Artefacts in the neighbourhood

Primary History article

By Alf Wilkinson, published 31st October 2022

Artefacts in the neighbourhood

Alf Wilkinson uses an everyday object found near you – a post box – to develop your children’s history skills.

Look carefully at the picture. It is a familiar object in the neighbourhood. It is a postbox – there will be one (or more) near you. Go out and look carefully at it. What is it? What is it used for? How do we know? Look particularly at the white panel – all postboxes have them. What information can we discover from it? Some questions you can answer – when is the postbox next emptied? Is it the same time every day? When can I post a letter after this box has been emptied? Other questions you might not be able to answer without further research – what happens to the letters when the box is emptied? Where are they sorted? Who empties the box?

Many people today rarely write letters, preferring the speed and cheapness of email. But for some of us of the older generation, post was important. When I was a child few people had telephones, let alone email. The post came twice a day, and was the only way most people kept in touch with each other. In Victorian times it was quite common for a local letter to be delivered within a couple of hours of being posted, and you might receive your reply the very next day!...

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