The History of London Postcodes

We often think postcodes were introduced between 1959 and 1974. However, they date back much further. By 1856, London was becoming a sprawling metropolis of over 3 million inhabitants. Simply addressing mail to 'London' was no longer practical.

Sir Rowland Hill: Father of the Penny Postage

Up steps Sir Rowland Hill, Postmaster born in 1795 and died in 1879. He would later be known affectionately as the "Father of the Penny Postage". He drew a circle with a 12-mile radius around London, with the central point being the Royal Mail Headquarters at St. Martins Le Grand. He then subdivided the city into 8 divisions based on the cardinal compass points.

Original Postal Subdivisions

London Postal Area Head Office Location
EC St Martins Le Grand
WC High Holborn
N Lower Road, Islington
NE Bethnal Green Road
E Commercial Road East
SE High Street Boro
S (now Sheffield) Westminster Road
SW Victoria Street, Pimlico
W Vere Street, Oxford Street
NW (Now Newcastle) Eversholt Street, Camden Town

During the 1860’s, this was amended further with the S Area being merged into the SW and SE area and the NE division being absorbed into the E division.


Original Postcode Area Plan for London
Original Postcode Area Plan for London
Revised Postcode Areas for London
Revised Postcode Areas for London

These deleted areas still cause confusion to this day with S being reused for Sheffield and NE for Newcastle upon Tyne.

Modern London Postcode Area Plan
Modern London Postcode Areas

High Density Sub-divisions

As we moved through the 20th century, buildings in central London began to soar skywards. This intense urban development in the heart districts led to the need for further subdividing postal areas. As a result, letters were added to the end of the district codes, leading to designations like WC1A, EL1W, and others. If anyone has insights into how these specific numbers and letters were assigned, I'd be eager to learn.