Located across the street from the Charles Dickens Museum and just one mile northeast of The British Museum, The Postal Museum is one of greater London’s newest museum attractions. This unique facility is dedicated to recognizing the long history of British postal service and its impact on the people of England and the world. Highlights here at The Postal Museum include thousands of historic artifacts, multiple hands-on exhibits, and the Mail Rail Ride.
History of The Postal Museum
Most historians trace the origins of postal service in England back to the days of King Henry VIII, who named his secretary Sir Brian Tuke master of the posts in the early sixteenth century, thus formalizing royal mail service. In 1635, Charles I would make this type of service available to the public for the first time, and it would become the General Post Office in 1660. By the 19th Century, efforts were underway to create an archive that would protect the records, documents, and artifacts of this long-running service—though these efforts were largely internal in nature.
The Postal Museum that exists today has its roots in the National Postal Museum in the City of London, which was established in 1969 by order of Queen Elizabeth II. That attraction was best known for its stamp collection, but closed its doors in 1998. In 2004, the Postal Heritage Trust was created to safeguard the existing Royal Mail historic collections, and after years of striving to find a suitable new home for its many mail-related treasures, The Postal Museum finally opened to the public in 2017.
The Postal Museum Highlights
The permanent collection of The Postal Museum contains over 60,000 objects, including everything from Royal Mail vehicles to antique postal boxes to historic postage stamps and beyond. In addition to these remarkable artifacts, visitors can partake in exhibits enabling them to dress up in replica postmaster uniforms, play games that simulate delivering the post under challenging conditions, and marvel at the creativity of the graphic designers who conceived of innovative ad campaigns for postal service throughout the twentieth century.
No trip to The Postal Museum would be complete without going on the one-and-only Mail Rail Ride. The Mail Rail Ride takes place below ground, deep beneath the Royal Mail’s actual Mount Pleasant sorting office, along historic tracks that once handled mail. Today, these tracks carry guests on a miniature train ride that includes sound effects, films, interactive exhibits, and a whole lot more.
If you’ll be visiting The Postal Museum with small children under the age of eight years old, you can’t afford to miss out on “Sorted! The Postal Play Place.” Sorted! is an interactive play area built to resemble a real town, complete with kid-sized streets and buildings—and, of course, chutes and slides and trolleys, too! Here your little one can drive a mail van, stamp letters while playing as a mail clerk, and have fun sorting mail in costume.
More to See and Do at The Postal Museum
The Postal Museum is a fun attraction full of surprising exhibits, interactive displays, and more. Keep reading for a few other things to know before you plan your visit.
•In addition to all the fantastic permanent exhibits you’ll find at The Postal Museum, the attraction routinely features an array of rotating temporary shows, too. To be in the loop regarding what new exhibit might be on when you’re intending to visit, check The Postal Museum’s official website. Previous exhibits of note have covered topics as diverse as postcards, postal codes, and mail train robberies, just to name a few subjects of note.
•For a small fee, visitors to The Postal Museum may download an informative audio guide straight to their phones at the same time they purchase their tickets. Available through the free CloudGuide app, The Postal Museum audio guide is available in five languages and proves a useful tool as you move through the attraction’s many exhibits.
•Visitors to The Postal Museum who are all about the Mail Rail may want to consider timing their trip so that they can arrive here on a Tuesday afternoon. That’s because every Tuesday afternoon between the hours of 3:00pm and 6:30pm The Postal Museum offers Tunnel Walks. These guided walking tours of the Mail Rail tunnels take you to portions of the train tracks and platforms that aren’t a part of the Mail Rail Ride. Pre-booking is required and you must be 12 years or older to participate.
•The Postal Museum has its very own café, where you can enjoy an espresso, order a deli-style sandwich, grab a quick pastry, or even luxuriate in formal afternoon tea service.
Why The Postal Museum Should Be on Your Must-See List
When you get right down to it, The Postal Museum is just plain fun. While an attraction devoted to the history of the postal service might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, The Postal Museum manages to make the mail an enlivening experience. If you’re in the market for a London attraction that’s both educational and entertaining—all while never taking itself too seriously—then you’ll do well to seriously consider visiting The Postal Museum.