"The postman wears out fast" : retiring sick in London's Victorian Post Office

Green, David R., Brown, Douglas, McIlvenna, Kathleen and Shelton, Nicola (2019) "The postman wears out fast" : retiring sick in London's Victorian Post Office. The London Journal, 44(3), pp. 180-205. ISSN (print) 0305-8034

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The Post Office was an extremely important institution and London was the focal point of its operations. Throughout the nineteenth century London was the main sorting centre and accounted for a third of the mail delivered in Britain. However, London postal workers were relatively unhealthy and the majority retired before they reached sixty, mainly because of ill health. Using new evidence drawn from pension records, this article explores the extent of ill health in the London workforce, comparing it to that in the Metropolitan Police. For postmen, orthopaedic conditions were the main problem, relating to the ability to walk long distances. This was similar to the problems encountered in the police. For other postal workers, notably letter sorters, mental illness and poor vision were the main problems, relating to the pressure of having to work irregular hours, often at night-time and in poorly designed and overcrowded workspaces. These problems were exacerbated by the increasing frequency of mail deliveries and the constant shortage of space in the main headquarters building. In response to these issues and workers’ concerns, the Post Office introduced a range of measures including a medical service and generous sickness pay, more offices, new technologies to speed the flow of mail, better lighting, and changed working practices to ease pressures on the workforce.

Item Type: Article
Research Area: Epidemiology and public health
Geography and environmental studies
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing > The Centre for Engineering, Environment and Society Research
Depositing User: Douglas Brown
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2019 07:48
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2019 12:14
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03058034.2019.1662680
URI: http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/id/eprint/43850

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