GPO Marker Posts

Investigation

During the Coronavirus Lockdown from March 2020, my "hour of exercise close to home" took me exploring the streets around where I live. I've walked around here for years, but my walks previously involved driving to the nearby countryside first. Those "lockdown walks" gave me an opportunity, without the distraction of heavy traffic, to look more keenly at my surroundings - and I noticed some lumps of old iron that had evidently been there a very long time. They carried royal crests and marks that looked like those I associated with the Ordnance Survey. They also carried distance markings in feet and inches, somewhat akin to Fire Hydrants.

I'd never noticed these before and was intrigued. I already had an interest in manhole covers and associated street ironwork, so these new markers fitted well with my existing, if quirky, interests. Initially, I assumed they were Victorian (from the VR markings) fire hydrants. It's a long story, but my investigations took me via the Fire Service, Ordnance Survey, Telephone poles and general industrial archaeology groups, with lots of conflicting opinions and advice. Finally, I found a page from a GPO publication that described in detail the later, concrete version of the marker post - but included a reference and photo of the previous style: the cast iron posts that I was investigating. So here was "source" evidence from the GPO that they "owned" these posts. Googling with increased confidence, I soon found about 50+ examples and was in communication with a number of individuals and groups who had photographed or blogged their local posts. GPO Marker Post spotting was "a thing"! I set to to share the results of what I'd found so far - so gpo-markers.derektp.co.uk was launched.

The posts

Although the marker posts are undated, they carry the royal insignia of the reigning monarch, with the initials VR for Victoria Regina - up to 1901; ER for Edward Rex (Edward VII 1901 - 1910) or GR for George Rex (George V, 1910 - 1936). From before the end of George's reign the original design of cast iron marker posts was replaced with concrete pillars; this site addresses only the cast iron version (for now at least!)

Raised street level The distance numerals have, in very many cases, now been lost to the ravages of time; there are reports that some had their numerals removed during WWII to confuse any potential invaders.Separating Victorian faceplate (I find this a little hard to believe as most posts are within about 5' of the manhole cover, so would not confuse for long...). Marker posts from the three reigns are very similar, with the exception that the VR ones and early ER ones have the insignia and "ft. in." marking on a separate "faceplate" bolted to the main body; in some cases these faceplates have been lost or broken. From the middle of the Edwardian reign the design switched to a one-piece casting (hollow). Over the course of the past hundred years or so, changes to street levels have seen many posts either buried - almost completely in some cases - or exposed more fully.

Marker post arrowThe "arrow" symbols that had misdirected me to an Ordnance Survey link are in fact a much more generic indicator of Government (originally Crown) ownership. The "broad arrow", as it is called, dates from the 17th century and it remains illegal to reproduce the symbol on any goods without permission. You'll find the broad arrow not only on Ordnance Survey artefacts, but also in other settings too - as in the prison uniforms of old. prison uniform

The posts are much taller than you might expect; they're buried deep and have a "foot" to prevent them simply being pulled out.
'naked' GPO marker post 'naked' GPO marker post 'naked' GPO marker post 'naked' GPO marker post

Finding posts

Anyone who's played Geocaching will know the thrill of the "chase" and of finding a hidden geocache. Finding GPO marker posts can be like that - but more so when you discover a previously undocumented one. Unlike Geocaching there are no clues, hints or co-ordinates; you need to use your eyes alone. However, going armed with some of the following hints will help you locate posts.
  1. Posts follow the route of old cables, which tended to be along major roads; once you've found one, follow along the same road to find more. They sometimes come in clusters, quite close together
  2. Plenty of old "POST OFFICE - TELEPHONES" manholes (or better still, "POST OFFICE - TELEGRAPHS") imply a major telecomms route of some age
  3. Search on roads that have not had their route changed, or been widened, since the 1930s.
  4. In town centres, they may be on much smaller roads that might once have linked important town-centre locations
  5. Out of towns, markers are relatively rare, but might exist where a trunk route passed the site of a country estate or large farm
  6. Marker posts are easiest to find when alongside old walls; stone walls are less likely to be rebuilt than brick
  7. Where many houses have paved over front gardens for parking, and demolished their boundary walls to provide driveways, marker posts may have been removed
  8. Remember that whilst some posts expose up to two feet, changes in road level may reveal more, though more likely less - sometimes only the top couple of inches remain visible!
If you do find a marker post, use our search facility or interactive map to see if we already know about it. If we do, feel free to upload photographs or condition reports; if not, then please let us know via the Report form.

Incidentally, if you fancy an iPhone case with a GPO marker design, they exist! See here (wrongly identified as a benchmark). Who knew! :-)
 

Privacy Policy

Your privacy and security is important to us.
  1. This site does not use cookies, with the exception of a single cookie to flag your acceptance of these terms.
  2. The only personal information we store is that which you enter when completing a contact or marker post reporting form. We use this data purely for the purposes of displaying information about marker posts, and to contact you should you request it in response to a query you raise. Contact details are never made available through the site.
  3. gpo-markers.derektp.co.uk uses web server log files. These files contain internet protocol (IP) addresses, browser agent information, date/time stamp and requested page addresses. This data is used purely to analyze trends, administer the site and diagnose faults. IP addresses and other logged information are not linked to any information that is personally identifiable. We will never sell, share or disclose any information to third parties unless required by law to do so.
  4. This is a personal project. Any views or opinions expressed explicitly or implicitly on this site are personal and belong solely to the site owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organisations that the owner may be associated with in a personal or professional capacity. Any views are not intended to malign or cause offence to any religion, ethnic group, club, organisation, company or individual. All content on the site is provided for entertainment or educational purposes only. The owner makes no representations about the accuracy or completeness of any information in the site nor for the availabilty of the whole or any part of the site. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages arising from the display or use of this site.
  5. Textual content throughout the site is the copyright © Derek Pattenson 2020. Images are copyright © Derek Pattenson unless explicitly captioned otherwise; where reproduction elsewhere is permitted there will be a link to the applicable license.
  6. While using Streetview to illustrate location of marker posts, this site is wholly separate from Google and Streetview. However it depends on Google's mapping services and we can take no responsibility for the availability or otherwise of Google's services. Click on "Map Data" or "Terms of Use" links on individual mapping and streetview images for further information.
Click anywhere on this notice to indicate your acceptance of the above privacy policy and terms and conditions.