Sir Rowland Hill: A stamp of approval for postal pioneer

Visionary made sending letters affordable with 'Penny Post'

Friday, 25th February — By Harry Taylor

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The plaque goes up near the Royal Free

A PLAQUE to a postal pioneer has been re-erected on the site of his former home in Hampstead.

Sir Rowland Hill, who lived in Bartram House on the borders of Hampstead Green until his death in 1879, helped found the modern postal service.

He was born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, and invented the “penny post” universal postal system. Previously, to post a letter, the recipient had to pay the costs of delivery.

The new penny stamp provided an affordable, flat-rate method of posting letters. It saw the amount of mail sent double within its first year.

Sir Rowland was also an education reformer, setting up a school in Tottenham. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

The plaque was originally erected by the Society of Arts in 1893. It was latterly on the site of a car park, which was demolished to make way for the new Pears Build­ing.

It was put back up in a public garden space accessible via Rowland Hill Street on Thursday.

Sir Rowland’s house was on the site of the Royal Free Hospital.

Sir Rowland Hill

After his death it served as a nurses’ home and was eventually demolished to make way for the Hampstead General Hospital, and its successor the Royal Free.

He had once been at loggerheads with the hospital over the construction of the Hampstead Smallpox Hospital, fearing he could catch the virus from it.

Speaking at the Heath Strange Garden at the hospital, Royal Free Charity chief executive Judy Dewinter said: “We’re really pleased to have this put back up.

We wanted something appropriate on the building where the public could see it, and it would have good visibility.”

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