|Postmaster General of the United Kingdom|
|Appointer||Monarch of the United Kingdom on advice of the Prime Minister|
|Precursor||Master of the King's Post|
|First holder|| Brian Tuke |
as Master of the King’s Post
|Final holder||John Stonehouse|
|Abolished||1 October 1969|
|Succession||Overseen by the following:|
Department of Trade and Industry
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (1992– )
The Postmaster General of the United Kingdom was a Cabinet-level ministerial position in HM Government. Aside from maintaining the postal system, the Telegraph Act 1868 established the Postmaster General's right to exclusively maintain electric telegraphs. This would subsequently extend to telecommunications and broadcasting.
The office was abolished in 1969 by the Post Office Act 1969. A replacement public corporation, governed by a chairman, was established under the name of the Post Office (later subsumed by Royal Mail Group). The cabinet position of Postmaster General was replaced by a Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, with reduced powers, until 1974; most regulatory functions have now been delegated to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. However the present-day Royal Mail Group was overseen by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy prior to flotation.
In England, the monarch's letters to his subjects are known to have been carried by relays of couriers as long ago as the 15th century. The earliest mention of Master of the Posts is in the King's Book of Payments where a payment of £100 was authorised for Brian Tuke as master of the posts in February 1512.Belatedly, in 1517, he was officially appointed to the office of Governor of the King's Posts, a precursor to the office of Postmaster General of the United Kingdom, by Henry VIII. In 1609 it was decreed that letters could only be carried and delivered by persons authorised by the Postmaster General.
In 1655 John Thurloe became Postmaster-General, a post he held until he was accused of treason and arrested in May 1660.His spies were able to intercept mail, and he exposed Edward Sexby's 1657 plot to assassinate Cromwell and captured would-be assassin Miles Sindercombe and his group. (Ironically, Thurloe's own department was also infiltrated: his secretary Samuel Morland became a Royalist agent and in 1659 alleged that Thurloe, Richard Cromwell and Sir Richard Willis - a Sealed Knot member turned Cromwell agent - were plotting to kill the future King Charles II.) About forty years after his death, a false ceiling was found in his rooms at Lincoln's Inn, the space was full of letters seized during his occupation of the office of Postmaster-General. These letters are now at the Bodleian Library.
In 1657 an Act entitled 'Postage of England, Scotland and Ireland Settled' set up a system for the British Isles and enacted the position of Postmaster General. The Act also reasserted the postal monopoly for letter delivery and for post horses. After the Restoration in 1660, a further Act (12 Car II, c.35) confirmed this and the post of Postmaster-General, the previous Cromwellian Act being void.
1660 saw the establishment of the General Letter Office, which would later become the General Post Office (GPO).A similar position evolved in the Kingdom of Scotland prior to the 1707 Act of Union.
The office was abolished in 1969 by the Post Office Act 1969.A new public corporation, governed by a chairman, was established under the name of the Post Office (the part later subsumed by Royal Mail), which also had responsibility for telecommunications and the Girobank). The cabinet position of Postmaster General was initially replaced by a Minister of Posts and Telecommunications with less direct involvement; this department was dissolved in March 1974, with regulatory functions transferring to the Home Office, the Post Office retaining control of television licensing. Since 1992, most regulatory functions formerly conducted by the Postmaster General generally fall within the remit of the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, although the present-day Royal Mail Group was overseen by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy until flotation.
|Years||Master of the King's Post|
|1590–1607||John Stanhope, 1st Baron Stanhope|
|1607–1635||Charles Stanhope, 2nd Baron Stanhope|
|Years||Postmaster under the Commonwealth|
The earliest postmasters had responsibility for England and Wales. In 1707, on the Union with Scotland, the responsibility of the office was extended to cover the whole of the new Kingdom of Great Britain as well as Ireland, but with some powers held by a Post Office Manager for Scotland. By the Post Office (Revenues) Act 1710, with effect from 1711, the services were united, but with a Deputy Postmaster for Scotland. From 1784, there were also Postmasters General of Ireland, but from 1831, the postmasters based at Westminster became responsible for the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.In 1922, the Irish Free State became independent, and in 1923 it established its own arrangements under a Postmaster General of the Irish Free State. In 1924 the title became Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.
|1664–1667||Katherine O'Neill, Countess of Chesterfield|
|1667–1685||Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington|
|1686–1689||Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester|
From 1691 to 1823 there were two Postmasters General, to divide the patronage between the Whigs and Tories.
|Year||1st Postmaster General||1st Party||2nd Postmaster General||2nd Party|
|1691||Sir Thomas Frankland||Sir Robert Cotton||Tory|
|1708||Sir John Evelyn|
|1715||James Craggs the Elder||Charles Cornwallis, 4th Baron Cornwallis||Whig|
|1720||Galfridus Walpole||Edward Carteret|
|1733|| Thomas Coke, 1st Baron Lovel |
(Earl of Leicester from 1744)
|1739||Sir John Eyles, Bt|
|1759||Robert Hampden, 4th Baron Trevor||William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough|
|1762||John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont|
|1763||Thomas Villiers, 1st Baron Hyde|
|1765||Thomas Robinson, 1st Baron Grantham||William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough|
|1766||Wills Hill, 2nd Viscount Hillsborough||Francis Dashwood, 11th Baron le Despencer|
|1768||John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich|
|1771|| Henry Carteret |
(from 1784 Baron Carteret)
|1782||The Viscount Barrington|
|1782||Charles Bennet, 4th Earl of Tankerville|
|1783||Thomas Foley, 2nd Baron Foley|
|1784||Charles Bennet, 4th Earl of Tankerville|
|1786||Thomas Villiers, 1st Earl of Clarendon|
|1787||Thomas de Grey, 2nd Baron Walsingham|
|1789||John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland||Tory|
|1790||Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl of Chesterfield|
|1794||George Townshend, 1st Earl of Leicester|
|1798||William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland|
|1799||George Leveson-Gower, Baron Gower|
|1801||Lord Charles Spencer|
|1804||James Graham, 3rd Duke of Montrose|
|1806||John Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort||Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire|
|1807||Thomas Pelham, 2nd Earl of Chichester||Whig||John Montagu, 5th Earl of Sandwich||Tory|
|1814||Richard Trench, 2nd Earl of Clancarty|
|1816||James Cecil, 1st Marquess of Salisbury|
In 1823 the idea of a Whig and a Tory sharing the post was abolished.
|1823|| Thomas Pelham, 2nd Earl of Chichester |
continuing in office alone
|1826–1827||Lord Frederick Montagu|
|1827–1830||William Montagu, 5th Duke of Manchester|
|1830–1834||Charles Lennox, 5th Duke of Richmond and Lennox|
|1834||Francis Nathaniel Conyngham, 2nd Marquess Conyngham|
|1834–1835||William Wellesley-Pole, 1st Baron Maryborough|
|1835||Francis Nathaniel Conyngham, 2nd Marquess Conyngham|
|1835–1841||Thomas William Anson, 1st Earl of Lichfield|
|1841–1845||William Lowther, Viscount Lowther|
|1845–1846||Edward Granville Eliot, 3rd Earl of St Germans|
|1846–1852||Ulick John de Burgh, 1st Marquess of Clanricarde|
|1852||Charles Philip Yorke, 4th Earl of Hardwicke|
|1853–1855||Charles John Canning, 2nd Viscount Canning|
|1855–1858||George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll|
|1858–1859||Charles Edward Abbot, 2nd Baron Colchester|
|1859–1860||James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin|
|1860–1866||Edward John Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley of Alderley|
|1866–1868||James Graham, 4th Duke of Montrose|
|1868–1871||Spencer Compton Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington|
|1874–1880||Lord John Manners|
|1884–1885||George John Shaw-Lefevre|
|1885–1886||Lord John Manners|
|1886||George Grenfell Glyn, 2nd Baron Wolverton|
|1886–1891||Henry Cecil Raikes|
|1891–1892||Sir James Fergusson|
|1895–1900||Henry Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk|
|Term of office||Party||Ministry|
| Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 6th Marquess of Londonderry |
|10 April 1900 |
(in Cabinet from 2 November 1900)
|8 August 1902||Conservative||Salisbury IV|
| Austen Chamberlain |
MP for East Worcestershire
|8 August 1902||6 October 1903||Conservative||Balfour|
| Edward Stanley, Lord Stanley |
MP for Westhoughton
|6 October 1903||10 December 1905||Conservative|
| Sydney Buxton |
MP for Poplar
|10 December 1905||14 February 1910||Liberal||Campbell-Bannerman|
| Herbert Samuel |
MP for Cleveland
|14 February 1910||11 February 1914||Liberal||Asquith II|
| Charles Hobhouse |
MP for Bristol East
|11 February 1914||25 May 1915||Liberal|
| Herbert Samuel |
MP for Cleveland
|26 May 1915||18 January 1916||Liberal|| Asquith Coalition |
( Lib.–Con.–et al.)
| Joseph Pease |
MP for Rotherham
|18 January 1916||5 December 1916||Liberal|
| Albert Illingworth |
MP for Heywood until 1918
MP for Heywood and Radcliffe from 1918
|10 December 1916||1 April 1921||Liberal||Lloyd George I|
|Lloyd George II|
| Frederick Kellaway |
MP for Bedford
|1 April 1921||19 October 1922||Liberal|
| Neville Chamberlain |
MP for Birmingham Ladywood
|31 October 1922||12 March 1923||Conservative||Law|
| Sir William Joynson-Hicks, Bt. |
MP for Twickenham
|12 March 1923||28 May 1923||Conservative|
| Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Bt. |
MP for Colchester
|28 May 1923||22 January 1924||Conservative|
| Vernon Hartshorn |
MP for Croydon South
|22 January 1924||11 November 1924||Labour||MacDonald I|
| Sir William Mitchell-Thomson |
MP for Croydon South
|11 November 1924||7 June 1929||Conservative||Baldwin II|
| Hastings Lees-Smith |
MP for Keighley
|7 June 1929||2 March 1931||Labour||MacDonald II|
| Clement Attlee |
MP for Limehouse
|2 March 1931||3 September 1931||Labour|
| William Ormsby-Gore |
MP for Stafford
|3 September 1931||10 November 1931||Conservative|| National I |
( N.Lab.–Con.–et al.)
| Sir Kingsley Wood |
MP for Woolwich West
|10 November 1931||7 June 1935||Conservative|
| George Tryon |
MP for Brighton
|7 June 1935||3 April 1940||Conservative|| National III |
( Con.–N.Lab.–et al.)
| William Morrison |
MP for Cirencester and Tewkesbury
|3 April 1940||7 November 1943||Conservative|
| Churchill War |
| Harry Crookshank |
MP for Gainsborough
|7 November 1943||4 August 1945||Conservative|
| Churchill Caretaker |
( Con.–Lib.N. )
| The Earl of Listowel |
|4 August 1945||17 April 1947||Labour||Attlee I|
| Wilfred Paling |
MP for Wentworth
|17 April 1947||28 February 1950||Labour|
| Ness Edwards |
MP for Caerphilly
|28 February 1950||5 November 1951||Labour||Attlee II|
| The Earl De La Warr |
|5 November 1951||7 April 1955||Conservative||Churchill III|
| Charles Hill |
MP for Luton
|7 April 1955||16 January 1957||National Liberal||Eden|
| Ernest Marples |
MP for Wallasey
|16 January 1957||22 October 1959||Conservative||Macmillan I|
| Reginald Bevins |
MP for Liverpool Toxteth
|22 October 1959||19 October 1964||Conservative||Macmillan II|
| Tony Benn |
MP for Bristol South East
|19 October 1964||4 July 1966||Labour||Wilson I|
| Edward Short |
MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central
|4 July 1966||6 April 1968||Labour|
| Roy Mason |
MP for Barnsley
|6 April 1968||1 July 1968||Labour|
| John Stonehouse |
MP for Wednesbury
|1 July 1968||1 October 1969||Labour|
|Term of office||Party||Ministry|
| John Stonehouse |
MP for Wednesbury
|1 October 1969||19 June 1970||Labour||Wilson II|
| Christopher Chataway |
MP for Chichester
|24 June 1970||7 April 1972||Conservative||Heath|
| John Eden |
MP for Bournemouth West
|7 April 1972||4 March 1974|
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