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Sorting Britain: The Power of Postcodes

From wartime tech pioneers to ‘Poco the Postcode Elephant’ the surprising story of the postcode is uncovered in a new temporary exhibition at The Postal Museum in London.

Opening on Wednesday 30 March, Sorting Britain: The Power of Postcodes, delves into the Post Office innovation that revolutionised how post was processed, sorted, and delivered and its unintended outcomes for life in Britain.

Postcodes are part of everyday life. They affect everything from communications and identity to house prices and care. Postcodes were trialled in Norwich in 1959, but their story goes back further. The exhibition explains the early postal districts of London, Liverpool and Manchester in the 1850s to the modern coding we know today.

ELSIE, one of the only original 1950s Electronic Letter Sorting Indicating Equipment left in existence, goes on display for the first time in 20 years, as visitors try their hand at coding post.

Tech pioneers Tommy Flowers, Dame Stephanie Shirley CH and Sir Gordon Radley, were some of the brilliant minds working at the Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill in the 1930s to 60s. Their impact will be explored, from postal mechanisation and postcodes to inventions like Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer, and even hearing aids.

Visitors can find out about the importance of ‘Poco the Postcode Elephant’ - and the array of incredible memorabilia created for it - which helped change the nation’s habits in the 1980s through a decade-long advertising campaign.

And, finally, Sorting Britain will consider ‘what does my postcode say about me?’, as it delves into how postcodes are now used to sort people, as well as post.

Contemporary British artist, Alison Turnbull, has been commissioned to create a response to the exhibition’s themes. Alison is known for transforming and reimagining readymade information, such as plans, diagrams, blueprints and charts, into vivid abstract paintings.
Tickets include 1x ride on Mail Rail (valid on first visit) and unlimited access to our exhibitions for a year at no extra cost.
Adults (25+) £16
Child (3-15) £9
Sorting Britain: The Power of Postcodes, 30 March 2022 – 1 January 2023. Wednesday - Sundays 10-5pm.
The Postal Museum 15-20 Phoenix Place London WC1X 0DA
Wed 30 Mar to Sat 28 May
Contact telephone: + 44 (0)300 0300 700 Call to check latest times or cancellations.
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