Overview of Leamington Postal History
by Martin Robinson (© Martin Robinson 2004)
Until 1800 Leamington Priors was a small village with a population of only 315. A well-known member of the community was Benjamin Satchwell (1732-1810) who, as well as being the village’s first postmaster, was a shoemaker and wrote verse extolling the medicinal qualities of its waters. Long before his time local people had valued the local springs of salt and fresh water, and by 1820 seven springs had been discovered and visitors flocked to the town’s baths and Pump Room, many attracted by the recommendations of the influential Dr Jephson. The vast expansion of the town took place between 1810 and 1840, incorporating the elegance of the Regency and early Victorian periods. Queen Victoria granted the ‘Royal’ prefix in 1838, and the population had grown to 15,000 by 1850; it is now more three times that.
As the town grew postal business increased, and in 1811 a Penny Post was set up with mail being forwarded by messenger from Warwick three times a week: it didn’t reach Leamington until noon, with replies to be posted by 2.00pm. From 1818 the London mail coach was diverted to pass through Leamington, as a result of which letters were delivered in Leamington between 9.00 and 10.00am and replies could be posted up to 4.00pm. The first recorded offence against a letter box came in 1824 when a reward was offered for the apprehension of an ‘evil-disposed person’ who had put a lighted cracker into the letter box at the post office. Leamington became a post town in 1830, the same year that a new post office opened in Bath Street, and a new Crown Office opened there in 1846. The present main post office in Priory Terrace opened in 1870. Receiving houses (ie sub post offices) were opened in Upper Parade in 1832 and South Parade (later renamed Clarendon Avenue) in 1850.
Leamington and Warwick became joint post towns in 1933, the Head Office being in Leamington. The post of Head Postmaster ceased in 1978 when administration was concentrated on to Coventry, and since 1986 most mail has been processed at the mechanised sorting office in Coventry, so the ‘Leamington & Warwick’ machine postmark has disappeared. Three other matters might be of interest. (1) Between 1940 and 1942 the Free Czechoslovak Army was based in mid-Warwickshire, with its headquarters and field post office in Leamington. It was in Leamington that the assassination of Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich in Prague was planned. (2) The Leamington area used to be rich in Victorian pillar boxes, most of them now gone. Two handsome 1856 ‘fluted’ pillar boxes remain at the Eastgate and Westgate in Warwick. (3) Leamington claims the invention of the game of lawn tennis, and certainly had the first club in 1872.
- Leamington's first post office, Benjamin Satchwell's cottage in New Street
- Post Office poster of 1824 offering a reward for the apprehension of a malefactor
- UPPER PARADE / LEAMINGTON handstamp of 1842
- Free Czechoslovak forces field post cover of 1941 celebrating the birthday of President Beneš
- Special handstamp of 1969 on a souvenir cover showing one of Warwick’s 1856 pillar boxes
- Special handstamp of 1972 marking the centenary of the first lawn tennis club in Leamington
Village Into Town – Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire County Library, 1977
Royal Leamington Spa – Part 6: The Letter and the Law, W.G.Gibbons, 1986
A Short History of the Leamington Post Office, T.P.L.Sharpe, undated (c1986)
The Postal History of the Free Czechoslovak Forces in Great Britain 1940-45, Richard Beith, 2002
Leamington’s Czech Patriots and the Heydrich Assassination, Alan Griffin, 2004