For most people they are what you put your letters into when you want to mail them. But for David Chandler, postboxes are a source of endless fascination. And he has 11,000 photographs of them...
David Chandler is a man on a mission and it’s inspired by a rather unusual passion.
The amateur historian from Morecambe is a self-declared postbox enthusiast and finds great interest in objects that most of us pass every day without so much as a second glance.
“It began about 12 years ago”, says David, “I was on holiday in the Peak District and playing around with a new camera and I saw a postbox in a rather picturesque location, next to a reservoir. I took a snap of it and filed it away.”
Fast-forward to 2015 and David was asked to pen a series of articles on heritage for the Post’s sister paper, the Morecambe Visitor. “I’d written a few pieces and I decided that postboxes would make a good topic, as they have a long history and everybody lives near one, so readers would be able to go out and look at their nearest example.”
David became engrossed in the subject while
researching the article and also photographed a number of his local boxes.
“When I collated all the photos I’d taken, I realised that over the 10 years since I’d taken the first photo in Derbyshire, I’d snapped quite a few different boxes around the UK. I sorted them all and thought it would be fun to share them in an album on my Facebook page.”
But David hadn’t banked on the response from friends…
“A few of my pals thought it was a bit odd, even though they are used to me by now, but quite a few friends began sending me their own photos, so I began to build up quite a number of these pictures. I decided to create a dedicated Facebook page and called it Postbox Collection.”
With the collection now public, even more photos began to pour in. “Some days I would receive more than 100 pictures, from all over the country. Luckily, a few of the regular contributors offered to help administer the page and they assist with uploading and documenting the finds. Without them, I couldn’t manage!”
David is a member of the Letter Box Study Group, the society for lovers of postal heritage. They provided him with the key to cataloguing his finds, “I purchased a spreadsheet from them of all the boxes in the UK, so as the photos come in, I am able to mark them off and keep track of which ones I have and how many. I have around 11,000 pictures now, but as there are 114,500 boxes in total, I still have a long way to go!”
David has travelled far and wide in pursuit of prime examples of postal heritage. A particularly rare Edward VIII Ludlow postbox in Suffolk was a highlight. He has captured every box in his own postcode district (LA4) and also LA1, LA2, LA3 and numerous other districts. He has even been to the Isle of Man, which although not part of the UK, has many boxes which originate from Britain.
“People often ask where I draw the line with collecting postbox pictures and it’s a tricky question. There are examples of UK postboxes in all sorts of places. Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands are fairly obvious examples, but you will also find them in Disneyland Florida, in New Zealand, Malta and even Antartica.”
David confesses that he is in no hurry to complete his quest, “given the number of boxes we’re talking about, I estimate it will take about 10 years to get them all. It started out as a bit of fun and I am intrigued to see how many we can get, but there’s a limit to how many I can process at any given time, so the steady trickle I receive now is just about right. It’s fun as they come in from all over the place in no particular
order. I have fellow enthusiasts who send me a few pics from their area each day and then individuals who send one box and never get in touch again!”
And the million dollar question, does David have a favourite postbox?
“I do a talk about postboxes and I end by revealing my personal top five. I’m attracted to the ones that are a bit unusual. My absolute favourite is a Victorian pillar box in the wall of the Chelsea Hospital in London. It has a slot on the front which you can access from the street and then – so that the Chelsea Pensioners don’t have to come outside the gates to post a lette – it has another slot on the other side. You can see right through it.
n You can follow David’s adventures on social media: