Prior to the arrival of pillar letter boxes from England, wooden letter boxes were placed in suitable areas in town and suburban districts for the collection of mail by postmen. Some were also affixed to police boxes.
In 1892, it was recorded that the earliest pillar letter boxes were erected in the following localities:
Box No. Location
1. Kowloon, near Wharf and Godowns
2. Magazine Gap, at the Gap
3. Peak District, at Victoria Gap
4. Peak District, at Mount Kellett, near 'Myrtle Bank'
5. Peak District, Junction of Mount Gough Rd, and road to Aberdeen
(West of Government Villas)
6. Peak District, Plantation Rd between Rural Building Lots 14 & 27
7. Victoria, Junction of Queen's Rd East and Arsenal St
8. Victoria, near the Harbour Master's Office
9. Victoria, Junction of Robinson, Albany & Garden Roads
10. Victoria, Junction of Seymour & Castle Roads
11. Victoria, Junction of Old Bailey St and Caine Rd
12. Victoria, Junction of Robinson and Bonham Roads
13. Victoria, East Point, Junction of Percival St and Praya
14. West Point. near No. 7 Police Station
My interest in old colonial postboxes stemmed from a drive I made to the New Territories in the early 1990s when I noticed an old circular George V postbox on the old Castle Peak Rd. At the time, I was not able to stop and did not have my camera with me. By the time I returned to the same spot in a few weeks time, the old postbox had been 'uprooted' and replaced with an awful modern one. Sadly, this has been a continuing trend. Here are some photos of old postboxes from the colonial era:
Queen Victoria, Junction of Robinson, Albany and Old Peak Roads (now housed in the GPO Postal Museum). This is the oldest surviving Jubilee postbox in Hong Kong. The location of this postbox is similar to Box No. 9 on the 1892 list.
Queen Victoria, Tung Tau Tsuen Rd, Kowloon City, near Nga Tsin Wai Village. This was an interesting postbox as it was one of the first boxes to be erected after the acquisition of the leased area of the New Territories in 1898. (Queen Victoria passed on in 1901). This letter box has now been removed.
Queen Victoria, formerly located in Yau Ma Tei at the junction of Waterloo Road and Portland Street. Located in the Hong Kong Museum of History.
Edward VII, MacDonnell Rd. In the post-handover photo, the postman had left a parcel atop the postbox.
Edward VII, Man Mo Temple, Junction of Hollywood Rd & Ladder St See also:
George V, So Kwu Wan, Lamma Island. An interesting postbox amongst the gas cylinders. Post your mail in fear.
George V, Hollywood Road, near Pound Lane. The scene today: http://www.flickr.com/photos/old-hk/5770951411/in/photostream
George V, Junction of Wong Nei Chung Rd & Broadwood Rd. Another interesting postbox with its own pedestal. Note the George V cipher and mismatched E II R lettering below the No. 9
George V, May Rd near Peak Tram Station. A 'grounded' George V'.
The same postbox in 1930 and 1948.
George V, Kowloon Hospital. Note the air-con water duct.
George VI, Fat Kwong St. One of the hardest postboxes to locate as not many of these were erected. Note the fine 'line' between a George V and George VI.
George V Cipher on a Pillar Postbox outside Shek Wu Hui Post Office.
George VI, Junction of Cumberland Rd & Rutland Quadrant, Kowloon Tong
Close to the same site today, this is the modern replacement with a certain lack of character!
Queen Elizabeth II Collection with unusual features and different scenes.
Prince Edward Road East, near Nga Tsin Long Road Kowloon City. I believe this postbox got damaged in the early 1990s during a jewellery heist when shots were fired in the direction of the postbox. A metallic plate was added to cover the bullet holes.
Upper Peak Tram Station, Peak Rd, outside Peak Cafe (Then and Now)
1940s Upper Peak Tram Station. Note the postbox on the right and its similar location to Box No. 3 on the 1892 list. The original postbox with the VR cipher can seen clearly in the Harrison Forman Collection.
1909 Similar Scene
1892 See: http://gwulo.com/node/5136
Double Slotted Scottish Crown Postbox, Chater Rd, Pre & Post Handover Colours
Queen's Rd Central, Melbourne Plaza and Former Queen's Theatre - Red taxi on postbox
Standard Lampost Letter Box formerly located at Tai Hang Village entrance, Tai Po. Now housed in the Postal Museum.
On this website: http://cvphm.org.uk/ForeignBoxes.html
a seldom seen George V postbox with a unique cipher that is on loan from the Hong Kong Post to the Colne Valley Postal History Museum. The postbox used to stand outside the Shek Wu Hui Post Office.
Another favourite of mine from 1949 appears in the Magnum Collection:
Enter: Hong Kong Postbox in search
1930s Lyndhurst Terrace and Wellington St (Oval Postbox)
1970s Same Oval Postbox as above but viewed from the junction of Wellington Street and Pottinger Street
1930s Queen's Rd Central and Wellington St (Oval Postbox)
1930s Shaukiwan Road (Wall Postbox)
1919 Peace Celebrations - Queen's Road Central and Garden Road (Oval Postbox)
1940s Queen's Road Central and Garden Road (Oval Postbox)
1930s Kowloon City
Solitary oval postbox looking across Kai Tak Airfield towards Kowloon Peak, Customs Pass and Old Clearwater Bay Rd.
Re: Colonial Postboxes
I believe I have seen one right opposite the Cheung Chau Ferry Pier in Cheung Chau. That was about two months ago. It is right in front of an apparel store. The box had been painted Green, however.
come 1997 there was a
come 1997 there was a major 'clean-up campaign' to get rid of these colonial postboxes. some however they discovered were so deeply rooted into the pavement that it would have meant major roadworks (and extra cost) to remove them - solution? lick of green paint!! love it!
As you say many of the old
As you say many of the old colonial post boxes have been uprooted and replaced. You can see many of these looking unloved and forlorn in the back yard of Kwun Tong Post Office, next to Kwun Tong Magistracy.
re: Colonial Postboxes
Moddsey, you are king of the post box! I remember seeing something old and post-related recently in the wall of the old post office in Stanley. I can't remember if it was a post box or stamp-vending machine though.
How many of the old colonial post boxes are still standing?
postbox on cheung chau
here is a photo of the postbox in cheung chau central, taken in june this year
wonder how long it will stay there!?! knowing cheung chau, probably will be one of the last ones to face the inevitable (snail pace) removal process
re: Colonial Postboxes
The photos posted have been taken quite a while ago. And most of the postboxes that I have documented here have disappeared. Perhaps the Tourism Commission and Hong Kong Post should get together and consider re-erecting some of these postboxes in tourist spots like Heritage 1881 in TST, Stanley, Repulse Bay etc On my recent walks, there are only a few remaining and all too soon they will be gone forever.
With reference to Stanley Post Office, I did not recall anything in particular when I saw it last. Anyways, here is a photo of a stamp vending machine. from the Postal Museum.
On 80skid's suggestion, I paid a visit to Stanley Post Office. What a pleasant surprise!
George VI Postbox (on display only)
I remember these postboxes. I bought a colonial postbox bank from a post office in the mid-90s and still have it. I wonder if they're sold on eBay?
Re: Cheung Chau Postbox
Link to "Hong Kong Old Postboxes Map"
I came across this interesting map: Hong Kong Old Postboxes Map
The Xanga blog describes postboxes around the world.
Singapore Pillar Box
The Red Pillar Box at the Singapore Philatelic Museum
Re: Hong Kong Old Postboxes Map
Thanks for the heads-up. Will have a browse through.
George VI Postbox No 487
This postbox was found by using the old postboxes map. It is located at Palm Springs (strangely enough it is also known as Calfornia Gardens in Cantonese), Yuen Long near the estate's commercial complex. A bit of little Britain here tucked away with red telephone booths as well!
Lau Fau Shan Postbox
okay, I admit, not quite in the same league as the ones above but an interesting find nonetheless way out there in Lau Fau Shan (NW NT).
You can find it next to the entrance to the carpark just off the main town roundabout.
Old Postboxes - recent news reports and updated google map
Thought you guys might be interested to learn there were some recent reports in the Chinese media on old postbox conservation in HK (Oriental Daily, Ming Pao 18/4/2010). Basically, HK Post was lamented for not doing enough to preserve the old boxes.
I am the owner of the HK Old Postboxes Map and thought I should do my bit to help the cause and therefore have now updated the map. We now have recorded 58 still-in-active-service old boxes and 4 retired ones on the map (link) and there's only one known old box left uncovered (at the staff carpark of Shek Pik Prison, Lantau). Enjoy.
re: Old Postboxes
Hi Lemonrunner, good job with the map, and thanks for the update on press coverage.
It's a good time to post up a couple of documents Guy Shirra has requested from HK Post.
The first is described as 'location of the old posting boxes (excl. the box no. 256 at Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island)':
The second is a list 'of old post boxes still "in store" with HK Post'.
great job compiling the list. Does this mean there are no longer any left from Queen Victoria's era?
RV postboxes and Pillar/GRVII
Queen Victoria era pillar boxes can only be found in either the HK History Museum or the Gallery of the General Post Office now.
Regarding the list 'of old post boxes still "in store" with HK Post', would the third from the bottom "Pillar/GRVII" be actually ERVII (King Edward VII 1901-1910)? If otherwise, we will sadly have no postbox in that era left?
Re: VR and ERVII Postboxes
You are correct - there are no longer any Victorian nor Edwardian postboxes in use. The Edwardian postbox in storage would either be No. 20 (Macdonnell Road) or No. 42 (Man Mo Temple).
Chater Road / Statue Square postbox (No. 239)
Great map and list - many thanks.
Just for completeness: the Box Type of No. 239 is "Oval / ER II". I found the lack of royal cipher a bit intriguing and came across the following comment about Scottish Crown post boxes on the website of an expert in the UK (http://www.wicks.org/pulp/part2.html):
“In 1954, after it had been pointed out that Elizabeth II of England was only the first Elizabeth to reign over Scotland, the EIIR cipher was not used in Scotland. Letter boxes were made with just a Scottish Crown on instead.”
i.e. No. 239 was probably made in or after 1954.
Incidentally, Singapore seems to be the only place where you can buy souvenir miniatures of old HK post boxes (http://www.spm.org.sg/gifts_souvenirs/post_boxes_hk.html).
Colonial Post Boxes
Excellent work from Moddsey
I would like to use one of the photos of the victorian pillar boxes for an article I have written on the early postal boxes, which I would be happy to post - I hope/assume that this is not a problem
Re: Colonial Post Boxes
No problems from me. It would be nice if you could post your article on this forum.
I haven't been to HK for
I haven't been to HK for awhile. Has the HK government changed all the mail boxes from red to green?
Yes, to environmental green!
Hong Kong pillar boxes: 1878 - 1910
The first post office pillar box was erected in Bonham Strand in April 1878; the Daily Press of 6 April 1878 reported: “A postal pillar box is being placed in Bonham Strand as an experiment to shorten the distance that Chinese have to carry their Australian, San Francisco and Singapore correspondence. Stamps will be sold at a shop close by where also letter scales, tariffs in Chinese etc will be kept.”
It was relocated in late 1878, as evidenced by the 19 December 1878 edition of the Daily Press, due to dissatisfaction with the original positioning, to the south frontage of the Harbour Department (Praya West) i.e. in Wing Lok Street at or nearby the junction with Morrison Street. A new pillar box was erected at the West Point Police Station (Police Station No. 7) located between Western Street and Pokfulam Road opposite the Sailors Home in Queens Road West. The two locations were confirmed in the Postmaster General’s notice dated 14 January 1879:
The pillar boxes were cleared three times daily and the mails at the General Post Office, the only post office at that time, were kept open until the messenger arrived with the letters collected there from. Furthermore, those who kept a postage account with the post office could post local correspondence in the boxes without stamps, provided that the sender’s name or recognised device appeared on each article.
The two pillar boxes were not, by any stretch of the imagination, an instant success; the Postmaster General in his annual report for 1878 issued on 12 April 1879 stated “they must be, with regret, pronounced to be failures. If however, they are failures in Hongkong, it may be some consolation to know that Pillar Boxes have not (it is believed) succeeded anywhere in the East.”
He explained that “when there was only one Box in Bonham Strand and that was cleared but once a day, the collections averaged about 60 letters a week, almost all on mail day. With the removal of the box to the Harbour Department, and its clearance three times a day, the number of letters dwindled to less than half! The reason was that before the extension of mail hours (which took place about the same time) Chinese got half an hour longer at the Pillar Box free of late fee, showing that they prefer to bring their correspondence to the general office.”
The two pillar boxes remained as the only such facilities for letters until 1892, some thirteen years later. In the annual report for 1891, the Postmaster General suggested, in response to the Governor’s request to improve the available postal facilities, to install 12 new pillar boxes at certain locations – six in Victoria, five at the Peak instead of the existent wooden letter boxes and one in Kowloon. The pillar boxes were delivered by the Crown Agents, tenders were called for their installation by Government notification of 16 July 1892 and the new facilities went into operation in August of that year.
The pillar boxes were set up in the locations suggested by the Postmaster General in 1891 except that one was placed at the East end of the town in Percival Street instead of near the tramway station. This change was made because letter boxes had been attached to the tramcars some years previously and it was therefore considered that a pillar box at the tramway station was unnecessary. The wooden letter box at the Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station was retained but those formerly affixed to the police boxes at the Peak were withdrawn from service.
A notice from the General Post Office dated 12 August 1892 set out the locations of all 14 existent postal pillar boxes in the Kowloon and Peak Districts, Town District (from Ship Street to Bonham Strand West and up to level of Robinson Road) and Suburban Districts; clearances were effected twice daily for the Kowloon and Peak Districts boxes, three times daily for the Suburban Districts boxes and five times daily for the boxes in the Town District. Users were advised to reduce the risk of theft of the stamps affixed to letters etc by cancelling them by writing the date across them. The 14 locations were:
Kowloon and Peak Districts
* indicates the two pillar boxes of late 1878.
Collections from Pillar Box No. 1 at the Kowloon Wharves commenced on 8 August and up to 20 August the letters collected amounted to 448. The collections from Pillar Boxes Nos. 2 to 6, at Magazine Gap and the Peak, commenced on 12 August and up to 20 August a total of 64 letters were collected. The collections from the pillar boxes in the town between 15 and 20 August amounted to 201 letters.
The number of letters collected from the pillar boxes in the town from 15 August until the end of 1892 was 3,072 broken down as follows:
In the following year, 1893, a total of 7,266 letters were collected:
The pillar box at Percival Street seems to have particularly poor patronage; less than one letter per week !! The pillar box at Arsenal Street as well as the original boxes at the Harbour Office and No. 7 Police Station seems to have been reasonably well used by comparison with the others.
There is a dearth of “official” information regarding pillar boxes after 1893 until the Postmaster General’s annual report for 1905 when it was confirmed that there were 5 pillar boxes on the Peak, presumably as set up in 1892 (see above), 10 pillar boxes in Victoria, being two more than in 1892, and 6 pillar boxes in Kowloon, being an increase of five from the initial box set up 13 years previously.
The number of articles posted in the pillar boxes during 1905 was 92,170 as against 66,746 in 1904 and 48,110 in 1903; almost a doubling of usage in two years. Furthermore, it can be seen that there was a more than 6 fold increase of usage between 1893 and 1903 despite the opening of branch post offices at Kowloon and Western during the period. The Postmaster General observed that “This is a complete justification of the appointment of special messengers to clear these boxes instead of leaving that duty to postmen whose punctuality had to be sacrificed to the varying demands of deliveries.” It seems that the once unpopular and unsuccessful pillar boxes were now anything but; indeed they warranted dedicated personnel to clear them.
Further pillar boxes were erected and daily deliveries started at Pokfulam on 21 March 1906 and at Kowloon City on 3 October 1906. In Victoria, three new pillar boxes were placed at certain points on the higher levels in the same year.
New pillar boxes were erected at the Star Ferry Company’s wharves and at the Lower Peak Tramway Terminus in 1909; a new pillar box was erected at the Victoria Hospital in 1910.
The total number of articles collected from all pillar boxes during 1909 was 183,152 against 161,933 in 1908, an increase of 21,219 on the total of the previous year and a 25 fold increase since 1893.
We can see that, after a decidedly sluggish start and contrary to the strong opinion of the Postmaster General in 1879, the humble post office pillar box became, in time, an essential and popular part of the infrastructure of the Hong Kong and Kowloon postal administration.
Re: Harbour Office Postbox - Hong Kong's first pillar box
A photo of the Harbour Master's Office (1866-1906). Postbox from 1878 viewed from Wing Lok Street.
Good Spot !!
Inspection of the referenced photograph shows to the right of the post office pillar box, affixed to the wall of the Harbour Department building, an iron letter box installed at the same time as the pillar box (January 1879 PMG Notice).
There were two iron letter boxes installed at that time, the other was at Sai Ying Pun Police Station; in both instances "letters removed 3 times per day except Sunday (at 10, 2 and 4 o'clock) and safely carried to the Post Office for despatch." Letters delivered in Hongkong were charged postage of 2 cents each.
Myrtlebank and Mount Gough Road
With regard to pillar boxes 4 and 5 on the 1892 list, where exactly was "Myrtlebank" on Mount Kellett Road and where was Mount Gough Road - is it called something else these days ...... my current day street maps do not show it.
Re: Myrtle Bank & Mount Gough Road
Mount Gough Road is today's Gough Hill Road. There is a small postbox at the junction of Peak Road and Gough Hill Road. Government Villas was located at the junction.
Myrtle Bank was RBL 81 on Mount Kellett Road.
Kowloon - Wharf & Godowns
With regard to Pillar Box No 1 of the 1892 list, which was located at Kowloon near Wharf & Godowns - I assume this was reference to the premises of Wharf & Godown Co; would this have been on what is now Salisbury Road (roughly opposite where the YMCA is) or on the seaward side of what is now Canton Road where there were a number of godowns ??
Any ideas ??
Kowloon - Wharf and Godowns
Considering this was 1892, the Kowloon Wharf and Godowns (Canton Road) preceded Holts Wharf (opposite Salisbury Road, near the former New World Hotel). One of the reasons, I think Pillar Box No 1 was located there was the fact that the original Kowloon Star Ferry Pier was situated opposite the godowns and it would have been easier to transport mail across the harbour.
Although not clear, this may be Pillar Box No. 1 standing on the corner just north of the main office entrance. What's interesting is the building above the godown. Mosque ? - as mentioned in another thread on gwulo.
As an aside, one of the earliest postboxes I have seen in Kowloon can be viewed from the Swire archives:
Postbox No 1 has now been relocated to the junction of Mody and Chatham Roads.
Historic postboxes update
First of all, one exciting piece of news recently in a Chinese daily (http://news.hkheadline.com/dailynews/content_hk/2010/06/17/113733.asp ) which reported the conservation of historic postboxes had caught the attention of the Antique and Monuments Office and HK Post is considering a change of policy. The first sign was positive as a KGV box in Sok Kwu Wan which HK Post claimed was beyond repair back in February (see my correspondence with HK Post on SCMP: letters to the editor on 11/2, 18/2, 24/2) and scheduled to be removed has now been restored (with help from the Architectural Services Department sought by HK Post) and reinstalled on the same spot (haven't had a chance to go there to verify yet).
Secondly, 4 old boxes not on the HK Post list have been found:
No.256 Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island Pillar KGV
Sun Tin Post Office Wall ERII
Kam Tin Post Office Wall ERII
Sha Tau Kok Post Office Wall ERII
Prince of Wales Barracks Postbox
I have often wondered what happened to the George V postbox that stood in the Prince of Wales Barracks - HMS Tamar:
Seems to Hong Kong members
Cheung Chau Postboxes (Wall Type)
A George VI postbox on School Road, Cheung Chau. Not a George V as previously notified by the Post Office.
Different types of QE II postboxes
Re: Postbox 154 still stands today (8th October 2011)
Walked by this postbox on my way to Ho Hok Shan.
Postboxes to be preserved
Thanks to Guy Shirra for this clipping from the SCMP, 23 Sep 2012:
[...] the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) wants some of the most colourful reminders of British rule to stay on the streets.
Vintage postboxes - once painted red but now green - are dotted over the city, many still in use. Among the 58 colonial-era postboxes in operation, nine have been selected by the AMO for conservation. Hongkong Post has been working closely with AMO on preservation work.
"Postboxes, irrespective of their year of commissioning, are part of the postal network for service delivery. We will therefore continue to maintain them in good and serviceable condition until they are beyond repair," Hongkong Post spokeswoman Mary Chung said.
"We think the best way to preserve these iconic items is to keep them in use rather than putting them in museums as historic exhibits. Nevertheless, we have also arranged a display of some vintage posting boxes at the Postal Gallery [in the General Post Office] and the Hong Kong Museum of History."
The display will include traditional pillar and lamp-type boxes that have been used since long before the handover.
Hongkong Post will dispose of any unserviceable postboxes bearing royal insignia, and will consult the Director of Government Logistics to arrange for them to be destroyed.
According to one lawmaker, miscellaneous leftovers from colonial times are a fact of life in Hong Kong and it has to be accepted that there are still numerous colonial influences visible in its architecture and appearance.
"Many British-given street names remain unchanged and lawyers are still required to wear white wigs in court," Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker Ip Kwok-him said.
Ip said similar British postboxes were still being used in former colonies such as Malaysia, and did not think it necessary to have them replaced in the city when still in working order.
"Anyway, they will be replaced when they are worn out," he said.
Hi! I'm looking for a couple
I'm looking for a couple of these old flat ones...do you know which ones are still around?
This map can perhaps
This map can perhaps help:
This postbox, which is a
This postbox, which is a developer of this project, is directly imported from the UK and is not the property of Hongkong Post. It belongs to the “private possession of the box”.
Re: Comment Above
I think the reference is to the George VI postbox in Palm Springs, Yuen Long.
There used to be a number of
There used to be a number of old colonial postboxes behind the Kowloon East post office. I wonder what happened to them. You can see them here: