The TPO has its origins way back in those leisurely days of horse drawn transport when elegant Royal Mail coaching services along the turnpikes and lanes of the land conveyed mail. During this period (1830 - 1840) the price of a letter was calculated by its weight, content and distance carried. Postage due was collected from the recipient of the letter and not by the sender. All of this was a very different system to that with which we are so familiar today.
The mail system in those days was expensive, inefficient and required very large numbers of staff to handle comparatively very few letters. At this time the rumblings of great change were to be heard throughout the land. Wars were being fought and the British Empire was growing. Steam had been harnessed and was emerging as a means of creating power for the burgeoning industries and to improve output in areas like construction and mining. However, probably the one most important aspect of steam power was to be its use as a self-propelled unit capable of hauling heavy loads along iron rails - the steam locomotive.
Once it was established that the steam locomotive could run for long distances along these iron rails, companies were established, to lay lengths of track from town to town throughout the country. Initially, a successful railway was operated between Liverpool and Manchester and although passenger carrying was its principal aim, the Post Office recognised an opportunity for transportation of mail - a vast improvement on its road services between those two places.
In the 1830's, certain individuals recognised the chaotic and inefficient system that was the Post Office of the day, was in need of change. Not unnaturally the 'old guard', holding office at the time, resisted any thought of change and was not backward in saying so. Chief among these was one Lieutenant Colonel Maberley, Secretary to the Post Office, who was suspicious of any change, believing that any development of the service could be managed by the existing horse drawn road services. Among the 'upstarts' who wanted change was a man named Rowland Hill and without doubt Hill was an exceptional man. A great many things have been attributed to this genius and although there are those who say that some of the claims made on his behalf were exaggerated, Hill did without doubt force huge changes within the postal system.
By far and away, the greatest innovation attributed to this man was the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post. For the first time ever, members of the public were going to be able to post a letter to any part of Great Britain for the price of one penny and this to be paid by the sender. No longer would the letter carrier have to haggle with the recipient over the price, no longer would the staff have to examine each individual letter, nor would they have to assess the charge to be raised. Most significantly though, this development would allow the poorer members of the community to send letters to their relatives, friends and businesses.
Once this development was put into place Hill anticipated, despite his critics, that there would be a great increase in postal traffic. No sharp increase in revenue was expected immediately but was predicted to rise over the years, and so it proved. About both these predictions Rowland Hill proved to be absolutely correct. There was furious debate within and without the Post Office and is a subject in its own right. Suffice to say that in January 1840 Hill's Uniform Penny Post was introduced and was to set the standard for postal practice right up to the present day.