23rd November 1852

Jersey’s first pillar box is installed

Although Guernsey is home to the oldest pillar box in constant use anywhere in the world, it wasn’t the first to be installed – even in the Channel Islands.

Novelist Anthony Trollope, better known for writing the Chronicles of Barsetshire, was the surveyor of the western district of the Post Office in the mid-1850s, in which capacity he was dispatched by his boss, Rowland Hill, to find a way of improving the service between the mainland and Channel Islands. Locals had no way of knowing exactly when their post might leave the island as it was entirely dependent on the sailing of the packet ships, which had no choice but to work with the tides. Thus, letter writers might race to the docks with their missives only to discover they were too late.

An author inspired

Fortunately, Trollope had witnessed a novelty while visiting Paris some time before: a metal box into which the public could deposit their letters at any time of day, from which they would be collected in good time for the sailing. Thus, he proposed that five such boxes be installed in Jersey and four in Guernsey. Jersey’s post boxes opened for business on 23 November 1852, and those in Guernsey on 8 February the following year. The mainland got its first box, like Guernsey, in 1853.

The Times reported on Jersey Philatelic Bureau’s decision to release a series of stamps commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first post boxes. On 23 November 2002, the paper described the original boxes as being “made of cast metal and [standing] about 4ft high. Three sides bore the Royal Arms near the top, and on the other was the sliding cover unlocked by the postman. Painted red, the boxes were fitted on solid granite blocks 2ft deep.”


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