Oxford post boxes: St Aldate’s Post Office press reports

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 28 June 1879 (p. 8, col. e):


The ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the new Post Office in St. Aldate-street, was performed on Wednesday morning by Mr Arnall.

The proceedings commenced by Mr H. Luff, the clerk of the works, addressing the workmen. He said they were called upon to lay aside their implements of labour for a short space to witness the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the building which they were engaged in erecting. In the absence of Lord John Manners, H.M.’s Postmaster General, whom they all would have liked to have seen present, their good friend Mr. Arnall, the Postmaster of Oxford, would perform the ceremony, and might the building which was to be erected upon that stone become a lasting benefit and ornament to the good old City of Oxford; and might the design of the building do honour to the gentleman who designed it, and the execution of the works credit to all who were engaged in erecting the same.

The trowel was then presented to Mr Arnall, who in a skilful manner spread the mortar for the bed of the stone. The stone having been lowered into its place, Mr. Arnall applied the plumb rule and level to the same, and having found it true in all its parts took the gavel and gave three knocks upon the stone, at the same time declaring it to be well and truly laid. The stone consists of a large slab of Tisbury stone, weighing about a ton and a half, and forms the south corner of the building. Mr Arnall in addressing the company, said he felt that the erection of an important building of that kind should not take place without a ceremony of that sort. It had been accepted that either Lord John Manners or some other more important person than himself would have laid the stone. They having failed to do so, from some cause or other, he had been asked by a few friends interested in the matter to do so, and as it might be some interest to those present, and the town generally, to know why they wanted so large a building as the one they were about erecting, he would just given them a few statistics of the business carried on in the small place in which they were at present confined. The erection of a new Post Office for Oxford was a very important move in the right direction, and one which was very much needed, for it was the matter of surprise to him how the enormous work of the Oxford Post Office was performed in the small and inconvenient place they now occupied. Some people had expresses surprise at the large dimensions of the new office, but the statistics he would give them he thought would prove to them that the building they were now erecting would not in any way be too large for present or future requirements. The personal staff at Oxford Post Office was 121, of whom 87 were attached to the chief office. The number of letters, newspapers &c., which had to be stamped, sorted and despatched, and delivered were about 240,000 a week, of which number 90,000 were delivered in Oxford and neighbourhood. About 80,000 money orders were issued and paid in a year, representing about 100,000l. There were about 10,000 Savings Bank accounts. The number of letter-packets received and despatched daily was 226. Over 15,000l. was taken over the counter for stamps in the course of the year. The number of telegrams which passed through the Office in the course of a year was about 180,000. Government Insurance and Annuities, and the issue of Inland Revenue licences also form a considerable item of the duties of the Post Office. There were many people living who could remember all the letters for Oxford being delivered by one letter carrier. Now there were 23 letter carriers, and there were 4 deliveries and 6 collections of letters in the town daily. They would therefore see that although the new building was a great advance upon the old one, it would be none too large for the requirements of the service. Oxford showed a very important postal and telegraphic service, but it was a mere item in the Post Office duties of the United Kingdom, as a few figures would show. [Statistics for whole UK omitted….]

Mr Arnall in conclusion said that as the stone was well and truly laid he did not suppose the mortar would adhere to it unless it was well wetted, he therefore placed upon the stone a gold piece with the likeness of her Most Gracious Majesty engraved on it for the use of the men in doing so.

Three cheers having been given for Mr. Arnall, and three more for the clerk of works, the men resumed their labours.

[Description of building, very like the one given below, omitted.]

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 30 August 1879 (p. 5, col. f):


The Building News of August 22 has an illustration of the new Post Office, in reference to which it says:– The design we publish emanates from Her Majesty’s Office of Works, the architect being Mr. E.G. Rivers, surveyor to the Board, under whose superintendence the work is now being carried out. The builders are Messrs. J.R. Symm & Co., of Oxford, and the clerk of the works is Mr Henry Luff. On the ground floor, to the front, is the public office, a spacious apartment, 14ft. in height, and to the rear are the postmaster’s room, sorting office, lavatories, &c., &c. The sorting office is 60ft. long, 38ft. wide, and 15ft. high to the eaves, having an open roof, with iron trusses surmounted by a lantern. On the basement are the clerks’ retiring room, kitchen, heating apparatus, and battery rooms. The first floor will be occupied by the telegraph department, the instrument room being directly over the public office. The second floor will be devoted to the use of the caretaker and store-rooms. The materials employed are, for the walling, white bricks of Weal manufacture, and Chilmark stone for the facework of the principal portion of the building. The columns to the front entrance are of Ross of Mull granite. The fittings of the public office, also the dado and doors, will be of pitched pine. The public office and entrance lobby will have enriched ceilings in place. Ventilation is effected by means of flues in the walls, which admit air from the outside at about the floor level and discharge it into the rooms at a height of about 7ft. from the floor. Vitiated air is drawn off from the public office and rooms above by means of separate flues which communicate with a ventilating turret fixed in the roof space, in which three circular rows of gas burners will be fixed, thus affording ample means of extracting the foul air through damp cold weather. The public office, sorting office, and instrument room will be heated by means of high quality pipes and coils. The public office and Postmaster’s room will have a fireproof floor.

Oxford Chronicle, 11 October 1879 (p. 8, cols. c–d):


The erection of the building for the New Post Office is being rapidly proceeded with, and the roof has now been reached. The huge iron girders for the fire proof floor caused delay as it took some time to execute the order. The building will be covered in during the present year. The contractors are required to finish it by September next [1880], and we understand it will be completed long before that time.

The building, which will be very commodious and very substantially constructed throughout, will have a stone front to St. Aldate’s, and the south side will also be of Tisbury stone from the Chilmark pits. It will consist of a basement, ground floor, first floor, and second floor.

The basement will contain clerks, letter carriers, and sorters’ kitchens, battery room, boiler rooms, stores, coals &c.

On the ground floor will be a public office, 35 ft. by 35 ft. 6 in., with a recess at the north-east corner, 12 ft. by 5 ft. 6in., for the letter box. At the back will be the Postmaster’s room, 19 ft. by 18 ft. 6 in. Leading from the public office from the letter-box is a passage to the sorting room at the back, which will be 60 ft. by 38 ft., and have a height of 15 ft. to the plate, from whence will spring the roof, on iron principals, square rafters, and V pointed boarding, the whole being lighted by a lantern roof and three large windows on the south side. At the west end of this room on the south will be lavatories, &c., for the clerks and letter carriers.

On the first floor will be the telegraphic instrument room, of the same size as the public office beneath, clerks’ rooms, messengers’ room, lavatory &c., and on the second floor will be apartments for a resident porter, consisting of sitting room, bedroom, and kitchen, and rooms for telegraph and postal stores.

The height of the parapet from the street pavement will be 46 ft., and that of the ornamental creating of the roof 59 ft. The entire building will be ventilated by a central extraction shaft for the admission of fresh and the emission of foul air, which will be carried higher than the roof, and strict regard has been directed to the providing of the best sanitary appliances.

There will be an ornamental front to the building, which is recessed in the centre for the purpose of forming an area to light the kitchens below, and which will be enclosed by an ornamental iron palisade. The front entrance door will have a projection at the south end, and the door itself will be of ornamental wainscot oak. The arch over the doorway will be supported on each side by a cluster of polished Mull granite columns, and in the arch there will be placed a beautifully carved coat of arms. It should be stated that the floors will be fireproof throughout. The moulded stringing courses will be of Tisbury stone, and the upper windows will have pointed arches springing from circular columns with moulded caps and bases. A large clock will be placed over the letter-box in the spandril of the arch. The top of the parapet will be finished with moulded stone coping, as also will the caps of the chimneys. The fittings of the public office and the doors and architraves will be of varnished pitched pine. Gas and water will be laid throughout the building.

The architect is E. J. Rivers, Esq., of Her Majesty’s Office of Works; the builders are Messrs Symm & Co., of Oxford; and the Clerk of the Works is Mr H. Luff. The cost of the erection will be about £10,000.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 15 October 1892 (p. 6., col. d):

Owing to the increase of traffic improvements have been made at the entrance to the sorting office, and the lantern lights have been restored by Symm & Co.

Oxford Chronicle, 23 October 1903 (p. 7, cols. f–g):

For some time past Messrs T.H. Kingerlee and Sons have been engaged upon the extension of the General Post Office. A large sorting office, about 50ft. by 62ft., has been built at the back, and is lighted with lantern lights and skylights, the latter being made to open, with the ventilator on top. A new room has been built for the Postmaster, and retiring rooms for the clerks and postmen. There are new lamp and store rooms. Telephone and messengers’ rooms have also been added. Messages will be conveyed from the instrument room to the boys’ room by means of a pneumatic tube. A part of the yard will be covered with Heywood’s patent glazing. There is a large room in the basement for the storage of baskets and boxes, and a lift, which it believed will be on the electric principle, to convey goods from the basement to the storeroom. All necessary lavatories etc., have been built with white glazed bricks. It is probably that both the old and new building will be lighted with electric light.

Back to St Aldate’s Post Office

Stephanie Jenkins, 2013