were having none of it. Game over and as far as I know all the info we collected was just deleted.
I must admit even now when I pass a post box I still check whether is a VR one. The oldest one in Bournemouth being one such example.
Later on I came across a site called geograph.org. Its aim is to collect photographs from ever square Kilometre of the UK. Its well worth checking out. Many hundreds if not in the thousands of contributors have built a huge set of photographs. One guy who I spoken to a couple of times works for the same company as me, though in a different location. He has put thousands of photographs on that site and well done him. His, and other peoples, photographs of churches is slowly being harvested by myself for my Historic Churches website, as they are all released under a creative commons licence, thank you to geograph.org.uk and all it’s contributors. He also has a huge collection of pictures of post boxes on the site. All with a strange code attached to them e.g. BH1 12. Obviously some sort of unique reference the first part of which is the first part of the post code. However, I never got where the last part came from. but I wasn’t going to start post box spotting so I left it at that. .
During my twitter chats, especially about the weekly blog club, I became tweet friends with @LousieBrown, now I have no idea how the subject came up but she did say that she had more that a passing interest in.. ,yes you’ve guess it post boxes .That makes two people I know have a interest in post boxes. (before you say anything yes I do know that there is a whole society of them). I gladly informed her of the Penfold Victorian post box we have in Bournemouth, thus imparting my the whole post box knowledge. She seemed interested, but I’m still resisting the urge to look at post boxes any more than I am. I do have far too many hobbies at the moment.
On my recent holiday to Northumberland / Scotland, Sue and I were in Jedburgh and even Sue commented on the strange old looking post box we came across. For it too was a hexagonal Penfold one. We took pictures of it. I thought to myself that this is one my work colleague wouldn’t have. Only later on checking the site, to see his picture of the very same post box in his collection. His dedication and the amount of work he has put into producing his collection of photographs has to be admired. But again. I have too many hobbies to get involved in post boxes.
Yesterday I was chatting to the inspirational @pigsonthewing via twitter and again I can’t remember how but we got onto the subject of Open Street Map, The mapping that this done by the people and for the people. I did a couple of updates on it and was chatting about them to him. He told me that there was a e-mail group for UK OpenStreetMap people, so as I do GIS for part of my job I joined. I checked the archives of the group, just to see what sort of stuff they talk about and one of the last conversations they had was about… post boxes..
In this discussion they talk about Open Street Map, Dracos's excellent Post Box website, It would seem that the Post Office have finally released some details of their boxes, including their numbers but not location information. I guess that they are still afraid of terrorism. I must admit it was all quite interesting. I expect that I will be updating OSM now and again. So this brings me in contact with post boxes again. I’ve discovered that the codes that my work colleague uses in his geograph pictures are can actually be found on the boxes themselves. They are listed at the bottom of the collection information. And the Post Office has used these codes in the documentation they have provided.
However, the list lover in me would rather wish all these people got together. Produce one definitive list of post boxes, their codes, collection times, type, monarch and photograph. What they need is an information collator, but sorry, I would but I’ve got far too many hobbies. . .