Built on the distribution system for royal and government documents, a postal service was known as the Royal Mail has been in existence in the United Kingdom since 1516, when Henry VIII established the position of Master of the Posts. This role was renamed Postmaster General in 1710. During its existence, the Royal Mail has been known as the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co and Royal Mail Lines Ltd. It is also known as Royal Mail Limited, Royal Mail Group and Royal Mail Holdings plc.
During the 17th century, the Royal Mail service was made available to the general public, run as a monopoly by various parliamentarians, lawyers and merchants. The General Post Office was eventually established in 1660. With a network of Post Offices, members of the public could easily send and receive letters and parcels. Their post went from the Post Office to distribution points called sorting stations. From there the post was sent on for delivery. In the beginning, the recipient of the post had to pay the fee and they had the right to refuse the item if they didn't want to pay. The charge was calculated based on the distance post had to be carried, and the General Post Office kept a separate account for each item.
Between 1719 and 1763, the postal network expanded, with private mail coaches provided by Wilson & Company of London and Williams & Company of Bath. The first Royal Mail coach ran in 1784, operating between Bristol and London.
The first mail train ran in 1830 on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway line.
The Uniform Penny Post was introduced in 1840, with a single rate for delivery anywhere in Great Britain and Ireland, pre-paid by the sender. It wasn't until 1968 that the first and second class postage rates were introduced. Royal Mail postal boxes were introduced in Jersey in 1852 and on mainland Britain in 1853. The Post Office introduced a national telephone service in 1912. British Telecom separated from the Post Office in 1980, under the British Telecommunications Act. Post codes were introduced across Great Britain and Northern Ireland between 1959 and 1974.
The 1969 Post Office Act made the General Post Office a statutory corporation, known as the Post Office.
In 1986, the Royal Mail's functions were split into three businesses: Royal Mail Letters, Royal Mail Parcels and Post Office Counters. In 1990, Royal Mail Parcels became known as Parcelforce. The Postal Services Act 2000 made the Royal Mail a public limited company. In 2001, the Royal Mail rebranded as Consignia, but the following year became Royal Mail Group plc, due to the lack of Consignia's success as a brand. The new chairman Alan Leighton announced that Royal Mail Group would focus on its key brands - Post Office, Royal Mail and Parcelforce.
A slight change in legal status in 2007 meant that Royal Mail Group plc became Royal Mail Group Ltd. The Postal Services Act 2011 allowed for up to 90% of Royal Mail to be privatised, with at least 10% of shares to be held by Royal Mail employees. On 1 April 2012, Post Office Ltd became independent of Royal Mail Group and was reorganised to become a subsidiary of Royal Mail Holdings, with a separate management and board of directors. A 10-year inter-business agreement was signed between the two companies to allow Post Offices to continue issuing stamps and handling letters and parcels for Royal Mail. After almost 500 years of Government ownership, the Royal Mail was floated on the London Stock Exchange on 15 October 2013.