Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 16:22 UK

Stamp of approval for postboxes

By Hayley Millar
Business Correspondent, BBC Scotland

All of the UK's postboxes are now manufactured in Denny

The Royal Mail is celebrating 200 years of its iconic red postboxes with a special set of commemorative stamps.

The stamps feature the traditional wall boxes which are no longer made. These were a smaller, cheaper alternative to pillar boxes and were mostly used to serve the needs of smaller rural communities.

The postbox believed to be the oldest in Scotland, is a wall box which sits on the front of the Sutherland Hotel in Golspie. It carries the Royal Cypher of Queen Victoria and dates back to 1861.

During the reign of George V, wall boxes were manufactured by WT Allen & Co in London and McDowell, Steven & Co, in Glasgow.

From 1952 to 1980, they shared the manufacture of the cast-iron boxes with Allied Ironfounders in Falkirk, Lion Foundry in Kirkintilloch and Carron Company in Falkirk.

The Royal Mail stopped using the traditional wall boxes in 1980, replacing them with the free-standing lamp boxes.

Today these and all other types of pillar boxes are made by just one company, Machan Engineering in Denny.

Their pillar boxes are cast at Ballantynes in Boness and the lamp boxes at Specialist Castings in Denny and both are built and dressed at Machan.

Each box is made by hand and the process has changed very little over the years.

Scottish crown

One of Machan's employees, 69-year-old John Cooper, started making post boxes at 16. He previously worked at Carron Co before moving to Machan, where his grandson also works.

Bill McMullen started Machan after the well-known Carron Co went into receivership in the early 80s.

He was manager of the foundry works at Carron and carried on the contract with the Royal Mail, which now accounts for about half of the company's work.

Machan have now diversified into other types of street furniture such as bollards and benches. They make nearly a thousand postboxes a year for the whole of the UK.

The only major change over the years has been to postboxes in Scotland.

You won't see the Royal Cypher of Queen Elizabeth II on postboxes in Scotland because of protests in the 1950s when postboxes were set on fire.

The Royal Cypher was replaced by the Scottish crown, in sympathy with Scots who did not recognise Elizabeth I.

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