Large Penfold style pillar box in Hampstead High Street, at the junction with Gayton Street, London NW3. This Grade II listed pillar box is of the first standardised type designed by architect and surveyor John Worham Penfold. It was made of cast iron by Cochrane & Co. of Woodside Ironworks, Dudley ("Cochrane & Co."). Its distinctive hexagonal column has a domed lid decorated with a beaded rim, and topped by acanthus leaves. There would be some modifications after it was first introduced.

This one is no longer in use, but has a particular story to tell — a special reason for its protected status. On 9 January 1914 it was sabotaged by the militant branch of the suffragettes belonging to Emmeline Pankhurst's Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Ever since Emily Wilding Davison had tried to set fire to a pillar box in 1911, this had been one of their forms of protest. The Hampstead box had tar and oil "posted" in it, and the interior was then set on fire, badly damaging the mail inside. The women responsible left a message referring to the plight of their imprisoned fellow-suffragettes. So this is now seen partly as a memorial to the suffragette movement.

Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print document. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]


"Penfold Pillar Box outside 23 Hampstead High Street and junction with Gayton Street." Historic England. Web. 20 May 2019.

"Cochrane and Co: Pillar Boxes." Grace's Guide to British Industrial History. Web. 20 May 2019.

Created 20 May 2019