London_postal_district

London postal district

The London postal district is the area in England, currently of 241 square miles, to which mail addressed to the LONDON post town is delivered. The area was initially devised in 1856 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 and now corresponds to the N, NW, SW, SE, W, WC, E and EC postcode areas. The postal district has also been known as the London postal area and as the inner area of the London postal region.

History

Origins

By the 1850s, the rapid growth of the metropolitan area meant it became too large to efficiently operate as a single post town. A Post Office inquiry into the problem had been set up in 1837 and a House of Commons committee was initiated in 1843. 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 470,000,000 items of mail sent in the United Kingdom during the year, approximately one fifth (100,000,000 items) were for delivery in London and half of these (50,000,000 items) also originated there.

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. 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. 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. The system was introduced during 1857 and was completed on 1 January 1858.

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, Wanstead and Leytonstone. Also at this time the outer boundary was retracted in the east, removing places such as Great Ilford from the postal district altogether. In 1868 the S district was split between SE and SW. 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.

Numbered divisions

In 1917, as a wartime measure to improve efficiency, the districts were further subdivided with a number applied to each sub-district. 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. 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 high 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 area London covered ('the metropolis') consisted of 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. Places in London's outer boroughs such as Harrow, 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) in five former 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 match up with the Greater London boundaries. In 2003 the then Mayor of London expressed support for revision of postal addresses in Greater London.

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
Mostly included Greenwich, Lewisham, Newham, Waltham Forest
Partly included Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, 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, 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 the Royal Mail only changes postcodes in order to facilitate the delivery of post.

Trivia

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

See the postcode area articles for a full list of the places the districts cover as some names describe the original delivery office (some of which might no longer exist) rather than the larger district which is served by it.

Postcode area District Postcode districts with locality served or name of delivery office
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 Dock • 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
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 Crystal Palace • SE20 Anerley • SE21 Tulse Hill • SE22 Dulwich • SE23 Forest Hill • SE24 Herne Hill • SE25 South Norwood • SE26 Sydenham • SE27 West Norwood • SE28 Thamesmead
SW South Western SW1 Head district • SW2 Brixton • SW3 Chelsea • SW4 Clapham • SW5 Earls Court • SW6 Fulham • SW7 South Kensington • SW8 Vauxhall • 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

Map of London postal districts

Outer districts

The post towns of neighbouring postcode areas cover the rest of Greater London:

Postcode area Post town Postcode districts
BR BROMLEY BR1, BR2
KESTON BR2
BECKENHAM BR3
WEST WICKHAM BR4
ORPINGTON BR5, BR6
CHISLEHURST BR7
CR CROYDON CR0
SELSDON CR2
CATERHAM CR3
MITCHAM CR4
COULSDON CR5
WARLINGHAM CR6
THORNTON HEATH CR7
PURLEY CR8
WEST CROYDON CR9
DA DARTFORD DA1
BEXLEY DA5
BEXLEYHEATH DA6, DA7
ERITH DA8, DA18
SIDCUP DA14, DA15
WELLING DA16
BELVEDERE DA17
EN ENFIELD EN1, EN2, EN4
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
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

External links

Additional information
* Establishment of London postal districts -- mailing list discussion
* British Postal Museum Information sheet on postcode historyMaps, photos, and other images* London postcode map*Museum of London has a clickable map * Map of London in 1859 with NE and S districts shown* Map of districts in 1900*

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