Londons Postcodes (ZIP Codes)

London EC3 London EC2 London EC4 London EC1 London WC1 London WC2 London NW7 London NW4 London NW9 London NW10 London NW10 London NW6 London NW2 London NW11 London NW8 London NW3 London NW5 London NW1 London W7 London W13 London W5 London W4 London W3 London W6 London W14 London W12 London W10 London W11 London W8 London W9 London W2 London W1 London SW14 London SW13 London SW15 London SW18 London SW20 London SW19 London SW17 London SW6 London SW10 London SW10 London SW5 London SW7 London SW3 London SW11 London SW12 London SW4 London SW16 London SW2 London SW9 London SW8 London SW1 London SE25 London SE20 London SE19 London SE27 London SE21 London SE24 London SE5 London SE17 London SE11 London SE1 London SE22 London SE26 London SE26 London SE23 London SE15 London SE14 London SE16 London SE4 London SE6 London SE12 London SE14 London SE13 London SE10 London SE3 London SE3 London SE7 London SE9 London SE18 London SE2 London SE28 London E6 London E12 London E7 London E13 London E16 London E14 London E3 London E1 London E2 London E15 London E9 London E8 London E11 London E10 London E5 London E18 London E17 London E4 London N21 London N21 London N13 London N14 London N11 London N9 London N10 London N22 London N18 London N8 London N17 London N15 London N16 London N4 London N5 London N1 London N7 London N19 London N19 London N6 London N2 London N3 London N12 London N20

Postcodes are a London obsession. House prices in the capital are mainly defined by location and Londoners regularly pay above the odds to acquire desirable postcodes. Find out more about the capital's revolutionary postal system and the man responsible for this incredible innovation.

The London Postcodes

 

London Postcodes: a History
Postcodes are a London obsession. Decades of snobbery have revolved around whether your area of residence has a postcode respected by the upper echelons of London society. House prices in the capital are mainly defined by location and Londoners regularly pay above the odds to acquire desirable postcodes.

Prior to the introduction of postcodes London’s mail was often vaguely addressed and deliveries were erratic. The population growth spurt of the mid-nineteenth century created a need for a more ordered system and initial reforms were introduced which renumbered 100,000 houses and renamed 4,800 areas.

Problems persisted though and eventually a former teacher with a passion for the post hit upon a solution which divided the capital into 10 separate postal districts. Sir Rowland Hill’s system was based around compass points and an office established for each district which were organised and contained within a circle of 12 miles radius from central London.  Sir Roland was later made Secretary to the Postmaster-General in 1846 and continued to reform the Post Office until his retirement in 1864.

Between 1857 and 1858 the circulation of London’s mail improved immeasurably due to Hill’s scheme. The public were required to add the initials of their districts to the end of an address and local letters could now be sorted in the local office instead of being taken to the Chief Office in the centre of London. In 1866 a report by the surveyor, Anthony Trollope, who later became a revered novelist, lead to a re-ordering of the districts with the North East area merging with the East district.

London’s postal revolution sparked off similar reforms in other major towns, such as Manchester and Sheffield, where the initial of the town name was used and followed by the number of the geographical district. Further refinements were introduced during World War I to aid women who had taken over the sorting work while the men were at war.

Their lack of experience lead to an attempt at simplification and the introduction of sub-districts which were all given a serial number. For example the Eastern District Office was E1, Bethnal Green was E2, Bow was E3 and so forth.

This added a degree of clarity but it remained a complicated task for the uninitiated as London postal districts rarely coincide with borough boundaries. The numbering system also appears to be relatively random when looked at on a map. For example, NW1 is close to central London, but NW2 is much further out. This is because they were numbered alphabetically by the name of the district they represented. Also as the city has sprawled a further gradation has been introduced in some central London areas, producing unusual codes such as EC1A 1AA.

More confusion derives from some London areas using postal addresses that refer to former county boundaries, for example postal addresses in Sutton traditionally read "Sutton, Surrey" and not "Sutton, London" even though Sutton no longer falls within the boundaries of Surrey County Council. And some of the postal districts cross county and even regional boundaries - the KT postcode covers areas in both Greater London and the South East Region.

The system remained in place until technological improvements in the early 1960’s kick-started a major mechanisation programme. Machines replaced manual workers across the nation with postcodes being reduced to a machine readable form and printed on the envelope in phosphor dots. The present postcode system was introduced at Croydon in 1966 and finally completed in 1974 with the recoding of Norwich.

The mid eighties saw the introduction of an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) system which is the basis of the current mail sorting procedure. This system automatically reads the postcode on printed addresses and prints the appropriate phosphorescent dots (codes) on the envelopes. This replaces the need for operators to key in the postcodes by hand and massively speeds up the whole process. Integrated Mail Processors introduced in 1997 completed the processing system. One machine now processes mail from arrival in the Mail Centre to its final destination.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
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