Post Box (Former)

Emerson Street And Dalton Street, Napier

  • Post Box (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 24/03/2009.
  • Post Box (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Karen Astwood. Date: 14/06/2013.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 4829 Date Entered 27th November 1986 Date of Effect 27th November 1986


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Town Sec 205 Napier (RT HB73/41) and Legal Road, Hawkes Bay Land District, and the structure known as Post Box (Former) thereon, with a surrounding curtilage of one metre in all directions.

City/District Council

Napier City


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Pt Town Sec 205 Napier (RT HB73/41), Legal Road, Hawkes Bay Land District

Location description

Located within the boundary of the Napier City Centre Historic Area (Register no. 7022).


Installed in central Napier in 1905, Post Box (Former) is a rare remaining example of a New Zealand-manufactured cast iron pillar box using the popular design of leading British architect and surveyor, John Wornham Penfold (1828-1909).

Until the mid twentieth century, Victorian and Edwardian pillar boxes or ‘letter receivers’ were common along the streets of New Zealand urban centres. Remaining examples, such as Post Box (Former), have historic and social significance because they were an important facility in an age when post was the quintessential means of distance communication.

The first Hawke’s Bay post office was established in Ahuriri/Napier in the 1850s. Stamps became compulsory for national post in 1862, and prior to this New Zealanders had to go to a post office for their items to be marked with the correct postage cost. Stamps quickly became popular and correspondingly the Post Office Department increasingly installed post boxes as an ‘obvious complement to their usefulness.’ They meant people did not need to travel to a post office to mail letters and could do so at any time.

Letter receivers were predominantly installed to meet the demands of large towns and cities. Napier had post boxes from the 1880s onwards. In the early twentieth century the number of post boxes consistently increased by one or two per year, following the 1 January 1901 introduction of universal penny post in New Zealand. This significantly cut the cost of posting letters nationally and internationally. Penny postage had an ‘electrifying effect. Almost everyone seemed to take to letter writing.’ Post Box (Former), originally installed outside of the Napier Working Men’s Club, catered to this demand.

The design used was that of the British receivers designed by Penfold, and named after him. In 1865 Penfold was invited to design a new standard pillar box, and there were subsequently several variations. The style of Post Box (Former) shows it to be one of the last implemented in Britain, dating from around 1872. The British Postal Museum and Archive states that this type of Penfold pillar box is ‘very rare.’ Unlike Britain, in New Zealand Penfold boxes continued to be manufactured into the Edwardian period, and, like Post Box (Former), have an ER insignia.

By the mid twentieth century the New Zealand Post Office Association began replacing the cast iron pillar boxes. Considered unsanitary, leaky, and difficult to clear, most boxes were sold to museums and private collectors or scrapped. However Post Box (Former) was one of the pillar boxes retained ‘in those districts where they were of historical interest.’

The current position of Post Box (Former) is approximately 50 metres east along lower Emerson Street from its original location. The letter aperture has been covered with a bronze plaque commemorating the donation of the box to Napier City in 1991.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Penfold, John Wornham (1828-1909)

Penfold was an English surveyor and architect famous for his British Post Office Department pillar box designs. There were three types of Penfold boxes produced in the 1860s and 1870s. Penfold boxes were subsequently adopted for pillar boxes manufactured in various British colonies, such as New Zealand. Although he was best known for his pillar box design Penfold was also a leading figure in his respective professional fields, becoming the President of the Architectural Association as well as being a founding member and longstanding honorary secretary of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Source: Registration Report for Post Box (Former), Karen Astwood, 2013

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1905 -
Installation of Post Box

1991 -
Plaque added

Completion Date

9th August 2013

Report Written By

Karen Astwood

Information Sources

Farrugia, 1969

Farrugia, Jean Young, The Letter Box: A history of the post office pillar and wall boxes, Sussex, Centaur, 1969

Robinson, 1964

Howard Robinson, A History of the Post Office in New Zealand, RE Owen, Government Printer, Wellington, 1964

Other Information

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from Central Region Office of the NZHPT’

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.