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01The Secret Room20111205As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook explores the social history of the post office.
Throughout its history, the Post Office has been a consistently progressive and democratising force in society.
Launched in 1516 by Henry VIII, the Royal Mail was intended to support official communications and bolster intelligence.
It was only a rise in literacy, trade and interest that stimulated a demand for a public service.
It became a vehicle for literacy, free speech, commerce and communications in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, before evolving into a kind of prototypical welfare state in the early twentieth century, when it was the largest employer in the world.
The Post Office has become a cherished social institution, linking people together and extending their vision outward into the wider world.
It's called Royal Mail but it should be known as the People's Post
In the paranoid era of the English Civil War the postal network became an important instrument of state control.
In a secret room deep in the post office building, agents opened and copied letters from suspected dissidents on a grand scale.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Historical Consultant: Susan Whyman
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors:Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.
During the English Civil War, agents opened and copied letters from suspected dissidents.
02The London Penny Post20111206As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines it's impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
Launched in 1680 by London merchant, William Dockwra, the Penny Post was the first accessible and cheap method for sending mail within the capital.
Costing the equivalent of £6 today, there were receiving houses all over London and the suburbs where you could go to post a letter and expect same day delivery.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Historical Consultant: Susan Whyman
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors:Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.
Penny Post was the first accessible and cheap method for sending mail within the capital.
03A Culture Of Letters20111207During the eighteenth century an expanding postal network offered new possibilities for long-distance relationships.
From travelling preachers to sailors and their families, people from all backgrounds found ways to write home.
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines it's impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Historical Consultant: Susan Whyman
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors:Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.
During the 18th century, an expanding postal network offered new possibilities.
04The Mail Coach20111208Introduced in 1784 the mail coach slashed journey times by two thirds, provided a new state of the art form of public transport, and allowed newspapers to reach the provinces within 24 hours.
The time-pieces carried by guards also had the unintended consequence of creating standard UK time in the era before GMT.
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines its impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Historical Consultant: Susan Whyman
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors:Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.
Introduced in 1784, the mail coach slashed journey times by two thirds.
05Freepost20111209In the early 1800s the post office operated an expensive and illogical payment system.
This forced letter-writers into ever more imaginative ways of avoiding postage, from using private couriers, to hiding letters in barrels of butter, to sending coded newspapers.
MPs were allowed to send letters for free, but as only a signature was required it created a system that was ripe for abuse.
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines it's impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Historical Consultant: Susan Whyman
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors:Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.
06The Penny Black20111212The arrival of Universal Penny Postage in 1840 marked the beginning of the post office as a genuine public service.
Introduced by the social reformer, Rowland Hill, he argued that lowering the cost of postage would mean more people would send more letters leading to wider social benefits and increased profits.
As secretary of the post office, Hill oversaw the implementation of the world's first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black.
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines it's impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
The Post Office has become a cherished social institution, linking people together and extending their vision outward into the wider world.
It's called Royal Mail but it should be known as the People's Post
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
Dominic Sandbrook looks at the arrival of Universal Penny Postage in 1840.
07Business Post20111213The post office played a vital role in the spread of mass consumerism.
Thanks to cheap postage, businesses could advertise and interact with people in their own homes.
When it took over the Parcel Post in 1883 the Post Office offered the first genuinely joined up postal service, leading to a boom in mail order catalogues.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
Thanks to cheap postage, businesses could advertise and interact with people more directly.
08Love Letters20111214Universal penny postage meant people from all backgrounds could afford to sustain long distance relationships.
But it also led to increased pressure: lovers were expected to write two or three times a week, even if they lived in the same town.
Sales of letter-writing manuals rocketed, allowing people to copy model examples of the perfect love letter.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
Dominic Sandbrook investigates the role of love letters in the history of the Post Office.
09A Community Hub20111215During the nineteenth century the post office became a central pillar in the community; a symbol of order, stability and public service.
As well as stamps and stationary, sub-postmasters supplied news, advice and local gossip.
From 1862 the Post Office Savings Bank offered savings accounts to poorer people for the first time.
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines it's impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
From 1862, the Post Office Savings Bank offers savings accounts to poorer people.
10The Postal Worker's Strike20111216By 1890 Britain had a state of the art postal service with six daily deliveries in Britain's towns.
To achieve this service, delivery staff often worked six day weeks with shifts split over a twelve or fourteen hour day.
In sorting offices, postal staff complained of leaky roofs and inadequate toilets.
Worse still, postmen weren't permitted their own independent union, and in 1890 frustration turned to industrial action.
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines it's impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
Dominic Sandbrook investigates the industrial action of the postmen in 1890.
11The Telegraph20111219In 1870 the telegraph system came under the control of the post office, in the first ever instance of the government nationalising a commercial industry.
The aim was to provide an extended and more efficient network, to serve the public and make a profit.
In the late nineteenth century the Post Office became a key instrument of the State.
Providing a national telegraph service, as censor and channel in the first world war, as a model employer in the 1930s and pioneer in communications technology for much of the twentieth century.
The last four decades have seen the State pulling away from Royal Mail leaving it's future very much uncertain.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Historical Consultant: Iain Stevenson
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
In 1870, the telegraph system came under the control of the post office.
12The Post Office At War20111220In 1914 the post office was called upon to play a vital role in the country's war effort.
Every week twelve and half million letters left Britain for Flanders, and it took 2 days for a letter to reach the front.
The post office also supported the army's censorship activities, preventing sensitive information reaching enemy hands and helping to capture spies.
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines it's impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
The Post Office has become a cherished social institution, linking people together and extending their vision outward into the wider world.
It's called Royal Mail but it should be known as the People's Post
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Historical Consultant: Iain Stevenson
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
13A Job In A Million20111221In the 1930s the GPO was a model employer, pioneering equal opportunities and offering staff a secure career path.
Employees were encouraged to attend academic classes and leisure pursuits, but lateness and inefficiency weren't tolerated.
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines its impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
The Post Office has become a cherished social institution, linking people together and extending their vision outward into the wider world.
It's called Royal Mail but it should be known as the People's Post
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Historical Consultant: Iain Stevenson
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
In the 1930s, the GPO was a model employer through offering staff a secure career path.
14The Post Code20111222When a national post-code system was introduced in the 1970s it met with fierce resistance: from postal workers, concerned about the pace of change, and a general public incensed by "useless symbols".
Intended to aid sorting mechanisation, today postcodes are used by geodemographic databases to classify households for the benefit of commerce, government services and political canvassing.
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines its impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
The Post Office has become a cherished social institution, linking people together and extending their vision outward into the wider world.
It's called Royal Mail but it should be known as the People's Post
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Historical Consultant: Iain Stevenson
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
When a national postcode system was introduced in the 1970s, it met with fierce resistance.
15 LASTThe Last Post20111223In 1969 the post office ceased being a government industry to become a nationalised industry.
It avoided being sold off in the 1980s, only to face even bigger challenges in the 2000s: sustaining the costs of a huge labour force, and rivalry from digital communications.
As it sits on the brink of privatisation, what does the Royal Mail mean today?
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines its impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
The Post Office has become a cherished social institution, linking people together and extending their vision outward into the wider world.
It's called Royal Mail but it should be known as the People's Post
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Historical Consultant: Iain Stevenson
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
(OMNI 01)The Origins Of The Post Office20111209Introduced by Henry VIII to aid the spread of intelligence, the first 200 years of Royal Mail saw a series of attempts to reform the postal system with mixed results.
By the early 19th century the system had reached breaking point as all social classes sought ever more ingenious ways to avoid the high cost of postage.
Launched in 1516, the Royal Mail was intended to support official communications and bolster intelligence.
It was only a rise in literacy and trade that stimulated a demand for a public service.
In the paranoid era of the English Civil War the postal network became an important instrument of state control.
In a secret room deep in the post office building, agents opened and copied letters from suspected dissidents on a grand scale.
Launched in 1680, The London Penny Post was the first accessible and cheap method for sending mail within the capital for the equivalent of £6.
During the eighteenth century an expanding postal network offered new possibilities for long-distance relationships.
From travelling preachers to sailors and their families, people from all backgrounds found ways to write home.
Introduced in 1784 the mail coach slashed journey times by two thirds, provided a new state of the art form of public transport, and allowed newspapers to reach the provinces within 24 hours.
The timepieces carried by guards also had the unintended consequence of creating standard UK time in the era before GMT.
In the early 1800s the post office operated an expensive and illogical payment system.
This forced letter-writers into ever more imaginative ways of avoiding postage, from using private couriers, to sending coded newspapers.
MPs were allowed to send letters for free, but as only a signature was required it created a system that was ripe for abuse.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Historical Consultant: Susan Whyman
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw,
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
Dominic Sandbrook investigates how the post office has shaped British society.
(OMNI 02)Becoming The People's Post20111216The arrival of Universal Penny Postage in 1840 marked the beginning of the post office as a genuine public service.
Introduced by the social reformer, Rowland Hill, he argued that lowering the cost of postage would mean more people would send more letters leading to wider social benefits and increased profits.
As secretary of the post office, Hill oversaw the implementation of the world's first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black.
As Royal Mail faces an uncertain future, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the post office and examines it's impact on literacy, free speech, commerce and communication.
The Post Office has become a cherished social institution, linking people together and extending their vision outward into the wider world.
It's called Royal Mail but it should be known as the People's Post
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
Dominic Sandbrook looks at the arrival of Universal Penny Postage in 1840.
(OMNI 03 LAST)The Post Office And The State20111223In 1870 the telegraph system came under the control of the post office, in the first ever instance of the government nationalising a commercial industry.
The aim was to provide an extended and more efficient network, to serve the public and make a profit.
In the late nineteenth century the Post Office became a key instrument of the State.
Providing a national telegraph service, as censor and channel in the first world war, as a model employer in the 1930s and pioneer in communications technology for much of the twentieth century.
The last four decades have seen the State pulling away from Royal Mail leaving it's future very much uncertain.
Writer and Presenter: Dominic Sandbrook
Historical Consultant: Iain Stevenson
Musicians: Sam Lee, Bella Hardy, Mick Sands, Nick Hart
Actors: Morgan George, John Sessions, Simon Tcherniak,
Malcolm Tierney, Jane Whittenshaw
Producer: Joby Waldman
A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.
In 1870, the telegraph system came under the control of the post office.

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  • History