Originally known as the General Letter Office, the headquarters for the General Post Office (GPO) was built on the eastern side of St. Martin’s Le Grand in the City of London between 1825 and 1829, to designs by Robert Smirke. . . . It was built in the Grecian style with Ionic porticoes, and was 400 feet (120 m) long and 80 feet (24 m) deep. The building’s main facade had a central hexastyle Greek Ionic portico with pediment, and two tetrastyle porticoes without pediments at each end. The main interior was the large letter-carriers’ room, with its elegant iron gallery and spiral staircase.
While externally attractive, however, the building suffered from internal shortcomings. Poor layout meant that work requiring bright light was conducted in poorly illuminated areas; odours spread from the lavatories to the kitchens, while the combination of gas lighting and poor ventilation meant that workers often felt nauseous. The expansion of the work of the Post Office also meant that by the later 19th century it was occupied well beyond its intended capacity; The Times reported in 1860 that “rooms have been overcrowded, closets turned into offices, extra rooms hung by tie rods to the girders of the ceiling”. . . The original Smirke building was closed in 1910 and demolished in 1912.
The story goes back to the era before Rowland Hill’s Penny Post and had its opening chapter during the glory days of the mail coach. The Post Office had been established in the City since the mid-17th century but it was in 1829 that the Post Office moved from cramped premises in Lombard St to a new home in an imposing neoclassical building nearer St Paul’s. Situated on the east side of St Martin’s-Le-Grand it was Grand by address, grand in design and become known fondly as ‘The Grand’ by its occupants. The new building housed the Postmaster General, The Secretary and his administrative staff together with the main sorting offices for mail for London, the provinces and overseas. The building, designed by Robert Smirke, was the best known public face of the Post Office in London throughout the Victorian period. After much internal alteration to cope with the enormous growth in business, it was eventually – and controversially – demolished in 1912-13.
The Postal Museum