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Discover the history of post from ancient times to the present
The earliest known instance of 'post' is from ancient Egypt. The Postal Museum has a clay letter thought to date from around 2000BC and Egyptian papyrus dating around 1200BC.
When Britain was absorbed into the Roman Empire it was connected to the imperial postal system known as CURSUS PUBLICUS. This was a network of messengers and later of relay posts where the same messenger could change his horses and carry on his journey
Around 800AD Charlemagne, King of the French and Emperor of the west, revived key Roman posts. They helped him govern a vast empire that stretched from Denmark to the Danube and Spain. After he died, his empire disintegrated and the posts fell into disuse – his successors were not strong enough to overcome Europe's divisive feudal loyalties.
In medieval England, Kings posts had been set up in wartime or during the monarchs progress around the country, to keep him in contact with his court and ministers. These were only temporary arrangements. The foundations of a permanent postal system were laid down by Henry VIII around 1512 when he appointed Sir Brian Tuke his 'Master of the Posts' and began to maintain relays of horses and messengers on important routes. Officially only the court could use them, but increasing numbers of private letters were carried as the Tudor era progressed.
In 1700, our postal network was still largely based on the six royal messenger routes set up in Tudor times. These were inadequate for business, government and private correspondence. Many important towns were not directly linked. Instead, mail between them went via London. As a result delivery times were unnecessarily long, and the postal system was too dependant on the ''London Inland Letter Office'
Then there was the cost of the Free Frank – the privilege allowing Members of Parliament to send free mail if it bore their 'Frank' – their signature. The Frank was greatly abused. MP's sold it to businesses and franked the mail of their supporters and families. The public had to bear the cost of this.