Walking to the Post Office this morning to send a book to a friend, I was reminded of how incredible the postal service is. I can post a letter to someone across the country or even across the world, for the change in your pocket, and they’ll receive it a few days later.
Earlier this year, my boyfriend and I had a day off together, happened to be in the area of London the Postal Museum is situated in (Holborn) and we had recently purchased Art Passes that would give us free access to the museum (and we really wanted to make the most of them).
Basically the trifecta of possibilities came together and the stars aligned for us to end up visiting here, and I’m so glad we did. I’d never really thought that much about how post worked and how it all came about, so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to visit a museum that made learning about it all really fun and engaging. Yes I’m aware I’m an adult and should be able to engage in anything but come on, it’s always better when you can get your hands dirty and play a bit. Now, when I post a letter I think that about the work that will go into getting that piece of mail from A to B, and appreciate it that bit more.
As I said above, it didn’t cost us anything to get in because of our art passes – we have a yearly pass and with it we can get discounted/free entry to a lot of museums, galleries and exhibitions around the UK including Kensington Palace, Tate Modern, the V&A, and more. If you don’t have an art pass, entrance costs £16 online or £17 on the day for an adult, £11/£12 if you’re 16-24 or £9/£10 for children.
The only thing we did pay for, was a trip on MailRail; my boyfriend and I both have a bit of a thing for trains, so there was no way we could visit the Postal Museum without a journey on here.
I spent a long time denying for it but there’s no point any more so I may as well come right out and own it – my name is Abi, and I like trains. And yes, MailRail was a big reason for us wanting to come here.
I’d remembered seeing the opening of MailRail on the news and had it in mind to visit for a while now – Mail Rail is a collection of tunnels running under London that had small trains which were used to deliver post across London. It opened in 1927 but ended up closing in 2003 as it was no longer needed in the same way it initially was. It was left unused until it was renovated and turned into a tourist attraction in 2017; that’s right you can actually ride in a miniature train through the route that the post would have taken.
If you (like us) have any interest in the tube and/or post, it’s definitely something I would recommend doing if you do go. Or even if (also like us) you’re just a big kid and like the idea, it’s genuinely good fun and is really interestingly done with videos and narration throughout the journey, including stops at various stations which have been left as they would have been 20 years ago (dart boards on the platform for breaks, included).
It’s situated slightly down the road from the museum and you get a time on your ticket in order to ensure you can get onto the train, as it’s quite small, so that was our first stop before actually visiting the museum exhibits themselves.
The museum is full of incredible memorabilia from throughout history including old postboxes, stamps and vans including stories from postal workers of different eras. It’s a great introduction into the history of mail and brings in a lot of pop culture references to keep it relatable for everyone (aka a fair amount of cartoon character Postman Pat). This could and was definitely a great learning experience but I won’t lie, we got a bit caught up with how much we could play with…
As it was midweek, we had the exhibits almost completely to ourselves which of course we made the most of – a lot of the museum is interactive, with costumes and demonstrations of postal processes to get involved with (more fun than I’ve made that sound), so it was nice to have it to ourselves to properly be able to get stuck into everything without worrying about getting in anyone’s way or having to wait our turn. I think if it had been much busier, we might not have enjoyed ourselves as much.
Whilst we were there they had a special exhibition on about crime and the post, which we had great fun role playing in (honestly, the costumes provided are fantastic).
A lot of care was taken within this exhibit to make it interesting for the whole family, which I think makes a whole lot of difference compared to some other museums I remember from my own childhood, which made almost no effort to make it ‘fun’ for a child. I’m not sure how often these exhibitions change but I can imagine there’s a lot of ideas in the archives.
To be honest, I don’t think I would return any time soon but only because there’s nothing new I feel I would want to see at the moment. I would definitely recommend it to friends though, especially those with kids and with an interest in British history/transport.
I reckon we spent about 3 hours there in total but could have spent longer if we looked at each exhibit in more detail rather than playing with most of them. If you’re looking for similar ideas on what to do in London, check out my post featuring the London Transport Museum!
Do you have any museums on your travel wishlist?