I find Victorian pillar boxes strangely fascinating. I think it’s their rugged steadfast look, their apparent determined attitude that the world around them can change as much as it likes but they’re not going anywhere.
I’ve discovered fourteen Victorian pillar boxes in the Roath/Splott/Adamsdown areas and one Victorian post box. May be there are a few more hidden away?
I think we should have a minutes silence for the one I think we lost last year when the Splott Road railway bridge was raised for the electrification scheme.
A pillar box can be dated by the royal motif on the front. The Victorian pillar boxes have a nice VR (Victoria Regina) ensignia.
The history of pillar boxes go back to the 1850s. For the first twenty years they weren’t red but green. There also were not cylindrical but hexagonal. The oldest pillar box in Cardiff is probably the one at St Fagan’s Museum.
All our pillar boxes have the words POST and OFFICE either side of the opening. This dates them to between 1883 and 1901, the year Queen Victoria died. That makes sense as that’s when a lot of the streets in the area were constructed. Look at the bottom of the pillar boxes and you will see who made them. I think all ours were made at by A Handyside Foundry & Co of Derby & London.
Just think for a moment what’s been posted in those pillar boxes over the years. The letters to relatives, those working away or at war, invitations, love letters, job applications and the Victorian postcards – yesterday’s equivalent to social media. In the days before the telephone the letter was the main form of communication. Letters dropped into these old pillar boxes over a hundred years ago were beginning a long journey sometimes over land and sea to faraway places.
One of our Victorian pillar boxes on Ninian Road hit the news earlier this year when it was taken out of commission, apparently for safety concerns as it is being engulfed by a tree. My photograph from a five years earlier however also shows it out of commission but in the five intervening years the tree certainly appears to have made progress.
Every time I pass the Victorian pillar box on Ty Gwyn Road I have a little smile to myself. Close to there was an large house called Oldwell, built for John Biggs who owned the South Wales Brewery. One of John’s six sons, Cecil, married a lady called Edith Box, and guess what they christened their daughter; Pilar. She was of course Pilar Biggs rather than Pilar Box but I’m sure the novelty of the Victorian pillar box being placed next to their Cecil’s house must have been an influence. This is where John the brewer would also have posted letters off to his son Norman, the rugby international, when he was serving in the Boer War.
A tour of the area’s Victorian pillar boxes will also take you to some grand buildings. One box overlooks the Mansion House and another the old Splott library.
But what of the future? Another generation or two and the need for post boxes may have disappeared all together as we transfer to electronic communication. If there is ever one going spare I wouldn’t mind one in my garden. Then again the Post Office might have something to say about that. The Ordnance Survey weren’t too happy when I tired to get a redundant trig point installed in the garden.