Post Boxes in Ireland

Pillar Box Kent Station Cork 1857
Huwel Williams © (CC BY-SA 2.0)
This is a lamp box that is now set into a wall. Originally, it would have been attached to a post.
Karen Allison © 2021
Penfold Box, Rocky Valley, Co. Wicklow
Jim Butler © 2021
beautiful upkeep of the local postbox which is still in use
Karen Allison © 2023
Aughavannagh postbox
Karen Allison © 2023
The wallbox is long out of commission at Castleruddery
Karen Allison © 2023

In the early days of the Postal system, posting letters was not  a factor in the lives of ordinary working people and was an expensive affair. There were no post boxes as we know them. There were posting houses where a letter was left off and the postal fees paid by the sender.

In the 1850s the novelist Anthony Trollope worked for the postal service.  His job obliged him to travel to Europe where he saw the pillar box method of collection being used.  He thought it a great idea and suggested it be introduced.  His career also brought him to Dublin as manager of the G.P.O.  By 1858 there were eight pillar boxes in the city of Dublin.  The earliest surviving pillar box still in daily use is in Kent railway station in Cork city.  It is dated 1857.

Hexagonal post boxes

With the introduction of the one penny stamp in 1840 a whole new system opened up a world of letter writing to the masses. The early boxes were made by private foundry works and were an ornate object.  As the service became more widespread a standardised design of a hexagonal box with a capping known as ‘Penfolds’ were the norm.  There is a Penfold to be seen in the Rocky Valley, Co. Wicklow and is still in use today.

Pillar boxes were expensive to produce and were used in large towns and cities and the ‘Wall box’ was forged to suit the more rural areas of the country. It is surprising how many boxes can be found when travelling the county.

suited the landlord of the time

The influence of local landlords and politicians played a part in the location of many a post box around the country and often a wall box is still to be found near the entrance to a large country house or in an area where a daily collection would not be viable, but suited the landlord of the time.

more than twenty letters per week

The introduction of the wall box came with many rules and considerations, for example, no rent was to be paid for having a box on your land, a wall box could not be within a half a mile of a free standing pillar box and more than twenty letters per week should pass through the box.

All post boxes in Ireland were painted Post Office Red, but following the creation of the new state an order was circulated requiring Emerald Green to be the colour of all boxes from then on.

More updated wall boxes have appeared in recent years and are widely used in rural areas.  With the demise of the Post Office in many areas, a post box can usually be found on the exterior wall, or close by, to many of these premises.

County Wicklow is lucky to have an abundance of wall boxes still in operation, while being a little bit of history close to hand for all to see and enjoy. Please let us know of any you may have come across is your travels.

Comments about this page

  • I enjoy seeing the letters V R or
    E R on the green post boxes, because it tells me they predate the setting up of the Free State and would have been painted red when first in use. V R = Victoria Regina, when Queen Victoria “reigned” over the “British Isles, similarly for E R = Edward Rex .

    By Geraldine Cleary (08/11/2023)

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