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The London postal district is the area in England, currently of 241 square miles,[1] to which mail addressed to the LONDON post town is delivered. The area was initially devised in 1856[2] and throughout its history has been subject to periodic reorganisation, contraction and division into increasingly smaller postal units. It was integrated into the national postcode system of the United Kingdom during the early 1970s[3] and now corresponds to the N, NW, SW, SE, W, WC, E and EC postcode areas.[4] The postal district has also been known as the London postal area and as the inner area of the London postal region.[1]

Contents

History

Origins

The Post Office in St. Martin's Le Grand

By the 1850s, the rapid growth of the metropolitan area meant it became too large to efficiently operate as a single post town.[3] A Post Office inquiry into the problem had been set up in 1837 and a House of Commons committee was initiated in 1843.[5] In 1854 Charles Canning, the Postmaster General, set up a committee at the Post Office in St. Martin's Le Grand to investigate how London could best be divided for the purposes of directing mail. In 1856, of the 470 million items of mail sent in the United Kingdom during the year, approximately one fifth (100 million) were for delivery in London and half of these (50 million items) also originated there.[5]

The original London postal district was devised by Sir Rowland Hill in 1856 as a circular area of 12 miles radius from the central post office at St. Martin's Le Grand, near St Paul's Cathedral in central London.[2] As originally devised, it extended from Waltham Cross in the north, to Carshalton in the south and from Romford in the east to Southall in the west.[5] Within the district it was divided into ten large areas which operated much like separate towns. Each was constituted "London" with a suffix (EC, WC, N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, and NW) indicating the area it covered; each had a separate head office.[2] The system was introduced during 1857[3] and was completed on 1 January 1858.[6]

Changes to NE and S

The NE and S divisions were abolished following a report by Anthony Trollope. In 1866 NE was merged into the E district, transferring places such as Walthamstow,[7] Wanstead and Leytonstone.[8] Also at this time the outer boundary was retracted in the east, removing places such as Great Ilford from the postal district altogether.[9] In 1868 the S district was split between SE and SW.[3] The NE and S codes have been re-used in the national postcode system and now refer to the NE postcode area around Newcastle Upon Tyne and the S postcode area around Sheffield.[4]

Numbered divisions

In 1917, as a wartime measure to improve efficiency, the districts were further subdivided with a number applied to each sub-district.[3] This was achieved by designating the area served directly by the head office in each district "1" and then allocating the rest alphabetically by the name of the location of each delivery office.[3] Exceptionally, W2 and SW11 are also 'head districts'. The boundaries of each sub-district rarely correspond to any units of civil administration such as parishes or boroughs; despite this they have developed over time into a primary reference frame. The numbered sub-districts were later used as the outward code (first half) of the postcode system implemented during the 1970s. There have been a number of ad-hoc changes to the organisation of the districts, such as the creation of SE28 from part of SE2 because of the construction of the high density Thamesmead development.

High density districts

Due to heavier demand, some high density postcode districts have been split to create new, smaller postcode districts. This is achieved by adding a letter after the original postcode district, for example W1P. Where districts are used for purposes other than the sorting of mail, such as use as a geographic reference and on street signs, the subdivisions continue to be classed as one 'district'. The districts that have been subdivided are E1, W1, EC1, EC2, EC3, EC4, WC1, WC2 and SW1.

Relationship to London boundary

The initial system was designed at a time when the official London boundary was restricted to the square mile of the small ancient City of London. The wider metropolitan postal area covered parts of the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire. In 1889 a County of London was created which was somewhat smaller than the postal district. Around 40 of the sub-districts created in 1917 were outside its boundary with Leyton in Essex, Ealing in Middlesex, Totteridge in Hertfordshire and Wimbledon in Surrey served by the London postal area but outside the County of London.

In 1965 the creation of Greater London caused London's boundary to expand to include these places for local government as well as postal purposes. However the new boundary went far beyond these postal districts. Royal Mail were unable to follow this change and expand the postal district to match because of the prohibitive cost.[10] Places in London's outer boroughs such as Harrow, Barnet, Enfield, Ilford, Romford, Bromley, Richmond and Croydon are therefore covered by parts of twelve adjoining postcode areas (EN, IG, RM, DA, BR, TN, CR, SM, KT, TW, HA and UB), formerly in five postal counties. Royal Mail now has a policy of changing postcodes only if there is an operational advantage to them and has no plan to change the postcode system to correlate with the London boundary. In 2003 the then Mayor of London expressed support for revision of postal addresses in Greater London.[11]

The London postal district currently includes:

Entirely included City of London, Camden, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster London postal district shown (in red) against the Greater London boundary
Mostly included Greenwich, Lewisham, Newham, Waltham Forest
Partly included Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow[12], Hounslow, Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames
Not included Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Hillingdon, Sutton

Sewardstone in the Epping Forest district of Essex is anomalously the only place to be outside the Greater London boundary but within the London postal district.

Significance

It is common to use postal districts as placenames in London, particularly in the property market: a property may be described as being "in N11", especially where a postal district is synonymous with a desirable location but also covers other less prestigious places. They are a convenient shorthand for social status,[13] such that a 'desirable' postcode may add significantly to the value of property, and property developers have pressed for the boundaries of postal districts to be altered so that new developments will sound as though they are in a richer area. Some groups on the fringes of the London postal district lobby to be excluded or included in an attempt to decrease their insurance premiums (see SE2) or raise the prestige of their business (see IG1). This is generally futile as Royal Mail only changes postcodes in order to facilitate the delivery of post.[14]

Presentation

All London postal districts were traditionally prefixed with the post town 'LONDON' and full stops were commonly placed after each character, e.g. LONDON S.W.1.

Use of the full stops ended with the implementation of the national postcode system. More recently, the Royal Mail have specified that the post town and district should each appear on a separate line in order to increase the effectiveness of their OCR equipment.

List of London postal districts

The postcode district names refer to original delivery office. The postcode area articles give the full coverage of each district.
Postcode area District[1] Postcode districts and names
E Eastern E1 Head district
E2 Bethnal Green
E3 Bow
E4 Chingford
E5 Clapton
E6 East Ham
E7 Forest Gate
E8 Hackney
E9 Homerton
E10 Leyton
E11 Leytonstone
E12 Manor Park
E13 Plaistow
E14 Poplar
E15 Stratford
E16 Victoria Docks
E17 Walthamstow
E18 South Woodford
EC Eastern Central EC1 Head district
EC2 Bishopsgate
EC3 Fenchurch Street
EC4 Fleet Street
N Northern N1 Head district
N2 East Finchley
N3 Finchley
N4 Finsbury Park
N5 Highbury
N6 Highgate
N7 Holloway
N8 Hornsey
N9 Lower Edmonton
N10 Muswell Hill
N11 New Southgate
N12 North Finchley
N13 Palmers Green
N14 Southgate
N15 South Tottenham
N16 Stoke Newington
N17 Tottenham
N18 Upper Edmonton
N19 Upper Holloway
N20 Whetstone
N21 Winchmore Hill
N22 Wood Green
Postcode area District[1] Postcode districts and names
NW North Western NW1 Head district
NW2 Cricklewood
NW3 Hampstead
NW4 Hendon
NW5 Kentish Town
NW6 Kilburn
NW7 Mill Hill
NW8 St John's Wood
NW9 The Hyde
NW10 Willesden
NW11 Golders Green
SE South Eastern SE1 Head district
SE2 Abbey Wood
SE3 Blackheath
SE4 Brockley
SE5 Camberwell
SE6 Catford
SE7 Charlton
SE8 Deptford
SE9 Eltham
SE10 Greenwich
SE11 Kennington
SE12 Lee
SE13 Lewisham
SE14 New Cross
SE15 Peckham
SE16 Rotherhithe
SE17 Walworth
SE18 Woolwich
SE19 Upper Norwood
SE20 Anerley
SE21 Dulwich
SE22 East Dulwich
SE23 Forest Hill
SE24 Herne Hill
SE25 South Norwood
SE26 Sydenham
SE27 West Norwood
SE28 Thamesmead
Postcode area District[1] Postcode districts and names
SW South Western SW1 Head district
SW2 Brixton
SW3 Chelsea
SW4 Clapham
SW5 Earls Court
SW6 Fulham
SW7 South Kensington
SW8 South Lambeth
SW9 Stockwell
SW10 West Brompton
Battersea SW11 Head district
SW12 Balham
SW13 Barnes
SW14 Mortlake
SW15 Putney
SW16 Streatham
SW17 Tooting
SW18 Wandsworth
SW19 Wimbledon
SW20 West Wimbledon
W Western W1 Head district
Paddington W2 Head district
W3 Acton
W4 Chiswick
W5 Ealing
W6 Hammersmith
W7 Hanwell
W8 Kensington
W9 Maida Vale
W10 North Kensington
W11 Notting Hill
W12 Shepherds Bush
W13 West Ealing
W14 West Kensington
WC Western Central WC1 Head district
WC2 Strand

London postcodes.png

Outer districts

The AL, BR, CR, DA, EN, HA, IG, KT, RM, SM, TW, UB and WD postcode areas, together with the London postal district, comprise the full London postal region.[1] These neighbouring postcode areas cover the rest of Greater London as follows:

Postcode area Post town Postcode districts
BR BROMLEY BR1, BR2
KESTON BR2
BECKENHAM BR3
WEST WICKHAM BR4
ORPINGTON BR5, BR6
CHISLEHURST BR7
SWANLEY BR8
CR CROYDON CR0, CR9
SOUTH CROYDON CR2
MITCHAM CR4
COULSDON CR5
WARLINGHAM CR6
THORNTON HEATH CR7
PURLEY CR8
DA DARTFORD DA1
BEXLEY DA5
BEXLEYHEATH DA6, DA7
ERITH DA8, DA18
SIDCUP DA14, DA15
WELLING DA16
BELVEDERE DA17
EN ENFIELD EN1, EN2, EN3
BARNET EN4, EN5
HA WEMBLEY HA0, HA9
HARROW HA1, HA2, HA3
RUISLIP HA4
PINNER HA5
NORTHWOOD HA6
STANMORE HA7
EDGWARE HA8
IG ILFORD IG1, IG2, IG3, IG4, IG5, IG6
CHIGWELL IG7
WOODFORD GREEN IG8
BARKING IG11
Postcode area Post town Postcode districts
KT KINGSTON UPON THAMES KT1, KT2
NEW MALDEN KT3
WORCESTER PARK KT4
SURBITON KT5, KT6
CHESSINGTON KT9
RM ROMFORD RM1, RM2, RM3, RM4, RM5, RM6, RM7
DAGENHAM RM8, RM9, RM10
HORNCHURCH RM11, RM12
RAINHAM RM13
UPMINSTER RM14
SM SUTTON SM1, SM2, SM3
MORDEN SM4
CARSHALTON SM5
WALLINGTON SM6
TN SEVENOAKS TN14
WESTERHAM TN16
TW TWICKENHAM TW1, TW2
HOUNSLOW TW3, TW4, TW5, TW6
ISLEWORTH TW7
BRENTFORD TW8
RICHMOND TW9, TW10
TEDDINGTON TW11
HAMPTON TW12
FELTHAM TW13, TW14
UB SOUTHALL UB1, UB2
HAYES UB3, UB4
NORTHOLT UB5
GREENFORD UB6
WEST DRAYTON UB7
UXBRIDGE UB8, UB9, UB10

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f HMSO, The Inner London Letter Post, (1980)
  2. ^ a b c IGWE - John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72)
  3. ^ a b c d e f British Postal Museum and Archive - Information Sheet: Postcodes
  4. ^ a b Royal Mail, Address Management Guide, (2004)
  5. ^ a b c Chambers, W., The Postman's Knock, Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, (1857)
  6. ^ Richardson, J., The Annals of London, (2000)
  7. ^ Walthamstow: Transport and postal services, A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), pp. 250-251. Date accessed: 14 December 2007
  8. ^ Wanstead: Introduction, A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), pp. 317-322. Date accessed: 22 December 2007.
  9. ^ Little Ilford, A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), pp. 163-174. Date accessed: 14 December 2007.
  10. ^ The Times, G.P.O. To Keep Old Names. London Changes Too Costly. 12 April 1966.
  11. ^ Greater London Authority - Mayor answers to London: London postal address. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
  12. ^ Honeypot Close in London Borough of Harrow is within NW9 postcode, the only address in the Borough which is inside the London Postal District; see: [1] and [2]
  13. ^ Calder, S., London's in-crowd. Independent, The (London), Oct 26, 1996
  14. ^ This is local London - Cracking the code’s not easy. Tuesday 12th March 2002.

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