Everyone in the UK has a postal code. It is used to ensure that postal items arrive exactly at their addresses. But this system did not exist before, the need for it only appeared in the middle of the 19th century. Then the population of London began to grow, and so did the number of postal items. The main problem was that often the wrong addresses were used and some streets in London were named the same way. All this led to errors, so from the early 1850s it was decided to change the street names. Even though most wealthy families were against the renaming because they lived on streets named after their ancestors.
London and its postal districts
To make the postal system even more efficient, it was decided to begin dividing the capital into districts and to establish its own post office in each of these districts. The resulting 10 districts (or counties), which were located within a 12-mile radius from the heart of London
What came of this?
This procedure was implemented over two years, 1857 and 1858.
The movement of mail in London was expedited, particularly those letters that were now sorted at local offices, although they had previously had to be taken to a single main office.
Errors were reduced: there was no confusion about addresses.
But the main work was yet to come. After a while, some London boroughs were merged, some were split, others were partially merged with their neighbors. Gradually the boroughs acquired the boundaries in which they remain today.
After the postal system was reformed in London, innovations appeared in other major British cities. Now to designate a district geographically, the first letter of the city’s name was used. That is, if it was Manchester, the letter «M» was used, and then the number.
The first city of the province, which was divided into districts, was Liverpool, then the same divisions applied to Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Bristol, Newcastle, Glasgow, etc.
The London postal system was improved during the First World War when the boroughs were divided into sub-districts. The division that was made at that time is still in use today. At that time, though, the division was made out of necessity: to make it easier for temporary staff, who were replacing those who had gone to the front, to do the sorting. The subdistricts now had their own numbers.
Testing the postal codes
After the war was over, it was realized that a nationwide postal code scheme was needed that would allow mail to be sorted automatically, using machines.
Thus the zip codes still in use today were tested in the late fifties at Norwich. The first three characters of the code echoed the initial letters of the town’s name, and the last three indicated a particular street. Large companies, businesses, industries, and brands developed their own postal codes.
During testing, sorting machines appeared in the city of Norville. These machines operated in such a way that workers simply entered the codes to sort the letters. However, this test was not as successful as one would have liked because again errors were detected.
As a result, work began on optical character recognition. Then came video coding and integrated mail processors.