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Our History

The Rowland Hill Fund was established in 1882 as a memorial to the great postal reformer, and founder of the modern postal service, Sir Rowland Hill, who retired as Secretary of the Post Office in 1864.

How has the Fund helped?

The Fund has steadily pursued its aim of providing financial help wherever it occurs amongst Royal Mail Group colleagues, past and present. This is a high aim, which it has strived to achieve and maintain from the earliest days of its existence, when it helped colleagues who fell on hard times during Queen Victoria’s reign, through to the present day.

Over the years, the Fund has helped thousands of individuals. In its early days, before the existence of the Welfare State or indeed the introduction of occupational pensions, organisations such as the Fund were often the only place that individuals could turn when in financial distress. However, although welfare provision is now an accepted part of society there is still financial distress, and the Rowland Hill Fund is still a vibrant organisation.

In 2018/9 the Fund dealt with 431 cases, the diverse nature of help provided indicates that there is an on going need for the financial support we give. In total we distributed over £470,00 throughout the year in grant aid to current and retired staff.

We are uniquely placed to help Royal Mail, Post Office Limited and any of the associated companies’ people who are in  in financial distress.

Who was Rowland Hill?

Rowland Hill was born in 1795. In the early years of his career he was a teacher alongside his father. He transformed his father’s school and provided a model for education of the emerging middle classes.

In 1833, he  became Secretary of the South Australian Colonization Commission and formed a convict free settlement, which embodied the best qualities of British society – this is now Adelaide.

Rowland Hill interested himself with postal reform due to the fraudulent, unfit for purpose system that existed. He adapted the postal system of the 1830s from one in which the recipient paid postage based on distance and number of pages at point of delivery. This was slow and inadequate.

In the system proposed by Rowland Hill, the sender must pre-pay for the letter based on its weight. The pre-payment would be shown using an adhesive stamp on the letter sheets. This is where the Penny Black was born. This system meant letters were cheaper to send. It was doubted and mocked initially but after public support Rowland Hill was given a 2-year trial to run his system. The amount of paid-for correspondence increased by 120% in the first 3 months of its implementation. Rowland Hill succeeded in making the postal system more efficient and profitable.

Rowland Hill then moved to become a director and the chairman to the board of the London to Brighton Railway. Rowland Hill lowered fares, expanded routes, offered special trains and increased the comfort of the commute.

In 1846 Rowland Hill became Secretary to the Postmaster General and then Secretary to the Post Office. He was knighted as Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1860. He died in Hampstead, London in 1879.


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