GR and ER Post Box: What does it mean?

Red British Post box - GR postbox If you live in the United Kingdom or have recently visited, you may have noticed that British red post boxes have some writing on them. There are two most common post boxes that can be categorized by their embossed writing:

  • The GR post box
  • The ER post box.

What is the meaning of these letters on the postboxes?

. . .

On many postboxes, the clue to the meaning of these letters is on the postbox itself because you’ll often find these letters seen right next to a crown.

The letters are called the “Royal Cypher” and they signify the King or Queen that was the monarch at the time when the postbox was erected.

A GR post box was put up during the era of King George (G stands for George, R stands for Rex, which is King in Latin). If there are no more letters around the GR, then it’s likely from the period of King George V, and if it’s from the era of King George VI you may notice a little “VI” next to the GR.

An ER post box was set up either during the rule of King Edward or during the time of Queen Elizabeth (E standing for Elizabeth or Edward, and R standing either for Rex or for Regina which is Queen in Latin). To know the exact monarch the postbox is honoring, have a look at the accompanying numbers. For example, if you notice a little “II” near the ER it indicates the postbox was installed in the era of Elizabeth II rather than in Edwardian times. Likewise, a “VII” or “VIII” after the ER indicates the E stands for Edward. You’ll never see a postbox from Elizabeth I’s era since she reigned between 1558-1603, long before the first red pillar post box was put up (in 1853).

Although GR and ER postboxes are perhaps the most commonly seen post boxes, you may also spot a VR on occasion. Next time you’re next to a post box, look out for these letters to work out when it was installed:

  • VR post box – Queen Victoria (postbox put up between 1853-1901)
  • ER VII post box – Edward VII (postbox put up between 1901-1910)
  • GR post box – George V (postbox put up between 1910-1936)
  • ER VIII post box – Edward VIII (postbox put up between 20 January 1936 – 11 December 1936 before he abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson)
  • GR VI post box – George VI (aka Bertie from the King’s Speech: postbox put up between 1936-1952)
  • ER II post box – Elizabeth II (postbox put up between 1952-recently)

Love Peace Crown British Royalty design with Union Jack flag

. . .

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14 Responses to GR and ER Post Box: What does it mean?

  1. Patricia says:

    Fascinating! I found this post, because a friend had visited recently and wondered about this on her blog.

  2. Minnie1 says:

    You forgot to mention that post boxes in Scotland don’t have ll after ER as she is not the second but the first Elizabeth.

    • Lior says:

      interesting! Thanks for that Minnie! :)

    • Phil says:

      Actually even though Elizabeth II is the first Elizabeth in Scotland there are plenty of ERII postboxes about. I believe there was a movement for her to change her number in Scotland but it wasn’t taken up by her. ERII has a different crown than GR above her cypher too which I hadn’t noticed before!

  3. Peter says:

    There are some of those postboxes in Ireland too (I mean Republic of Ireland not Northern Ireland) where they are repainted green and still operational. I’ve seen VR one.

  4. Dave Sweeney says:

    Well that bit of information tells us all about the marking on the PO box’s. Thank you.

  5. John Shanahan says:

    Very interesting; I have a victorian Police station sign which has G R on it. I am on a learning curve.

    • Matt Costello says:

      John. If your police station sign says ‘GR’ on it, then it must be Georgian, not Victorian!

  6. Sean says:

    Actually I don’t believe there are any ERII pillar boxes in Scotland after one (at least) was blown up by nationalists. Since the fifties, scottish postboxes (and phoneboxes) bear only the emblem of the scottish crown.

  7. Louis Moran says:

    There’s a post box at Church St., Kells with capital letters L and R. Between the letters is a crown. R should be Rex or Regina, but what does L represent?

    • Alan B says:

      You can see that box on Google Maps and it clearly says ER. From the style it must be Edward VII, king from 1901-1910

  8. Alex L says:

    It is fun to know this stuff. Often interesting to wonder what has been posted in the life of the post boxes one sees – maybe wartime messages from WW1 or WW2.
    As another interesting fact to look for – the embossed crown also varies – depending on the reigning monarch. Particularly on phone boxes where sometimes the royal cypher is not included – the crown can indicate the era.

  9. awhiteside says:

    sorted !!!

  10. Nicholas Lynch says:

    These boxes can also be seen in Ireland . We have the VR , ER and GR post boxes, they are painted green since independence .

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