Postmaster General of the United Kingdom
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Postmaster General of the United Kingdom

Postmaster General of the United Kingdom
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
11.12.67 Présentation officielle du Concorde (1967) - 53Fi1742 (John Stonehouse).jpg
Last in office
John Stonehouse
1 July 1968 - 1 October 1969
StylePostmaster General
AppointerMonarch of the United Kingdom on advice of the Prime Minister
PrecursorMaster of the King's Post
Formation1517
First holderBrian Tuke
as Master of the King's Post
Final holderJohn Stonehouse
Abolished1 October 1969
SuccessionOverseen by the following:
Department of Trade and Industry
(1974-2007)
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
(2007-2015)
Home Office
(1974-92)
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (1992 - )

The Postmaster General of the United Kingdom was a Cabinet-level ministerial position in HM Government. Aside from maintaining the postal system, the Telegraph Act 1868 established the Postmaster General's right to exclusively maintain electric telegraphs. This would subsequently extend to telecommunications and broadcasting.

The office was abolished in 1969 by the Post Office Act 1969. A replacement public corporation, governed by a chairman, was established under the name of the Post Office (later subsumed by Royal Mail Group). The cabinet position of Postmaster General was replaced by a Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, with reduced powers, until 1974; most regulatory functions have now been delegated to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. However the present-day Royal Mail Group was overseen by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy prior to flotation.

History

In England, the monarch's letters to his subjects are known to have been carried by relays of couriers as long ago as the 15th century. The earliest mention of Master of the Posts is in the King's Book of Payments where a payment of £100 was authorised for Brian Tuke as master of the posts in February 1512.[1] Belatedly, in 1517, he was officially appointed to the office of Governor of the King's Posts, a precursor to the office of Postmaster General of the United Kingdom, by Henry VIII.[2] In 1609 it was decreed that letters could only be carried and delivered by persons authorised by the Postmaster General.[3]

In 1655 John Thurloe became Postmaster-General, a post he held until he was accused of treason and arrested in May 1660.[4] His spies were able to intercept mail, and he exposed Edward Sexby's 1657 plot to assassinate Cromwell and captured would-be assassin Miles Sindercombe and his group. (Ironically, Thurloe's own department was also infiltrated: in 1659 Morland became a Royalist agent and alleged that Thurloe, Richard Cromwell and Sir Richard Willis - a Sealed Knot member turned Cromwell agent - were plotting to kill the future King Charles II.) About forty years after his death, a false ceiling was found in his rooms at Lincolns Inn, the space was full of letters seized during his occupation of the office of Postmaster-General. These letters are also now at the Bodleian.[5]

In 1657 an Act entitled 'Postage of England, Scotland and Ireland Settled' set up a system for the British Isles and enacted the position of Postmaster General. The Act also reasserted the postal monopoly for letter delivery and for post horses. After the Restoration in 1660, a further Act (12 Car II, c.35) confirmed this and the post of Postmaster-General, the previous Cromwellian Act being void.

The former site of the General Letter Office in London

1660 saw the establishment of the General Letter Office, which would later become the General Post Office (GPO).[3] A similar position evolved in the Kingdom of Scotland prior to the 1707 Act of Union.

The office was abolished in 1969 by the Post Office Act 1969.[3] A new public corporation, governed by a chairman, was established under the name of the Post Office (the part later subsumed by Royal Mail), which also had responsibility for telecommunications and the Girobank). The cabinet position of Postmaster General was initially replaced by a Minister of Posts and Telecommunications with less direct involvement; this department was dissolved in March 1974, [6] with regulatory functions transferring to the Home Office, the Post Office retaining control of television licensing. Since 1992, most regulatory functions formerly conducted by the Postmaster General generally fall within the remit of the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, although the present-day Royal Mail Group was overseen by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy until flotation.

Masters of the King's Post

Years Master of the King's Post
1517-1545 Brian Tuke
1545-1566 John Mason
1566-1590 Thomas Randolph
1590-1607 John Stanhope, 1st Baron Stanhope
1607-1635 Charles Stanhope, 2nd Baron Stanhope
1637-1642 Philip Burlamachi
1642-1649 Edmund Prideaux

Postmaster under the Commonwealth

Years Postmaster under the Commonwealth
1649-1653 Edmund Prideaux
1653-1655 John Manley[7]
1655-1660 John Thurloe

Postmasters General of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom

The earliest postmasters had responsibility for England and Wales. In 1707, on the Union with Scotland, the responsibility of the office was extended to cover the whole of the new Kingdom of Great Britain as well as Ireland, but with some powers held by a Post Office Manager for Scotland. By the Post Office (Revenues) Act 1710, with effect from 1711, the services were united, but with a Deputy Postmaster for Scotland. From 1784, there were also Postmasters General of Ireland, but from 1831, the postmasters based at Westminster became responsible for the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[8] In 1922, the Irish Free State became independent, and in 1923 it established its own arrangements under a Postmaster General of the Irish Free State. In 1924 the title became Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

Two Postmasters General, 1691-1823

From 1691 to 1823 there were two Postmasters General, to divide the patronage between the Whigs and Tories.

Year 1st Postmaster General 1st Party 2nd Postmaster General 2nd Party
1691 Sir Thomas Frankland Sir Robert Cotton Tory
1708 Sir John Evelyn
1715 James Craggs the Elder Charles Cornwallis, 4th Baron Cornwallis Whig
1720 Galfridus Walpole Edward Carteret
1725 Edward Harrison
1733 Thomas Coke, 1st Baron Lovel
(Earl of Leicester from 1744)
1739 Sir John Eyles, Bt
1745 Everard Fawkener
1759 Robert Hampden, 4th Baron Trevor William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough
1762 John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont
1763 Thomas Villiers, 1st Baron Hyde
1765 Thomas Robinson, 1st Baron Grantham William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough
1766 Wills Hill, 2nd Viscount Hillsborough Francis Dashwood, 11th Baron le Despencer
1768 John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich
1771 Henry Carteret
(from 1784 Baron Carteret)
1782 The Viscount Barrington
1782 Charles Bennet, 4th Earl of Tankerville[9]
1783 Thomas Foley, 2nd Baron Foley[9]
1784 Charles Bennet, 4th Earl of Tankerville[9]
1786 Thomas Villiers, 1st Earl of Clarendon
1787 Thomas de Grey, 2nd Baron Walsingham
1789 John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland Tory
1790 Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl of Chesterfield
1794 George Townshend, 1st Earl of Leicester
1798 William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland
1799 George Leveson-Gower, Baron Gower
1801 Lord Charles Spencer
1804 James Graham, 3rd Duke of Montrose
1806 John Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire
1807 Thomas Pelham, 2nd Earl of Chichester Whig John Montagu, 5th Earl of Sandwich Tory
1814 Richard Trench, 2nd Earl of Clancarty
1816 James Cecil, 1st Marquess of Salisbury

A single Postmaster General, 1823-1900

In 1823 the idea of a Whig and a Tory sharing the post was abolished.[9]

A single Postmaster General, 1900-1921

2 November 1900 Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 6th Marquess of Londonderry
8 August 1902 Austen Chamberlain MP for East Worcestershire in Cabinet
6 October 1903 Edward Stanley, Lord Stanley MP for Westhoughton in cabinet Conservative
10 December 1905 Sidney Buxton MP for Poplar in cabinet Liberal
14 February 1910 Herbert Samuel MP for Cleveland in cabinet Liberal
11 February 1914 Charles Hobhouse MP for Bristol East in cabinet Liberal
26 May 1915 Herbert Samuel MP for Cleveland in cabinet Liberal
18 January 1916 Joseph Pease MP for Rotherham in cabinet Liberal
10 December 1916 Albert Illingworth MP for Heywood (UK Parliament constituency) until 1918, Heywood and Radcliffe
from 1918 Liberal
1 April 1921 Frederick Kellaway MP for Bedford Liberal

Postmaster General, 1924-1969

Portrait Name
(Birth-Death)
Term of office Party Ministry
Vernon Hartshorn MP.jpg Vernon Hartshorn
MP for Croydon South
(1872-1931) [10]
22 January 1924 11 November 1924 Labour MacDonald I
Lord Selsdon.jpg Sir William Mitchell-Thomson
MP for Croydon South
(1877-1938)
11 November 1924 7 June 1929 Conservative Baldwin II
No image.svg Hastings Lees-Smith
MP for Keighley
(1878-1941)
7 June 1929 2 March 1931 Labour MacDonald II
Person attlee2.jpg Clement Attlee
MP for Limehouse
(1883-1967)
2 March 1931 3 September 1931 Labour
William Ormsby-Gore 1936.jpg William Ormsby-Gore
MP for Stafford
(1895-1964)
3 September 1931 10 November 1931 Conservative National I
(N.Lab.-Con.-et al.)
Kingsley Wood cropped.jpg Sir Kingsley Wood
MP for Woolwich West
(1881-1943) [11]
10 November 1931 7 June 1935 Conservative
National II
Lord Tyron.jpg George Tryon
MP for Brighton
(1871-1940)
7 June 1935 3 April 1940 Conservative National III
(Con.-N.Lab.-et al.)
National IV
Chamberlain War
Lord Dunrossil-02.jpg William Morrison
MP for Cirencester and Tewkesbury
(1893-1961)
3 April 1940 7 November 1943 Conservative
Churchill War
(All parties)
Crookshank1932.png Harry Crookshank
MP for Gainsborough
(1893-1961)
7 November 1943 4 August 1945 Conservative
Churchill Caretaker
(Con.-Lib.N.)
No image.svg The Earl of Listowel
(1906-1997)
4 August 1945 17 April 1947 Labour Attlee
British Political Personalities 1936-1945 HU59767.jpg Wilfred Paling
MP for Wentworth
(1883-1971)
17 April 1947 28 February 1950 Labour
No image.svg Ness Edwards
MP for Caerphilly
(1897-1969)
28 February 1950 5 November 1951 Labour
Lord De La warr.jpg The Earl De La Warr
(1900-1976)
5 November 1951 7 April 1955 Conservative Churchill III
No image.svg Charles Hill
MP for Luton
(1904-1989)
7 April 1955 16 January 1957 National Liberal Eden
No image.svg Ernest Marples
MP for Wallasey
(1907-1978)
16 January 1957 22 October 1959 Conservative Macmillan
No image.svg Reginald Bevins
MP for Liverpool Toxteth
(1908-1996)
22 October 1959 19 October 1964 Conservative
Douglas-Home
11.12.67 Présentation officielle du Concorde (1967) - 53Fi1748 (Tony Benn).jpg Tony Benn
MP for Bristol South East
(1925-2014)
19 October 1964 4 July 1966 Labour Wilson
No image.svg Edward Short
MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central
(1912-2012)
4 July 1966 6 April 1968 Labour
No image.svg Roy Mason
MP for Barnsley
(1924-2015)
6 April 1968 1 July 1968 Labour
11.12.67 Présentation officielle du Concorde (1967) - 53Fi1742 (John Stonehouse).jpg John Stonehouse
MP for Wednesbury
(1925-1988)
1 July 1968 1 October 1969 Labour

Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, 1969-1974

Portrait Name
(Birth-Death)
Term of office Party Ministry
11.12.67 Présentation officielle du Concorde (1967) - 53Fi1742 (John Stonehouse).jpg John Stonehouse
MP for Wednesbury
(1925-1988)
1 October 1969 19 June 1970 Labour Wilson
Tentoonstelling Europort 1972 geopend in de RAI, Minister Chris Chataway aan stu, Bestanddeelnr 926-0230 (cropped).jpg Christopher Chataway
MP for Chichester
(1931-2014)
24 June 1970 7 April 1972 Conservative Heath
John Eden
MP for Bournemouth West
(1925-2020)
7 April 1972 4 March 1974

See also

References

  1. ^ Brewer, J.S.; Brewer, John Sherren; Brodie, Robert Henry; Gairdner, James (1864). Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII. London: Longman, Green, Longman, & Roberts. pp. 1454.
  2. ^ Walker (1938), p. 37
  3. ^ a b c "Division No. 1 (Postal Services Bill) [15 Jun 2000] - Column 1782". Volume No. 613 - Part No. 104. 15 June 2000. Retrieved 2013.
  4. ^ "John Thurloe, Secretary of State, 1616-68". british-civil-wars.co.uk. 23 April 2007. Retrieved 2012.
  5. ^ Papworth, Dorothy (1990). "John Thurloe". Wisbech Society Report. 51: 14-16.
  6. ^ "Records created or inherited by the Department of Trade and Industry, 1970-1974, Telecommunications and Post Division, and predecessors". The National Archives. nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 2021.
  7. ^ "Manley, John (c. 1622-99)". History of Parliament Online. 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  8. ^ Chambers's Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge: Vol. VIII (London: W. & R. Chambers, Ltd., 1901), p. 347
  9. ^ a b c d Falmouth packet archives Archived 16 December 2012 at archive.today. Retrieved 9 June 2008
  10. ^ Sat in Cabinet
  11. ^ Sat in Cabinet from 20 December 1933

External links


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