Posting your letters into a little piece of Mansfield

A wall-mounted post box from the reign of Queen Victoria that was almost certainly produced in Mansfield.
A wall-mounted post box from the reign of Queen Victoria that was almost certainly produced in Mansfield.

VR: Victoria Regina, a Royal Mail wall-mounted box of the type you can see (and use) to this day from London to Loch Lomond, writes Liz Weston, curator at Mansfield Museum.

So what’s the Mansfield connection?

It probably starts with sand.

The Mansfield area is rich in the stuff and it is of such high quality that it has been exported as far away as New Zealand.

It has been the foundation for tennis courts, football pitches and race courses.

In recent times, a product called Fibresand has been successfully developed, with Wimbledon and Old Trafford amongst its recipients.

But back in the early 1800s, when the industrial revolution was still building up steam, Mansfield sand was even more useful.

Cast iron was essential in the new industries seeding factories the length and breadth of the country.

Cast iron engines powered cast iron machines in those new factories and these castings needed moulds – and the ideal material for these moulds was Mansfield sand.

It is no coincidence that foundries such as that of James Maude’s Sherwood Foundry grew up from the turn of the 18th century around the area’s sand pits.

Maude’s quickly established itself, with a range of products from fireplaces to balconies.

It was responsible for the charming dolphin-decorated lamp-posts which line London’s Embank-ment, Regent’s Park and The Mall.

But it was winning a contract for the Isle of Wight’s first wall-mounted letter box that proved to be possibly the most intriguing development.

It led to Maude’s securing the sole contract for producing these iconic objects and it’s heartening to think that, wherever you see such a box, be it in a busy city centre or some isolated hamlet, you’re probably standing next to a little piece of Mansfield.