Royal Mail has unveiled a specially decorated postbox on Lower Borough Walls in Bath, in honour of Sir Henry Cole and the first ever commercially produced Christmas card that he commissioned.
Sir Henry Cole was born in Bath in 1808, and is remembered for his distinguished career as a civil servant.
He played a key role in the development of the Penny Post under Rowland Hill, and later became the first director of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
In 1843, Sir Henry commissioned John C Horsley to design the Christmas card, which featured Cole and friends enjoying “Old English festivity”.
One thousand cards were produced using a lithographic printing technique and then hand coloured.
Once Sir Henry had sent all the cards he required, the rest were made available for purchase. They cost 6d (sixpence) each, making them a luxury item at the time.
Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, said: “It is great to see this special postbox commemorating the first ever commercially produced Christmas card.
“Sir Henry Cole had a lifelong interest in art and design, and it is wonderful that this piece of Christmas history is being celebrated in the city where Sir Henry was born.
“I am sure the residents and visitors to Bath will enjoy using this unique postbox over the Christmas period.”
The card that Sir Henry commissioned is recognised as the first commercially produced Christmas card ever made, and led the way for an industry that now sees over 1.13 billion Christmas cards being purchased in the UK each year, according the Greetings Card Association.
Recent Royal Mail research has confirmed that the appeal of Christmas cards has endured in the digital age, with almost 80% of people surveyed saying they prefer to receive a physical card over an e-card at Christmas.
Bath Delivery Office Manager Matt Curtis said: “It is fascinating to hear that a figure like Sir Henry helped usher in both the modern postal system and the modern Christmas card.
“It just goes to show what a special role Royal Mail has played in delivering Christmas for over 500 years. All of us at Bath Delivery Office and around the country are proud to continue this role today.
“As Christmas is our busiest time of year, we would encourage our customers to beat the rush this year and get their Christmas mail posted early.”