Tag Archives: house numbering

House numbering: extended

Our most popular blog of recent times looked at when and how House numbering began in the UK. The post was inspired by one of our Twitter followers, and has been widely re-tweeted. Now here’s the follow-up, also inspired by a question via Twitter from @ZirinskyStamps who asked “So what happens when the street gets extended?” Archives Assistant Penny has an answer:

Postman delivering mail to front door of Holbeach House. (POST 118/1133)

Postman delivering mail to front door of Holbeach House. (POST 118/1133)

We don’t have a lot of information on this as numbering is decided by the local authority. A booklet titled ‘GPO Notes on Street Naming and Numbering of Premises’ January 1966 POST 17/159 states:

“The Post Office has no power to insist upon the use of house numbers and street names in postal addresses but once Local Authorities, in fulfilling their statutory authority, complete the task of naming of streets, numbering of premises and insisting upon the exhibition of numbers a great deal can be done by the Post Office in persuading users of the post to help.”

People can find information on street numbering in their local area from the local authority archive, a list of local authority archives can be found here: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archon/.

House numbering in the UK

We often receive questions about the history of the postal service via our Facebook page or Twitter. Yesterday @jamespurdon asked “anybody know when house numbering begins in UK?” We asked Archives Assistant Penny to find out, and as so often with these questions the answer is a bit complicated.

A postman delivers mail to cottages in North Street in Brighstone, Isle of Wight, 1937.

A postman delivers mail to cottages in North Street in Brighstone, Isle of Wight, 1937.

The first recorded instance of a street being numbered is Prescot Street in Goodmans Fields in 1708. By the end of the century, the numbering of houses had become well established, and seems to have been done on the consecutive rather than the odd and even principle which we have now become familiar.

None of this was regulated and numbering systems varied even in the same street. For example about 1780, Craven Street in the Strand had three sets of numbers. There were irregularities everywhere, and the naming of streets and parts of streets was left to the idiosyncrasy or whim of the owner.

Regulation did not take place until 1855 with the passing of the Metropolitan Management Act. For the first time the power to control and regulate the naming and numbering of streets and houses was provided for and given to the new Board of Works. Under pressure from the Post Office the Board started work in 1857 on the simplification of street names and numbering by working through a hit list of the most confusing streets given to the Board by the Post Office.

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