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The Postmaster General of the United Kingdom is a defunct Cabinet-level ministerial position in HM Government. Aside from maintaining the postal system, the Telegraph Act of 1868 established the Postmaster General's right to exclusively maintain electric telegraphs. This would subsequently extend to telecommunications and broadcasting.

The office was abolished in 1969 by the Post Office Act 1969. A new public authority governed by a chairman was established under the name of the "Post Office." The position of "Postmaster General" was replaced with "Minister of Posts and Telecommunications"; subsequently such functions generally fall within the remit of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, although the present-day Royal Mail Group is overseen by the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Contents

History

The former site of the General Letter Office in London

In England, the monarch's letters to his subjects are known to have been carried by relays of couriers as long ago as the 15th century. In 1510, Sir Brian Tuke was appointed as "Master of the King's Post". In 1609 it was decreed that letters could only be carried and delivered by persons authorised by the Postmaster General. 1660 saw the establishment of the General Letter Office, this would later become the General Post Office (GPO). A similar position evolved in the Kingdom of Scotland prior to the 1707 Act of Union.

In 1657 an Act entitled 'Postage of England, Scotland and Ireland Settled' set up a system for the British Isles and enacted the position of Postmaster General. The Act also reasserted the postal monopoly for letter delivery and for post horses. After the Restoration in 1660, a further Act (12 Car II, c.35) confirmed this, the previous Cromwellian Act being void.

Former Postmasters General of England and the UK

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Two Postmasters General

From 1691 to 1823 there were two Postmasters General, to divide the patronage between the Whigs and Tories.

Year 1st Postmaster-General 1st Party 2nd Postmaster-General 2nd Party
1691 Sir Thomas Frankland Sir Robert Cotton
1708 Sir John Evelyn
1715 James Craggs the Elder Charles Cornwallis, 4th Baron Cornwallis
1720 Galfridus Walpole Edward Carteret
1725 Edward Harrison
1733 Thomas Coke, 1st Baron Lovel
(Earl of Leicester from 1744)
1739 Sir John Eyles, Bt
1745 Everard Fawkener
1759 Robert Hampden, 4th Baron Trevor William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough
1762 John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont
1763 Thomas Villiers, 1st Baron Hyde
1765 Thomas Robinson, 1st Baron Grantham William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough
1766 Wills Hill, 2nd Viscount Hillsborough Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer
1768 John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich
1771 Henry Carteret
(from 1784 Baron Carteret)
1782 The Viscount Barrington
1782 Charles Bennet, 4th Earl of Tankerville[1]
1783 Thomas Foley, 2nd Baron Foley [1]
1784 Charles Bennet, 4th Earl of Tankerville [1]
1786 Thomas Villiers, 1st Earl of Clarendon
1787 Thomas de Grey, 2nd Baron Walsingham
1789 John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland
1790 Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl of Chesterfield
1794 George Townshend, 1st Earl of Leicester
1798 William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland
1799 George Leveson-Gower, Baron Gower
1801 Lord Charles Spencer
1804 James Graham, 3rd Duke of Montrose
1806 John Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire
1807 Thomas Pelham, 2nd Earl of Chichester John Montagu, 5th Earl of Sandwich
1814 Richard Trench, 2nd Earl of Clancarty
1816 James Cecil, 1st Marquess of Salisbury

A single Postmaster

In 1823 the idea of a Whig and a Tory sharing the post was abolished.[1]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Falmouth packet archives accessed 9 June 2008

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