Heritage

Royal Mail has a rich and varied history, characterised by a tradition of service and innovation spanning 500 years.

Marking 500 years of serving the country

Since Tudor times, our postal network has been connecting families and friends, enabling business and driving innovation across the country.

In 1516, Henry VIII knighted Brian Tuke, the first Master of the Posts. This act was the catalyst for the creation of the Royal Mail we know today. Tuke had the influence and authority to establish key post towns across the country and build out a formal postal network.

From these origins, the postal service has survived 21 monarchs and two World Wars, and employed hundreds of thousands of people. Perhaps its most famous innovation is the Penny Black stamp, introduced in May 1840. As the world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black paved the way for the prepaid, one-price-goes-anywhere postage system we use today.

In September 1911, the first scheduled air mail service took place from Hendon to Windsor. The launch of airmail meant the UK could communicate on a global scale like never before.

To mark this momentous anniversary, Royal Mail is launching a special website showcasing the people, objects and events that played a key role in the development of the world’s first national postal service.

Visit the site here

Interactive timeline

You can travel through 500 years of our history. Visit our interactive timeline

British Postal Museum 

To find out more about Royal Mail Group's work with The Postal Museum download the  Annual Report on Postal Heritage 2013-14 (PDF 2.96MB)  or  visit The Postal Museum page.

Stamps and collectibles

Postage stamps have facilitated the delivery of mail since the 1840s. The first adhesive postage stamp, commonly referred to as the Penny Black, was issued in the United Kingdom in 1840. Royal Mail SpecialStamps promote and celebrate the best of British, whether historic anniversaries, achievements in arts and sciences or sporting success.

Discover more about Royal Mail’s Special Stamp Programme. You can also view 50 years of our Special Stamps at www.rmspecialstamps.com and watch a video presented by broadcaster and historian Dan Snow that explores how the Special Stamp programme has been shaped by the changing face of the UK

Royal Mail post boxes are an iconic part of the company’s heritage.

Royal Mail is committed to preserving and maintaining the heritage and character of its post box estate. We have published a joint policy statement with Historic England, in consultation with the Letter Box Study Group and The Postal Museum, setting out how we manage post boxes.

Post boxes are repainted and restored on a rolling cycle.

The full policy statement is available here:

 Royal Mail Post Boxes Heritage Agreement (PDF 4MB)