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British Postal Museum and Archive: The Royal Mail Archive

Post Office: Private Office Papers: Papers of William Ryland


Reference code(s): GB 0813 POST 123 Series

Held at: British Postal Museum and Archive: The Royal Mail Archive

Title: Post Office: Private Office Papers: Papers of William Ryland

Date(s): 1969-1977

Level of description: Series

Extent: 36 files

Name of creator(s):

Ryland | Sir | William | fl 1970-1977 | Knight | Chief Executive of Post Office Corporation


Administrative/Biographical history:

William Ryland was appointed Chief Executive and one of two Deputy Chairmen of the new Post Office Corporation on its creation on 1 October 1969, the other Deputy Chairman being Whitney Willard Straight who remained as Deputy Chairman until 1974. Prior to this, from 1967 to 1969, Ryland had been the Managing Director of Telecommunications. The first Chairman of the Corporation was William Hall, 2nd Viscount Hall, who retained the position from 10 October 1969 until standing down in 1970. At this point, Ryland assumed the role of Acting Chairman before being confirmed as Chairman in 1971. He remained Chairman of the Post Office Corporation until 1977, at which point he was succeeded by Sir William Barlow. During his time as Chairman, Ryland also held the role of Chief Executive in addition to other titles.

Ryland assumed these posts at a particularly crucial and difficult time for the new Corporation. His period in office saw several major initiatives designed to reinvigorate the Post Office, such as attempts to introduce greater levels of mechanisation into the postal service. In 1974, the then government requested the production of a wide-ranging report into the possibilities of rationalising postal services and this led to a Select Committee on Nationalised Industries enquiry into the letter post in 1975. Ryland also oversaw the introduction of several new ancillary services, such as Expresspost, and an attempt to achieve a measure of industrial democracy. Perhaps the most significant event of his Chairmanship, though, was the national postal strike of 1971 when, for several weeks, virtually the entire postal service in Great Britain was closed down. Although the strike ended in a partial victory for the Post Office Corporation, Ryland realised that the Corporation would have to modernise to compete in the late twentieth Century. He thus oversaw moves to improve and increase mechanisation within the Post Office and the beginnings of a restructuring programme which would eventually see the privatisation of the telecommunications business.

During his tenure as Chief Executive and Chairman, Ryland made several appearances on television and radio. He was frequently interviewed on news and current affairs programmes, giving In 1970, for instance, an hour long interview in the form of a question and answer session with members of the public on the BBC Radio Four programme It's Your Line. Other media appearances included an interview on BBC Radio Two's Jimmy Young Show in December 1976 and various interviews on news magazine programmes such as Nationwide. Ryland also undertook numerous speaking engagements to organisations as diverse as the Cambridge University Management Group and the Mail Users' Association.

William Ryland was knighted for his services to the Post Office in January 1973.


Scope and content/abstract:

Includes Board minutes and reports concerned with industrial relations with the Union of Postal Workers in general and the national postal workers' strike of January to March 1971 in particular.

Other papers include an account of a fact-finding visit to the United States of America undertaken with colleagues in March 1971, transcripts of interviews, some photographs and copies of speeches.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The papers have been broken down as follows:

-Personal papers and photographs.

-Speeches and lectures.

-Inustrial relations (Committees and correspondence).

-Post Office Board: minutes, memoranda and papers.

-Overseas relations.

-Public engagements.

Conditions governing access:

Public Record

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Please contact the Archive for further information.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:

Duplicate material relating to the UPW pay dispute and duplicate publications and minutes have been disposed of. In addition, material considered to have little relevance to Ryland's career at the Post Office has been disposed of, along with his office diaries, as they were judged to contain nothing of long term historical significance.

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

One four drawer filing cabinet was received by the Post Office Archive (then based in Post Office Headquarters Building, St Martin's Le Grand) in May 1981 from Room 4018, 23 Howland Street (Secretary's Office).

The Ryland collection was moved in August 1991, along with the rest of the Archive, to its present site. Prior to this move, the files were removed from the cabinet and placed in boxes.


Related material:

see also Post 128 and Post 124: Private papers of William Barlow.


Archivist's note: Entry checked by Barbara Ball

Rules or conventions:

Compiled in compliance with General Internation Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G) second edition 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997

Date(s) of descriptions: Entry checked June 2011

Postal services | Communication industry
Labour relations

Personal names
Ryland | Sir | William | fl 1970-1977 | Knight | Chief Executive of Post Office Corporation

Corporate names
Post Office
Union of Post Office Workers