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Post Office: Engineering

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0813 POST 76 Series
Held at: British Postal Museum and Archive: The Royal Mail Archive
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Full title: Post Office: Engineering
Date(s): 1882-1984
Level of description: Series
Extent: 178 files and volumes
Name of creator(s): Post Office


Administrative/Biographical history:

The nationalisation of the private telegraph services in 1870 created a need for a specialist department of the General Post Office devoted to engineering. The first Engineer-in-Chief, R S Culley, was appointed on 29 January 1870 and many of the technical staff formerly employed by the old private telegraph companies formed the nucleus of his new department. At this time the existing telegraph lines terminated at railway stations, usually some distance from the towns, so the first job of The Post Office engineers was to extend the lines to post offices within the towns. New routes were also added, with 740 miles of wire laid under London's streets during the first few months of 1870. The British Isles were split into divisions for the purpose of local engineering control. These divisions, each under control of a Superintendent Engineer, who was directly responsible to the Engineer-in-Chief, later became known as engineering districts. The first Engineer-in-Chief's Office was in Telegraph Street, London, at the Central Telegraph Office which had previously been owned by the Electric Telegraph Company. A move to new headquarters, GPO West in St. Martin's-le-Grand, took place in 1874. In 1881 the Government authorised The Post Office to offer the public telephone as a service, in addition to telegraph services, and the first Post Office Telephone Exchange was opened at Swansea in March. In 1912 the Postmaster General took over the National Telephone Company and for the first time a unified telephone system was available throughout most of Britain. Approximately 19,000 staff were transferred over, of which about 7,000 were employed on engineering work, adding to the 9,000 already employed in the Engineering Department. Three Engineering districts were formed in 1901 to deal with London's telephones. These were the Metropolitan North, Central and South. The North district was abolished at the transfer, but within a few months the whole of the metropolitan area was put under the control of one superintending engineer for the London Engineering District. It remained the smallest engineering district in area, but was the largest in value of plant and number of staff. The rapid expansion of the GPO's telephone services and the development of other forms of telecommunication led to an increase in the work of the Engineer-in-Chief's department. It remained primarily engaged in developing, providing and maintaining telecommunications services, but it also had responsibility for matters concerning electrical power and, as time went on, the mechanisation of postal operations. The department and the office of Engineer-in-Chief changed radically after 1969 when the engineering work of the new Post Office Corporation began to be split between the new, increasingly separate, postal and telecommunications businesses. RoMEC (Royal Mail Engineering and Construction) was formed in April 1988 as a self-contained profit centre. Its customer base extends to every part of The Post Office. The RoMEC Group comprises six core product groups in the specialist areas of security, manufacturing, maintenance, datacommns, installation and consultancy.


Scope and content/abstract:

This record series mainly comprises reports, correspondence, statistics, staff manuals and historical summaries on the organisation, policy, development and operation of The Post Office Engineering Department and its successors.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in chronological order within series

Conditions governing access:

Public Record

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Reports on motor transport compiled by the Engineering Department can be found in POST 10.

Papers on Engineering Department training can be found in POST 63.

The private collection of William Preece, Engineer-in-Chief from 1892, POST 106 are held at BT Archives.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International 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:
EAD transfer validated May 2011

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