This morning we received a very interesting e-mail from AB Property Marketing confirming that the UK postcode is 40 years old today. In many ways we take our postal system for granted but with 1.8 million postcodes covering 29 million premises across the UK, they are part of everyday life. Indeed, those who use SatNAVs will be well aware that the humble postcode is often the quickest way to find an address and by far and away the easiest.
We will now take a look at the history of the humble UK postcode which was initially introduced on trial to assist with sorting post but very quickly became a part of everyday life.
First UK postcode
The first UK postcode can be traced back to Norwich in 1974 when, as we mentioned above, it was introduced as a way of helping to sort post in the region. It very quickly became obvious that this was in fact an ingenious idea and it was replicated right across the UK. When you bear in mind the number of services and operators who identify customers by their postcode, where would we be without it today?
Indeed, if you look back at the Nationwide building society average house price index we will see that the average UK property was worth around £10,000 in 1974 and now stands at in excess of £178,000. This is a phenomenal increase in the cost of UK property over the life of the humble UK postcode.
Interesting facts about the UK postcode system
While on the face of it the UK postcode system is a very businesslike and a very straightlaced system there are certain elements which will make you smile and make you laugh. For example, did you know that Father Christmas has his own UK postcode which, unsurprisingly, is SANTA1. If you send something to Santa’s postcode it will be processed by the UK Post Office!
Quote from PropertyForum.com : “There is a very useful service on the UK Land Registry website which allows you to check how much properties have been changing hands for in your area. This not only gives you up to date information but it also gives you an idea of how prices have changed over the years.”
Even though we might expect the UK postcode system to be readily available free of charge to everybody, the Post Office charge businesses upwards of £4000 a year for access to its postcode database. When you bear in mind the number of businesses which use this system as a means of identifying potential customers, we can only imagine what kind of income this creates!
It is believed that overall it took 15 years for the Post Office to roll-out the postcode system right across the UK which means that while 1974 saw the first UK postcode created, and rolled out across the country fairly quickly, it was not until 1989 that the task was completed. When you also consider the number of new properties built each and every year it must be an onerous task keeping the postcode database up-to-date.
There was an initial attempt to introduce a postcode system across London in 1857 although unfortunately this failed only to re-emerge in 1974 laying the foundations for the postcode system we have today.
UK British forces have their own British Forces Post Office which also uses an array of readily identifiable postcodes to ensure that your post is received by servicemen and servicewoman posted overseas.
Mail sorting machines automatically pick up the postcode on all correspondence which is then translated into a barcode so that the Post Office is able to keep track of inward and outward mail. An ingenious yet simple system which is now very much taken for granted but vital to the UK postal service and an array of businesses.