If there is one man who can be said to have changed the face of the postal service forever it is Sir Rowland Hill. Born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, Hill was a noted reformer in the Victorian era. In 1837 he published and circulated the pamphlet Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability.
The document called for "low and uniform rates" according to weight, rather than distance. It also asked for prepayment of the postage costs via prepaid letter sheets or later adhesive stamps.
The suggestions were denounced in the Houses of Parliament as "wild and visionary schemes." But merchants, traders and bankers viewed the existing system as a restraint of trade. They formed a "Mercantile Committee" to push for Hill's plan to be adopted. As a result Parliament agreed and Hill was given a two-year contract to implement the new system in 1839.
Pre-paid sheets and the Penny Black were introduced in May 1840. This created the postal service we recognise today.
In 1882 the Post Office founded the Rowland Hill Fund which was created to provide support for postal workers, pensioners and dependents in need. The fund continues to operate today.