THE big news in the world of post boxes is that John Wornham Penfold has been named as one of the most influential surveyors of all time by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Echo, March 22).

Mr Penfold designed the hexagonal pillar box which was installed between 1866 and 1879.

In its press release announcing Mr Penfold’s admission into the surveyors’ hall of fame, the Institute noted that County Durham boasts two Penfold boxes: one at Beamish museum and the other on Palace Green in Durham City.

We also reckon there’s another Penfold at the foot of the Market Place in Richmond.

The first pillar box was installed in St Helier, Jersey, in 1852 on the suggestion of the novelist, Anthony Trollope. The first box on the English mainland came the following year in Botchergate, Carlisle, and they gradually spread across the country.

Early boxes were to local designs, until 1866 when the design by Mr Penfold – a Surrey architect – was accepted. It featured acanthus leaves on its top which was topped off by an attractive acanthus bud as the finial.

These boxes, made by Cochrane Grove & Company of Dudley in the Midlands, originally came in a gentle bronze-green colour, with features picked out in gold, so that they weren’t too obtrusive.

The problem was they were too unobtrusive. They blended in, and people walked straight by them. So from 1874, they were painted pillar box red.

In 1879, the fanciness of the Penfold design was making it an expensive box to produce and so it was replaced by the ubiquitous cylindrical box.

It is believed that only 92 original Penfold boxes remain in Britain (there are about 115,000 post boxes of all shapes), and only 20 of them are mark ones with the slot above the royal coat-of-arms.

Therefore our boxes in Durham and Richmond really are national treasures.

But an email from Peter Jefferies emails lands in the Memories inbox. “The Palace Green one is a reproduction and has a plaque on the back to prove it,” he says.

This called for immediate investigation, which proved inconclusive – possibly because the site visit was carried out over the Easter bank holiday when it was teeming so hard that loitering by a post box was not on the family agenda.

So can you help – is it a reproduction? And do you have any interesting postboxes – pillar, wall or lamp – in your neighbourhood? Please send us a picture.