Grab yourself a cuppa and settle in for a little Secret London history lesson, folks. Todays topic of choice? Something that us Londoners are extremely passionate about: postcodes, of course.
The London postal districts were originally created back in 1856 by an innovative chap; Sir Rowland Hill. He designed the system as a way to deal with the sudden increase of postal volume and divided the city neatly into ten London postcode areas (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW, WC, EC). Observant Londoners may have noticed, however, that today we only have eight postcodes in the capital city. How did that happen? I hear you ask. Well, luckily for you, I’ve done some digging and found out exactly why the S and NE postcodes are long-gone, but certainly not forgotten.
Ten years after Hill lovingly created the London postcode districts, a man named Anthony Trollope (who also happened to be a successful novelist and the person we have to thank for the introduction of postboxes) was given the task of investigating the efficiency and effectiveness of Hill’s system. His findings were simple (if a little savage): the South and North-East districts just weren’t generating enough letter traffic and therefore weren’t worthy of their own dedicated postcode and post office.
Trollope’s investigation sealed the fate of the two districts, with the S postcode being immediately scrapped. South London residents were merged into the SW and SE postal areas and everyone seemed to just get on with it (there’s nothing like that good old south London spirit, am I right?). The abolishment of the NE postcode was a bit more controversial, though (oooooh). The post office closed the NE district in 1867, and locals were instead put under the E umbrella. However, residents weren’t actually informed of the change until 1869, and let’s just say – it caused a little bit of an uproar.
Most north-east Londoners weren’t happy with the change and some decided to ignore the idea altogether (ignorance is bliss, hey?). The NE postcode initials were still used for addressing letters and for street signs well into the early 1900s. It wasn’t until 1917 that the locals had to finally give in to the inevitable. There is still one street in north-east London that truly stood its ground; Martello Street (formally Tower Street) in Hackney still has its original street sign up underneath the new one. Now, that’s some serious commitment to the cause.
In 1897, a doctor even led a group of Hackney businessmen in a petition to bring back the NE district because they couldn’t accept the notion of being considered east Londoners. They claimed that being associated with east London was damaging their businesses but unfortunately the petition was unsuccessful and Hackney was slowly transformed into the east London hipster hotspot that it is today. It turns out that there’s always been a lot more to postcodes than simply where your letters are delivered and how much your house costs.
Thanks to London‘s sacrifice, the NE postcode now belongs to Newcastle, whilst S has been taken over by Sheffield. You’re welcome, guys.
So there you have it – today’s history lesson is officially complete and you can give yourself a pat on the back. And look, you never know when these little nuggets of knowledge will come in handy. Pub quiz, anyone?