We use postcodes every day when sending our your parcels of woolly goodness and it got me wondering, what do I really know about them? Here’s what I discovered……..
Did you know that the UK now has 1.8million postcodes covering the 29million addresses in the UK and there is no danger of the UK running out of postcodes anytime soon. The current alpha-numeric system has enough potential combinations to create 48million postcodes.
Did you know that you can check your correct postal address and postcode for free at https://www.royalmail.com/find-a-postcode and that displaying your address as shown by the Post Office lessens the chances of your mail being late or lost?
How did it start? Postcodes were introduced in Norwich in 1959 and took 15 years to become widely recognised and used by the whole of Britain but, it was Sir Rowland Hill, in 1857, that came up with the first imaginings of what a postcode should do – which is to aid postal workers in sorting and delivering mail quickly.
As well as inventing the postage stamp, Sir Rowland Hill devised a post coding system that divided London into districts that corresponded to the main points on a compass (e.g. N, E, S, W, NE etc…) He then asked senders to label their post with these letters to speed up their delivery. But as we know, this system didn’t stick. NE, for example now stands for Newcastle under the new post coding system. Numbers were first added to the postal districts to create ‘sub-districts’ in 1917 to help the women who took over the sorting work while the men were fighting in the First World War.
How does it work? A postcode will start with the Initial of the largest nearby town or city in the area followed by another letter that also appears somewhere in the town name (e.g. LE is the start of the postcode for addresses in Leicester). The first two letters are referred to as the postcode area and there are 124 of these in Britain. The number that follows the first two letters of a postcode will refer to the district within that area. There are approximately 3,000 postcode districts in the UK.
So, the letter/number combination in the first half of a postcode will tell us which sorting office the post needs to be sent to. The second half of a postcode will then start with a number. This number tells the local sorting office which sectors of the district the letter needs to be sent to, thereby narrowing down the target location even further. There are approximately 9,000 of these different sectors.
The final two letters of the postcode refer to your individual unit representing on average 15 addresses each. A postman at this point will rely on the rest of the address information to put the letter through the right letterbox.
Special Exceptions – Not all postcodes fit in this neat little coding system and there are many exceptions to the rules. St. Albans for example carries the Area code of AL, which isn’t what you would initially expect. Similarly, Salisbury carries an SP area code where perhaps you would have expected to see either a SL or maybe a SY instead.
The second half of the postcode, which represents the combination for one of 1.8 million units, cannot contain the letters C I K M O V. This is to prevent ambiguity between letters and numbers in handwriting styles.
QI facts – The Queen has a unique postcode for Buckingham Palace, SW1A 1AA and even Father Christmas has his own postcode so he can receive all those sacks of Christmas lists. It is SAN TA1 (in Canada it’s HOH OHO …) and letters sent to this postcode actually do arrive.
The postcode HD7 5UZ in Huddersfield, West Yorks, covers seven streets, more than any other in the UK. There are 11 postcodes to cover British overseas territories including British Antarctic Territory (BIQQ 1ZZ), Gibraltar (GX11 1AA) and the Falkland Islands (FIQQ 1ZZ) and the British Forces Post Office has its own postcode, BF.
What next? With letters fast being replaced by text messages, tweets and emails you might think there’s less use for them but they’re still a vital part of daily life. They aid deliveries of all that online shopping, they help determine how much home and car insurance we pay and how we find anywhere with the sat nav!