The man who created Britain’s postal system

During 1979 the British Post Office Philatelic Bureau published 8 new stamps. That issued on this day – 22nd August 1979 – told the story of Sir Rowland Hill, a man that they described as ‘Reformer Extraordinary’.

Roland Hill was born in 1795.  By 1836, already a famous educational reformer, he had turned his remarkable abilities to such diverse fields as transport, colonisation and printing.  In 1837 his pamphlet on Postal Reform was published, resulting in the introduction of Uniform Penny Postage in 1840, sweeping away the previous inefficient and costly separate treatment of letters by the London Post and the dearer General Post.  The new postal stationery and the world’s first adhesive postage stamp – the Penny Black – were the first means of prepaying postage, other than by cash.

From 1843 until 1846, Hill worked for the London and Brighton Railway, restoring efficiency and introducing cheap excursions to revolutionise travel for ordinary people.

That having been completed, from 1846 until his retirement in 1864, he served the Post Office. Major achievements from 1849 included persuading householders to provide letter-slits in their front doors.  From 1853 he worked on extending nationwide the use of roadside posting boxes; from 1857 he was busy dividing London into Postal Districts and by 1858 he was completing revision of the Rural Posts.

Sir Rowland Hill died on 27th August 1879 and was buried in Westminster Abbey


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