The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United Kingdom and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject.(January 2017)
|Postal administration unit
|~1,500 (as of 2013)
A post town is a required part of all postal addresses in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and a basic unit of the postal delivery system. As of 2004 [update] , their main function is to distinguish between localities or street names in addresses not including a postcode.Including the correct post town in the address increases the chance of a letter or parcel being delivered on time. Post towns in general originated as the location of delivery offices.
There are approximately 1,500 post towns which are organised by Royal Mail subject to its policy only to impose changes where it has a proven, economic and practical benefit to the organisation, covering its own cost.Each post town usually corresponds to one or more postal districts (the 'outward' part of the postcode, before the space) therefore each post town can cover an area comprising many towns, urban districts and villages. Post towns rarely correspond exactly to administrative boundaries and their associated physical features. As such they often group a small minority of neighbourhoods, streets or houses together with a main settlement in a different county, area of local government or administration (including healthcare trust), constituency, European statistical region and/or traditional parish. This was a main reason why postal counties were abolished (but not prohibited) in 1996.
In some places several post towns cover a single postal district (with each post town corresponding to one or more of its postcode sectors). There are anomalies where post towns and postcode sectors have a more unusual co-relation. For example, the postcode sector EH14 5 is split between three post towns: Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno. Its other postcode sectors are generally limited to one of these.
Royal Mail states that the post town must be included on all items and should be clearly written in capitals.
The use of postcodes means that it is no longer necessary to include the former postal county in a postal address. Some post towns, known as special post towns, never required the inclusion of a postal county, either because the town was large or because it gave its name to the county.
In most places, additional locality information such as a village or suburb name is optionally added above the post town, giving a more specific location: the two largest 'post town' cities named, for example, have many roads of the same name in different localities and the additional locality information is therefore essential if the postcode is wrongly recorded or unknown.
Where this is a disambiguating feature, Royal Mail terms this the "dependent locality". For a limited number of addresses a "double dependent locality" line is also required, preceding the dependent locality line: some examples include "Churwell, Morley, Leeds" and "Marton, Sinnington, York".
Locality information other than the post town is not always part of the official postal address. In particular, within the London post town, each postcode district name (which can conflict with administrative boundaries, see above) corresponds to a numbered postcode district and is therefore not required in the postal address whenever the postcode is used. For example, "Bethnal Green" is the name of the "E2" postcode district and is optional in the following address:
If no valid postcode is provided, or if the sorting machine rejects the letter, the use of optional locality or county information may assist manual sorting. In the absence of a full valid postcode, locality often prevents ambiguity where there is more than one street with the same name covered by a post town or postcode district, or where post towns in different counties have the same name.
Traditionally only, where a place such as a village was served by a post town entirely distinct from its location, the word "Via" or "Near" ("Nr.") was added before the post town. For example:
However, the Royal Mail discourages this usagebecause their optical character recognition technology and Mailsort lookup tables check for the post town at the beginning of a line if the postcode is missing, unreadable or incorrect. Additionally, "Near" and "Nr." can be confused with "North".
A postal code is a series of letters or digits or both, sometimes including spaces or punctuation, included in a postal address for the purpose of sorting mail.
Postal codes used in the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies are known as postcodes. They are alphanumeric and were adopted nationally between 11 October 1959 and 1974, having been devised by the General Post Office. A full postcode is known as a "postcode unit" and designates an area with several addresses or a single major delivery point.
The London postal district is the area in England of 241 square miles (620 km2) to which mail addressed to the London post town is delivered. The General Post Office under the control of the Postmaster General directed Sir Rowland Hill to devise the area in 1856 and throughout its history it has been subject to reorganisation and division into increasingly smaller postal units, with the early loss of two compass points and a minor retraction in 1866. It was integrated by the Post Office into the national postcode system of the United Kingdom during the early 1970s and corresponds to the E, EC, N, NW, SE, SW, W and WC postcode areas. The postal district has also been known as the London postal area. The County of London was much smaller, at 117 square miles (300 km2), but Greater London is much larger at 607 square miles (1,570 km2).
The W postcode area, also known as the London W postcode area is a group of postcode districts covering part of central and part of West London, England. The area originates from the Western (W1) and Paddington (W2-14) districts of the London postal district. This area covers 35 postcode districts and around 18,554 live postcodes.
The postal counties of the United Kingdom, now known as former postal counties, were postal subdivisions in routine use by the Royal Mail until 1996. The purpose of the postal county – as opposed to any other kind of county – was to aid the sorting of mail by differentiating between like-sounding post towns. Since 1996 this has been done by using the outward code of the postcode instead. For operational reasons the former postal counties, although broadly based on the counties of the United Kingdom, did not match up with their boundaries: in some cases there were significant differences. The boundaries changed over time as post towns were created or amended.
The Postcode Address File (PAF) is a database that contains all known "delivery points" and postcodes in the United Kingdom. The PAF is a collection of over 29 million Royal Mail postal addresses and 1.8 million postcodes. It is available in a variety of formats including FTP download and compact disc, and was previously available as digital audio tape. As owner of the PAF, Royal Mail is required by section 116 of the Postal Services Act 2000 to maintain the data and make it available on reasonable terms. A charge is made for lookup services or wholesale supply of PAF data. Charges are regulated by Ofcom. It includes small user residential, small user organisation and large user organisation details. There have been requests as part of the Open Data campaign for the PAF to be released by the government free of charge.
An address is a collection of information, presented in a mostly fixed format, used to give the location of a building, apartment, or other structure or a plot of land, generally using political boundaries and street names as references, along with other identifiers such as house or apartment numbers and organization name. Some addresses also contain special codes, such as a postal code, to make identification easier and aid in the routing of mail.
The WC postcode area, also known as the London WC postcode area, is a group of postcode districts in central London, England. The area covered is of high density development, and includes parts of the City of Westminster and the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington, plus a very small part of the City of London.
A "postal address" in Ireland is a place of delivery defined by Irish Standard (IS) EN 14142-1:2011 and serviced by the universal service provider, An Post. Its addressing guides comply with the guidelines of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the United Nations-affiliated body responsible for promoting standards in the postal industry, across the world.
The UB postcode area, also known as the Southall postcode area, is a group of eleven postcode districts in England, within six post towns. These cover parts of western and north-western Greater London, plus a very small part of Buckinghamshire. The letters in the postcodes are the phonemic abbreviation of Uxbridge.
The BT postcode area, also known as the Belfast postcode area, covers all of Northern Ireland and was the last part of the United Kingdom to be coded, between 1970 and 1974. This area is a group of 82 postcode districts in Northern Ireland, within 44 post towns and around 47,227 live postcodes.
The B postcode area, also known as the Birmingham postcode area, is a group of 79 postcode districts in central England, within 15 post towns. These cover the central portion of the West Midlands, plus northeast Worcestershire, north and west Warwickshire, and part of southeast Staffordshire and a very small part of Leicestershire. It is the most populated postcode area in the United Kingdom, with a population of over 1.9 million.
The NW postcode area, also known as the London NW postcode area, is a group of 13 postcode districts covering around 13,895 live postcodes within part of northwest London, England. It is the successor of the NW sector, originally created as part of the London postal district in 1856.
The SE postcode area covers a broad area of the south-east of the London, England post town from the Albert Embankment to West Heath and the nearest edges of Sidcup and Selhurst. It loosely corresponds to the boroughs of Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich plus indicated parts of the boroughs of Croydon (north), Lambeth (east), Bexley (west) and Bromley (northwest).
The SO postcode area, also known as the Southampton postcode area, is a group of 23 postcode districts in southern England, within nine post towns. These cover south and central Hampshire, including Southampton, Winchester, Alresford, Brockenhurst, Eastleigh, Lymington, Lyndhurst, Romsey and Stockbridge.
The SW postcode area, also known as the London SW postcode area, is a group of 20 postcode districts within the London post town in England. The area comprises the South Western operational district and the Battersea operational district, and is the only area within the London post town to lie on both sides of the River Thames.
Postcodes in Australia are used to more efficiently sort and route mail within the Australian postal system. Postcodes in Australia have four digits and are placed at the end of the Australian address, before the country. Postcodes were introduced in Australia in 1967 by the Postmaster-General's Department and are now managed by Australia Post, Australia's national postal service. Postcodes are published in booklets available from post offices or online from the Australia Post website.
The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar has introduced the postal code GX11 1AA. This is pending the introduction of a postcode system similar to that used in the United Kingdom. This has been under consideration by the Government of Gibraltar since 2006. The postcode is not required for local mail.