New £26m Postal Museum opens in London

By Rosemary Collins, 26 July 2017 - 11:23am

Museum visitors will soon also have the chance to ride restored Mail Rail trains and view archive materials in a state-of-the-art Discovery Room


Visitors look at an original Mail Coach (Credit: The Postal Museum)

The postal service is able to display its unique collections to the public for the first time in almost 20 years as The Postal Museum in London opened its doors today.

The original National Postal Museum closed in 1998. The reopening project began in 2011, with the new building costing £26 million in funding, including a £5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and loans from Royal Mail.

The museum, located in Phoenix Place, Camberwell, is operated by the Postal Heritage Trust and will celebrate its opening with weekends of family activities on 28-30 July and 5-6 August.

Adrian Steel, director of the museum, told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine he hoped it would “change people’s view of what the post is, what it represents.”

“It’s about people and the need to communicate,” he added. “Hopefully everyone will find something new to them.”

The museum offers a unique change for the public to view some of the thousands of rare items in The Postal Museum’s collection, including a Bristol to London Mail Coach from the 1800s, a priceless sheet of Penny Black stamps and a flintlock pistol used to defend mail coaches against highwaymen.

Some of the exhibits also shed light on the lives of people affected by the postal service. They include the frock coat belonging to George Thomas Evans, whose family worked as ‘river postmen’ on the Thames for 142 years, and the letter written to the widow of Captain Home Peel, who was killed on the Western Front in 1918, by the German soldier who found his body.

A one kilometre section of Mail Rail, the underground postal rail network, has been restored and will open to museum visitors on 4 September.

Passengers can view audio-visual displays about the history of the railway and explore an interactive exhibition in the original car depot.

Mail Rail, which opened in 1928, was the first driverless electric railway in the world, with 6.5 miles of underground tunnels transporting mail between London’s sorting offices and Liverpool Street and Paddington stations. It closed in 2003, but at its peak it carried more than four million letters a day.


Man operating a shunting vehicle on the Post Office Underground Railway, 1935 (Credit: The Postal Museum)

The new museum will also feature a special Discovery Room outside The Postal Museum Archives. The room is designed as an informal space to help visitors find out more about the archives, which cover two and a half miles of shelving, by talking to volunteers and exploring digitised versions of some of the documents through an interactive touch table.

The Postal Museum is open from 10am to 5pm daily. Full price tickets cost £11, with the price rising to £16 when it includes the Mail Rail.

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