NEWS FROM THE GATEACRE SOCIETY (May 2017):

BLACK IS THE (ONLY) COLOUR?
A few months ago, the Gateacre Society's Committee began drawing up a list of environmental issues and desirable improvements within the Gateacre Village Conservation Area. We hope that this will form the basis of a discussion event later in the year.

We thought we had identified a reasonably simple and practical restoration project at the top of Gateacre Brow. The Victorian letter box, built into the sandstone wall of Gateacre Grange, has been disused for many years now, since the Royal Mail decided that it was not a safe location for their workers to collect letters from. Having been replaced by a modern 'lamp box' a few yards further along Rose Brow, the original box was painted black to indicate that it is no longer in use. Were it not for the fact that Gateacre Grange is a Grade II Listed Building, and its boundary wall was clearly 'tailored' to accommodate the box when the house was built circa 1869, the box would probably have been removed altogether.

The idea we had was to restore the original appearance of the box, by removing the thick layers of paint that have built up over the years and revealing the cast-iron lettering which reads 'Post Office' and 'V R'. We sought advice from the Letter Box Study Group, who confirmed that the design of the box is contemporary with Gateacre Grange. They told us that it is an '1861 Box No.1 Large', made in the period 1861-71 by Smith & Hawkes of Birmingham. They also told us that it would originally have been painted green, this having been the standard colour for British postboxes prior to 1874. What better, we thought, than to repaint it green - a colour that wouldn't give the impression of a box still in active use - with the lettering perhaps picked out in gold.

Unfortunately, when we wrote to the Royal Mail's 'Property & Facilities Solutions' division on 15th May, telling them what we had in mind, we got an immediate and unwelcome response: "It is policy for all out of service boxes to be painted black and we would unfortunately refuse the request for this to be green. I will however raise a ticket for an engineer to attend to make good the paintwork". Within 48 hours of this email being sent, yet another layer of shiny black paint had been applied by a Royal Mail employee.

We have not, as yet, given up the fight. The Joint Policy Statement by Royal Mail and Historic England, published in 2015, states that redundant boxes will be " painted in a colour other than red (normally black)". It also confirms that listed building consent is, officially, needed to change the appearance of a box such as this. What precedents are there, we wonder, elsewhere in the country? We know that our wall box is a rare survivor - but we cannot believe that our ambitions for it are unique.

Above:
The Letter Box on the corner of Rose Brow and Gateacre Brow, Liverpool L25. Photographed in March 2017, before Royal Mail repainted the ironwork.

Image © Mike Chitty, The Gateacre Society

Above:
The Joint Policy Statement (July 2015) can be downloaded from the
Historic England
website, or you can read the Royal Mail press release.

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