THE big news in the world of post boxes is that John Wornham Penfold has been named as one of the most influential surveyors of all time by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Mr Penfold designed the hexagonal pillar box, which was installed between 1866 and 1879. It is believed that only 92 original Penfold boxes remain in Britain (there are about 115,000 post boxes of all shapes), and only 20 of them are Mark Is with the slot above the royal coat-of-arms. We reckon that the only genuine one in this region is at the foot of Richmond Market Place.

The first pillar box was installed in St Helier, Jersey, in 1852 on the suggestion of the novelist, Anthony Trollope. The first box on the English mainland came the following year in Botchergate, Carlisle, and they gradually spread across the country.

Early boxes were to local designs, until 1866 when the design by Mr Penfold – a Surrey architect – was accepted. It featured acanthus leaves on its top which was topped off by an attractive acanthus bud as the finial.

These boxes, made by Cochrane Grove & Company, of Dudley, near Wolverhampton, in the Midlands, originally came in a gentle bronze-green colour, with features picked out in gold, so that they weren’t too obtrusive.

The problem was they were too unobtrusive. They blended in, and people walked straight by them. So from 1874, they were painted pillar box red.

In 1879, the fanciness of the Penfold design was making it an expensive box to produce and so it was replaced by the ubiquitous cylindrical box.

Therefore, the Richmond box must be from before 1879. There is another box in our area that purports to be a Penfold. It is on Palace Green in Durham, but it is a replica, placed there to make the cathedral look more photogenic in 1991.

Are there any other Penfolds kicking about that we've missed? Or do you have an interesting old postbox in your nick of the woods? Please email

And if you follow these pages very carefully, there was a throwaway line a fortnight ago tempting you with the prospect of a murder. Well, it is an extremely juicy murder from the Bedale area, and it is coming soon. Watch this space – if you dare!