LOST IN THE POST?: Birmingham’s 23-year letter delay

Royal Mail workers sorting mail (c) Roy Mayall / Going Postal

While Royal Mail, the United Kingdom’s largest postal service, has a popularly notorious reputation for losing and delivering letters to wrong addresses, they are also sometimes credited as being very efficient and hard-working. But even big companies can make big mistakes…

Waiting for a letter to arrive and finding out it has been delayed or lost in the post is a frustrating experience for thousands of residents in the U.K. every year. Spare a thought, however, for the recipients of a batch of letters posted in the Midlands that went missing for over two decades.

The mail was put into a postbox at Birmingham’s New Street train station as the Eighties drew to a close. Unfortunately it was never collected, as in 1989, the postbox containing them was withdrawn from service and sealed by postal officials. According to local Royal Mail representatives, this was due to complaints from customers who were getting their fingers trapped in the postbox’s narrow hinged slot, as well as a need for increased security at New Street, which served 24 million passengers in 2010/11.

After being decommissioned, the New Street postbox was boarded up with an ‘out-of-action’ sign, only to be targetted by vandals who removed the boarding. As a result customers continued to post their letters through the box, despite it being no longer emptied by postal workers on their rounds.

The box was quickly forgotten about. Located inside the station’s main hall near a branch of stationers WH Smiths, it was barely noticed by most commuters and shop workers alike, apart from the unlucky letter senders who had to wait 23 years for a reply.

An assistant at the New Street train station, Nikee Clynes, with some of the forgotten mail (c) Birmingham Mail

Years of being left in a dark humid space has exposed them to some wear and tear. Much of the forgotten mail was found dog-eared and filthy with dust. Workers sifting through the correspondence discovered several postcards from holidaymakers and a cheque made out to a charity.

Recent renovation work by National Rail at the New Street station – located in Birmingham’s city centre – uncovered the lost letterbox and its secret cache of envelopes, which are now awaiting delivery to their original recipients by a noticeably embarrassed Royal Mail. One spokesperson told the Birmingham Mail newspaper that “We would not seal the box with letters still in it…We believe customers continued to post letters, oblivious to the fact it was not being emptied.

Network Rail, which manages the rail station, did not take any responsibility alongside Royal Mail, stating that they were not in the mail delivery business. The more than 110,000 postboxes located in Britain are usually visited 2 to 3 times daily by postmen/women who can only access the mail inside with specially-provided key sets.



Metro newspaper (28/9/12)

Google Maps LINK

“Found at last – Letters that lay in Birmingham postbox for 23 YEARS” – Birmingham Mail / Trinity Mirror Midlands Limited LINK

“Birmingham New Street railway station” – Wikipedia LINK

“Locate or find your nearest postboxes” – Matthew Somerville, Dracos.co.uk LINK


“Found at last – Letters that lay in Birmingham postbox for 23 YEARS” – Birmingham Mail / Trinity Mirror Midlands Limited LINK

“The mood in the Royal Mail sorting office” – Roy Mayall, Going Postal LINK


One thought on “LOST IN THE POST?: Birmingham’s 23-year letter delay

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