Penny Black, Bicester

Penny Black

58 Sheep Street, Bicester, OX26 6JW
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A former post office, this pub bears the name of the famous stamp which marked the birth of the modern postal system.
The text reads: By the 1803s there was a pressing need for a better and cheaper postal system. In 1837 a pamphlet called Post Office Reform was published, which caused an immediate sensation. Its author was Rowland Hill, a 41 year-old former teacher.

Hill showed that the cost of managing the post office was too high. He described how the public avoided paying postage, and criticised the franking system, which gave free post to MPs and the Royal Court. At the heart of his reforms was the suggestion for a pre-paid standard scale of charges based on weight and not distance.

The issue to be decided was the best method of prepayment. A public contest was held, attracting over 2,600 suggestions. Only a handful talked about what we now know as stamps.

The first stamp, the ‘penny black’, was introduced in 1840. However, the black ink was so permanent that a red cancellation mark could be wiped off allowing people to reuse the stamps. After only nine months the post office changed from the penny black to the penny red.

The Penny Black, (the JDW pub that you are now in) is a former post office built in the early 1900s. Its name commemorates the historic stamp.