People Are Just Finding Out What Symbols ‘GR’ And ‘ER’ On Postboxes Mean

People are only just finding out what the symbols 'GR' and 'ER' on postboxes mean.
Credit: Alamy

People are only just finding out what the symbols ‘GR’ and ‘ER’ on postboxes mean.

British postboxes are iconic red pillars that are recognisable on any major high street.

They are recognised for their unique design and bright red colour, which is down to a historical decision made by the UK Post Office back in 1874.

Along with their colour, postboxes often feature the initials like ‘GR’ and ‘ER’ – but what do they stand for?

People are only just realising, and it’s freaking them out.

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The UK’s Postal Museum explains what these symbols actually mean.

They say that on the front of postboxes are royal cyphers, representing the monarch on the throne during the postbox’s installation.

The symbols have been in use since Queen Victoria’s reign, but many people were previously unaware of their significance.

Reacting to this revelation, one person writes on Twitter: “Posted many a card and letters in [postboxes] and lived around the corner [from one] over 60 years and didn’t know that!”

Another says: “My youngest was absolutely fascinated by this and we’ve been spotting them.”

However, not everyone is impressed and claims to have known for some time.

One person comments: “Anyone who did not know this in their teens is obviously unaware of the world directly around them.

“Too much time on social media and not enough of [the] real world.”

Another rather brutal comment says: “If people don’t know what those cyphers mean then they shouldn’t be British.”


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The royal cyphers have been used on postboxes since 1852.

The Postal Museum explains that the cyphers signify the monarch on the throne when the postbox was installed, so they can be used to date the postbox.

It adds: “When the monarch changes, new pillar boxes do not replace old but are added to those in use, and this is why Britain has such an array of boxes.”

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Postboxes with Queen Victoria’s cypher, ‘VR’, are the oldest, dating back to her reign from 1837 to 1901.

Postboxes installed during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign have the cypher ‘EIIR’, which stands for ‘Elizabeth II Regina’ (Regina translates to “Queen” in Latin).

Postboxes with ‘GR’ represent King George V, with the ‘R’ standing for Rex, which means ‘King’ in Latin.

Postboxes with King Edward VIII’s cypher are rare, as he only reigned for 326 days before abdicating, and less than 200 postboxes were produced with his cypher on them.

Similarly, postboxes with George VI’s cyphers are also rare, as he only reigned for 16 years, six of which were during World War II, and iron production during the war was used elsewhere resulting in fewer postboxes being produced.

Interestingly, in Scotland, postboxes do not have ‘EIIR’ on them, as Scottish people did not accept Queen Elizabeth as the second monarch with her name – as Queen Elizabeth I was never the ruler of Scotland.

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Written by Cal Gaunt

Cal is a former content editor at IGV who specialised in writing trending and entertainment news. He previously worked as a news reporter at the Lancashire Telegraph and earned an NCTJ in Sports Journalism.