10 October 2019

For the fourth lecture of the academic year, we welcomed Dr. Chris Evans – a retired physician – to give a presentation entitled ‘Pillars for Post’.

By Luke Crocker, Lower Sixth Pupil

Dr. Evans opened with how he first came across the pillar box – he sidestepped one at the request of his games master, slipped and knocked himself unconscious on its cast iron frame! Thereafter, he has had a passion for post boxes, and, during this lecture, aimed both to impart his extensive knowledge of the subject and to encourage us to pay more attention to these quintessentially British red structures.


The idea of a postal service first came under Henry VIII, but it was not until Anthony Trollope was sent on a mission to Europe in 1851 that the prospect of a pillar box was entertained, the first being constructed in Jersey in 1852. This makes it all the more exceptional that an 1857 fluted Victorian box still stands on Balls Road by the Williamson Art Gallery.
Describing the variation in design, Dr. Evans noted that the initial vertical aperture was hastily replaced with the more familiar horizontal one because it let in less water! Also mentioned were the Penfold hexagonal pillar boxes, which were built from 1866-1879, and the one on Ashville Road in Birkenhead Park is one of only twenty still in existence today. Furthermore, the Liverpool Specials are a larger type of post box that can be viewed in the Albert Dock, constructed due to the high demand for sending mail in the area.


Dr. Evans concluded with the fact that, even in these days of e-mail, every house is within half a mile from one of these pillar boxes, and this, combined with his enthusiasm for the subject, has encouraged us to pay more attention to these small pieces of history on the street corner. 

The week's lecture was particularly pointentnt as Mr. Vicars relayed the sad news of the death of Lord Nicholls on 25th September, who for twenty years had been president of the school, and stressed how great an honour it is to have this lecture series named after such a distinguished Old Birkonian and Law Lord.

The Nicholls Lecture Series is part of Birkenhead School's Inspiring Talks Series.

Click to read articles about other guests from the Nicholls Lecture Series including Lord Nicholas WilsonDr Jaclyn Bell, and Jonathan Quinn