4 min read

Take a ride through the postal tunnel – deep beneath the streets of London

New Postal Museum to tell the story of underground Mail Rail with an exhibition and a subterranean ride on the rails

Located deep beneath the streets of the capital, lies London’s secret 100-year-old Post Office railway, an underground workhorse that kept people across the world connected by transporting billions of letters, parcels and postcards safely through the city and onto their final destination across the country and around the globe.

This once secret and hidden network will open its doors and workings to the public in July 2017 when the new Postal Museum opens in Clerkenwell.

The museum itself contains five interactive zones, leading visitors through five centuries of world-class curiosities and providing a different view on a number of the world’s most significant historical events.

Once visitors have taken in the museum, situated in Clerkenwell on Phoenix Place, their ticket will then grant them access to a subterranean world that – until now – remained hidden from the general public.

Located next door to the new £26 million development, Mail Rail is a one-mile loop through the disused miniature stalactite-filled tunnels of what was the world’s first driverless, electric railway.

an atmospheric photo of a tube tunnel

a photograph of a railway tunnel

Copyright Postal Museum Photo Mike Willis

New Mail Rail at The Postal Museum train 2

The tunnels, which run for 6.5 miles deep under London, accommodating the narrow gauge, driverless underground railway were so hidden from the public they were used to protect the Rosetta Stone during the First World War.

Work began on the tunnels in 1915 with only a hiatus because of a labour shortage due the First World war and they opened to deliver the Christmas [parcel post in 1927 and the full weight of the mail in 1928.

Until their closure in 2003 they criss-crossed the tube lines and linked six sorting offices with the mainline stations at Liverpool Street and Paddington. At its peak, the service operated for 22 hours a day, employing over 220 staff and carrying more than four million letters silently below ground every day.

Today Mail Rail employs just three engineers who keep the subterranean network of tunnels and a previously-busy car depot frozen in time from its last day in service, in good repair.

When the new museum opens a special exhibition featuring a blend of interactive exhibits, oral histories and new technologies will tell the story of the people behind the railway and the technology behind it – but you will also be able to journey back in time on a specially made train through the original tunnels and station platforms under Mount Pleasant.

The 15 minute ride will stop at platforms of the original Mount Pleasant station, where an audio visual display will take riders back in time, giving an insight into how the network kept post coursing through London for up to 22 hours a day.

A precise July opening date will be revealed in May 2017, and frequent updates will be posted to the museum’s website: postalmuseum.org 

Updates will also be made via The Postal Museum’s newsletter. Sign up at postalmuseum.org/newsletter

stdClass Object
(
    [name] => The Postal Museum
    [otherNames] => Array
        (
            [0] => Royal Mail Archive
            [1] => Postal Heritage Trust
            [2] => formerly BPMA
            [3] => formerly National Postal Museum 
            [4] => formerly Heritage Royal Mail
            [5] => formerly Post Office Archives
            [6] => British Post Office
        )

    [description] => Opening in early 2017, our new museum in Clerkenwell, London, will reveal stories from five centuries of Britain’s remarkable, and often curious, social and communications history through the eyes of one of its most iconic services.
    [legalStatus] => Charitable
    [url] => Array
        (
            [0] => stdClass Object
                (
                    [qualifier] => Web Site
                    [url] => www.postalmuseum.org
                    [description] => 
                )

        )

    [email] => Array
        (
            [0] => stdClass Object
                (
                    [address] => info@postalmuseum.org
                    [description] => 
                )

        )

    [telephone] => Array
        (
            [0] => stdClass Object
                (
                    [number] => 020 7239 2570
                    [description] => Enquiries /Event booking
                )

        )

    [fax] => Array
        (
            [0] => stdClass Object
                (
                    [number] => 020 7239 2576
                    [description] => 
                )

        )

    [addressStreet] => Freeling House
Phoenix Place
    [addressTown] => London
    [addressCounty] => 
    [addressPostcode] => WC1X 0DL
    [addressCountry] => England
    [latitude] => 51.5243
    [longitude] => -0.113915
    [openingHours] => The Royal Mail Archive is open from 1000-1700 Tues-Fri, and from 1000-1900 Thurs. We are also open on selected Saturdays 1000-1700 (PLEASE CALL OR SEE WEBSITE FOR DATES). No appointment needed for most archive material. The philatelic collection may be viewed by appointment - please call for details.

Closed: Sundays, Bank Holidays and Christmas week. Annual stocktake closure period (PLEASE CALL OR SEE WEBSITE FOR DATES).
    [charges] => Free entry to the Search Room and exhibition area. Please bring ID.
    [discounts] => Array
        (
        )

    [facility] => Array
        (
            [0] => Library
            [1] => Library with public access
            [2] => Object study facilities available (enquire in advance)
            [3] => Parking for disabled available
            [4] => Research facilities for academics
            [5] => Study facilities
            [6] => Toilets for disabled
            [7] => Wheelchair access to all public areas
        )

    [facilitiesInformation] => The Royal Mail Archive is open for the public to use and enjoy. We also have a small exhibition area at The Royal Mail Archive to show highlights from our philatelic collections. You can visit the exhibition for free whenever the archive is open.
    [keyArtistOrExhibit] => Array
        (
            [0] => Penny Black
            [1] => Great Britain Stamps
            [2] => Phillips Philatelic Collection
            [3] => Letterboxes
            [4] => Postal vehicles
            [5] => Postal uniforms
            [6] => Sorting machines
            [7] => Hand stamps
            [8] => Posters
            [9] => Artwork
            [10] => Photographs
            [11] => Documentary films
            [12] => Family History sources
            [13] => Designated Collection
        )

    [collections] => Array
        (
            [0] => Trade and Commerce
            [1] => Toys and Hobbies
            [2] => Social History
            [3] => Science and Technology
            [4] => Photography
            [5] => Music
            [6] => Literature
            [7] => Land Transport
            [8] => Industry
            [9] => Film and Media
            [10] => Design
            [11] => Costume and Textiles
            [12] => Aviation
            [13] => Archives
        )

    [collectionsDescription] => The entire collection of the British Postal Museum & Archive is a Designated Collection of national importance.

The archives relate to the operation, policy, development and social impact of the British Post Office from 1636 to the present day. The collection is outstanding in terms of its evidential, historical and cultural value and represents a comprehensive and complete coverage of the role the Post Office in employment history, overseas expansion, communications and community cohesion.

We are a combined Museum and Archive...an internationally important resource for social - and postal - history. 

The Royal Mail Archive is open to the public 5-6 days a week. It contains records of The Post Office and Royal Mail from the seventeenth century to the present day.

The British Postal Museum Store houses objects ranging from the desk of Rowland Hill (founder of the Penny Post), to Mobile Post Office vehicles and an astounding assortment of letter boxes. The store is open to the public on various dates throughout the summer (PLEASE CALL OR SEE WEBSITE FOR DATES).
    [collectionsDescriptionGraphic] => 
    [constituentInstitution] => Array
        (
        )

    [lea] => Islington
    [regionalAgency] => London
    [service] => Array
        (
            [0] => Academic publications and resources available
            [1] => Adult lectures and courses held
            [2] => Brochure or leaflet available with directions to museum
            [3] => Events and resources for children and families
            [4] => General guide to collections available
            [5] => Guided tours
            [6] => Induction loops in exhibition spaces
            [7] => Information point provided
            [8] => Large print information and/or interpretation
            [9] => Loan service
            [10] => Member of staff available with responsibility for education
            [11] => Object identification and/or written enquiry service
            [12] => Pre-booking service for groups
            [13] => Printed/audio-visual information available for schools
            [14] => Public access available to collections information
            [15] => Secondary school education service available
            [16] => Specialist publications on collections available
            [17] => Teaching/resources available for HE/FE students
        )

    [travelDirections] => 
    [contentTag] => Array
        (
            [0] => Museums at Night 2012
            [1] => Greater London
            [2] => London
            [3] => letter
            [4] => Literary History
            [5] => Social History
            [6] => Objects
            [7] => Designated Collection
            [8] => Archives
            [9] => Trade and Commerce
            [10] => recreation
            [11] => Science and Nature
            [12] => Photography
            [13] => Music (art)
            [14] => Road transport
            [15] => Industrial History
            [16] => Moving Images
            [17] => Design
            [18] => costume
            [19] => Air transport
            [20] => England
            [21] => Your Paintings PCF
            [22] => Genius of Invention (54)
            [23] => Countryfile (7)
            [24] => Handmade in Britain (29)
            [25] => Hands on History (3)
            [26] => Springwatch/Autumnwatch (5)
            [27] => Your Paintings (52)
            [28] => First World War Centenary
            [29] => Harvest (56)
            [30] => Visit London
            [31] => Stargazing LIVE 2014 (27)
            [32] => World War One (62)
            [33] => Bang Goes the Theory (9)
            [34] => Great British Sewing Bee (44)
            [35] => The Sky at Night (72)
            [36] => Museums at Night 2014
            [37] => Mu_Cr
        )

    [type] => Array
        (
            [0] => Museum
            [1] => Archive
        )

    [link] => http://www.culture24.org.uk/se000053
    [graphicUrl] => http://www.culture24.org.uk/asset_arena/0/66/64/546660/v0_thumb.jpg
    [priorityNumber] => 2001051100
    [modificationDate] => 07/04/2017
    [publicationDate] => 11/05/2001
    [relevance] => 10
    [uniqueID] => se000053
)

venue

Opening in early 2017, our new museum in Clerkenwell, London, will reveal stories from five centuries of Britain’s remarkable, and often curious, social and communications history through the eyes of one of its most iconic services.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save