Published on May 28th, 2019 | by Sam Rose

The Changing Colour of Postboxes

The reliable trademark royal red of postboxes is something we’ve grown accustomed to when sending out letters and parcels – but did you know postboxes have changed colour over the years? We take a closer look at the changing colour of postboxes in our latest article.

Following on from Royal Mail’s announcement to launch parcel postboxes in August this year, we thought we’d take a look at how the humble postbox has evolved over the years, more specifically, a closer look at the changing colour of postboxes.

From gold, to green and even blue, postboxes have been painted a different colour in order to mark a special occasion or upcoming event.

But history also indicates, a fresh new colour of paint was used in the past to help postboxes look a little more subtle than the bright red tone we commonly see today.

The Introduction of Green Postboxes


In 1859, the hexagonal Penfold postbox (as it was named) didn’t use the rich royal red colour in it’s design like we see in the modern day.

Instead, it adopted a dark green aesthetic and as its name would suggest, was shaped slightly irregularly in the shape of Hexagon rather than the more traditional cylindrical design.

The change didn’t last very long though – there were a large amount of complaints from those who attempted to find and use the postboxes.

It was said that the colour of postboxes was adapted to make them look more subtle in open-air surroundings, however many complained that the colour change made them too difficult to locate.

After hearing of the complaints from the community, plans were made to change the colour of every postbox back to red in 1874.

This slight alteration meant that it took another ten years for the postboxes to be repainted and for the colour of postboxes to go back to a red colour scheme!

The Rare Sighting of Blue Postboxes

Blue Airmail Postbox

If you think the change of red to green for the colour of postboxes in the past was a little strange, then you may find the rare installation of blue postboxes to be a little on the odd side also.

And who could blame you – compared to the traditional red postboxes of the Royal Mail, you could mistake a blue postbox as belonging to another mail company or perhaps being used to separate the types of letters you could send in the post!

The second of these assumptions would actually be half right, as blue postboxes were introduced into some British cities and locations of note during 1930 to separate regular post from Airmail.

Blue postboxes intended use was for postal airmail services to collect mail posted through these postboxes which would then be sent to and from Europe.

Their use was very short lived however, as by 1938, blue postboxes had lost their significance and quickly fell out of use.

The reasons for their withdrawal were reportedly varied but could be put down mainly to the rise in air travel, built up factors heading into the Second World War and the overall cost of having bespoke post boxes solely for airmail.

It was decided that after 1938, blue airmail postboxes were no longer required and airmail could then be sent through the traditional means by way of the red postboxes.

Celebrating Olympic Glory with Gold Postboxes


Continuing our look through the changing colour of postboxes, it’s certainly worth mentioning the introduction of gold postboxes in 2012.

These gold postboxes were installed to celebrate every Team GB and Paralympic GB gold medal which had been won during the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Striking upon first glance, more than 100 red postboxes were painted in the colour of gold in cities across the UK including Sheffield, Lincoln, Cheltenham, Harlow, Leeds, Enfield and more.

The gold postboxes, which marked the outstanding efforts of athletes such as Andy Murray, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Mo Farah, Laura Trott, Sophie Christiansen and Jessica Ennis-Hill, were only meant to be a temporary fixture.

However, after seeing the popularity of the gold postboxes and the tourism they brought to the country, many gold postboxes remain intact today and are marked with special commemorative plaques.

World Book Day 2019 and the Yellow Postbox


As a way to mark World Book Day 2019 earlier in March this year, four postboxes were specially decorated to honor some of Britain’s most popular children’s authors.

Whilst three of the themed postboxes retained their red colour, one which was installed outside of the London Natural History Museum, was painted yellow!

The yellow postbox paid tribute to the comedian and children’s author David Walliams, who has been recently recognised as one of the most popular authors of children’s books of this generation.

It was created in a joint venture with HarperCollins Children’s Books, Walliams’ publisher, and features images and quotes from some of Walliams’ most popular children’s novels including ‘The Ice Monster’ and ‘Ratburger’.

The other postboxes included in the World Book Day 2019 celebrations were designs devoted to C.S. Lewis, Judith Kerr and Frances Hodgson Burnett. 

The Return of Blue Postboxes?

Question Marks Colour of Postboxes

We’d be remised if we didn’t mention the mysterious sighting of blue postboxes in certain locations of the UK earlier last week.

An article posted by the BBC discusses the initial confusion even further, after blue postboxes were spotted in the town centres of Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham and Taunton.

In it, they mention that the Royal Mail has yet to make any comments on the sudden reappearance of postboxes coloured blue.

Many are speculating though that it may tie in with the Cricket World Cup which starts on Thursday 30th of May 2019.

Another Fascinating Addition to the Changing Colour of Postboxes!

While nothing has been confirmed as of the time of writing, hints have been given by several sources that suggest that a reveal will take place tomorrow (Wednesday 29th of May 2019) to explain all.

Whatever the reason for blue postboxes re-emerging may be, it will be yet another fascinating addition to the changing colour of postboxes!

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