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How the mail was delivered

/ 05 January 2016

Royal Mail has always been at the vanguard of the new technology. Through the ages, the service has embraced new ways of working so that our postal workers are able to deliver mail faster and more efficiently.

Initially, mail was carried by single riders on horseback. In order to speed up the delivery of mail across the country, mail coaches were introduced. After a trial run was launched between Bristol and London, routes to Norwich, Liverpool, Leeds, Dover, Portsmouth, Poole, Exeter, Gloucester, Worcester, Holyhead and Carlisle were introduced in spring 1785. A service to Edinburgh was added a year later. The coaches averaged 7 to 8 miles per hour in summer and 5 miles per hour in winter. Fresh horses were supplied every 10 to 15 miles.

Packet ships ran from the Tudor times to 1823. They were used to carry mail packets to and from British embassies, colonies and outposts. The vessels generally also carried bullion, private goods and passengers making them a prime target for pirate attacks.

Royal Mail Ships (RMS) were first introduced in 1840, with the first contract for carrying mail awarded in 1850. Only ships which were contracted to carry mail were allowed to feature the designation. The ships proved popular with passengers as they ran on strict timings to ensure that mail was delivered on time.

In 1830, an agreement between the General Post Office and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway led to mail being carried by train between Liverpool and Manchester. By 1963, there were 49 mail trains, with one to five mail carriages attached to passenger trains, and complete mail trains running between London and Aberdeen and Penzance.

The postal service played a huge role in bringing about the introduction of uniform time across the UK as collections were governed by a strict timetable. A standardised time system was first introduced on the railways on December 11 1847. The vast majority of Great Britain's public clocks were standardised to GMT by 1855. This predated the international agreement that established GMT as standard time and established Greenwich as zero degree longitude in 1884.

The first motor vehicle, a two and a half tonne lorry called the Maudslay Stores Number 1, entered the service in 1907. The vehicle was in service for 18 years during which it covered over 300,000 miles.

In 1934 German rocket engineer, Gerhard Zucker, tried to convince Royal Mail that postal delivery by rocket was viable. He failed to persuade the company.

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