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Most Googled: how do London postcodes work?

Flo Wales Bonner

You ask, we answer: tackling the most popular Google searches about London.

Ah, yes: those tricky London postcodes. Despite appearances, the postcode numbering system was not drawn up by a postal worker high on envelope-glue fumes. There is method to the madness… sort of. We asked Chris Taft from the Postal Museum, who explains that ‘the arrangement of London postcodes doesn’t follow a complete logic – but there is some logic to it’.

Basically, the current system (introduced during WWI) identifies a ‘central’ district, historically housing the main sorting office and ending with a ‘1’: W1, N1, SE1 and so on. From then on, numbering follows alphabetical order according to the district names: E5 is Clapton, E6 is East Ham, E7 is Forest Gate, etc. Which explains why two postcodes with consecutive numbers can be really far away from each other, causing endless, hilarious confusion.

But since then, new areas have been added to London and the whole lot has never been renumbered – because who has time for that? – so some postcodes don’t even follow the alphabetical rule. It’s enough to make you go postal.

In other London post news, you’ll soon be able to ride the Mail Rail!

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