London postal district
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The London postal districts are divisions of the London post town in England and are primarily used for the direction of mail. They predate the introduction of postcodes throughout the United Kingdom in the 1960s and have been adapted over time. They cover an area of 241 square miles. <ref>HMSO, The Inner London Letter Post, (1980)</ref>
The first system of ten districts identified by letters was devised by Sir Rowland Hill and introduced in 1857 and 1858. <ref name=bpma>British Postal Museum and Archive - Information Sheet: Postcodes</ref> The numbered subdivisions were a war-time measure and date from 1917. The 1917 subdivisions remain important, because they form the first part of the two-part modern postcode (so N1 1AA is an address in the old N1 district), and because they continue to be used by Londoners to refer to their districts.
The London postal districts are organized by sectors, as follows, and then numbered alphabetically within their sectors.
- In central London, WC and EC (West Central and East Central).
- In the rest of London, N, NW, SW, SE, W and E.
- In parts of outer London the districts are subdivisions of 63 other post towns and were introduced at the same time as the other UK postcodes.
 District sequence
The numbering system appears arbitrary on the map: for example, NW1 is close to central London, but NW2 is a long way out. This is because, within each sector, they were numbered by first assigning the number 1 to the closest district to the centre, and then the rest of the numbers were assigned alphabetically by the name of the location of the postal delivery office. An exception is West London where the first two numbers are assigned to the districts closest to Central London. There are a number of other exceptions to this rule: those postal districts SE19-SE27 follow a similar rule around Crystal Palace with SE19 itself being the area central to Crystal Palace; and the new town of Thamesmead is assigned SE28, created after the current postal district system. Due to its high density, it was deemed that Thamesmead should be assigned a new postcode rather than staying a part of the lower-density SE2 district. 
The London postal districts were created solely to help sort and deliver mail and therefore rarely coincide with the boundaries of London boroughs (and were created before even the older, smaller metropolitan boroughs).
 Relationship to London boundary
The initial system was designed to extend to roughly a 12 miles radius from the centre of London, and consequently the postal districts covered an area much larger than the County of London boundaries of 1889. 44 of the 119 districts were outside the London boundaries such that places such as Leyton in Essex, Ealing in Middlesex, Totteridge in Hertfordshire, West Heath in Kent and Barnes in Surrey were covered by the London postal area.
In 1965 the creation of Greater London caused London's boundary to expand to include these places officially as well as postally, however the new boundary went far beyond these postal districts to include places that were not in the London postal area. Royal Mail did not follow this change and expand the postal area to match. It now has a policy of only changing postcodes if there is an operational advantage to them and has no plan to change the postcode system to match up with London's boundaries.
Places in London's outer boroughs such as Enfield, Ilford, Romford, Bromley, Richmond and Croydon are therefore covered by parts of twelve adjoining postal areas (EN, IG, RM, DA, BR, TN, CR, SM, KT, TW, HA and UB).
The London postal district includes all of the City of London and the City of Westminster, all of the boroughs of Camden, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, very nearly all of Greenwich, Lambeth, Newham and Waltham Forest, parts of Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Hounslow, Kingston, Merton, Redbridge and Richmond. Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Hillingdon and Sutton are entirely outside the postal district.
It is common to use postal districts as placenames in London, particularly in the property market: a property may be described as being "in N11", especially where a postal district is synonymous with a desirable location but also covers other less prestigious places. They are a convenient shorthand for social status, such that a 'desirable' postcode may add significantly to the value of property, and property developers have pressed for the boundaries of postal districts to be altered so that new developments will sound as though they are in a richer area. Some groups on the fringes of the London postal districts lobby to be excluded or included in an attempt to decrease their insurance premiums (see SE2) or raise the prestige of their business (see IG1). This is generally futile as the Royal Mail only changes postcodes in order to facilitate the delivery of post.
 NE and S
There are no London postal districts labelled "NE" or "S". These were in the initial division but were later removed as they were considered unnecessary.
Following a report by Anthony Trollope in 1866 most of the NE district was transferred to the E sector; the rest was left without a letter designation until the introduction of the IG and RM postcodes almost a century later (though only a part of the area covered by these new codes was in the old NE London district). The S sector was divided between SE and SW in 1868.
All Head District Sorting Offices, except London South East, were connected by and had stations on the Post Office Underground Railway.
Sewardstone in Essex is the only place to be outside the Greater London boundary but within the London postal area.
All London postal districts were traditionally prefixed with the post town 'LONDON' and periods were commonly placed after each figure.
- e.g. LONDON S.W.1.
Use of the periods ended with the implementation of the national postcode system. More recently, the Royal Mail have specified that the post town and district should each appear on a separate line in order to increase the effectiveness of their OCR equipment.
 List of London postal districts
|London postal district | Eastern Central|
|London postal district | Western Central|
|London postal district | Northern|
N1 Head district | N2 East Finchley | N3 Finchley | N4 Finsbury Park | N5 Highbury | N6 Highgate | N7 Holloway | N8 Hornsey | N9 Lower Edmonton | N10 Muswell Hill | N11 New Southgate | N12 North Finchley | N13 Palmers Green | N14 Southgate | N15 South Tottenham | N16 Stoke Newington | N17 Tottenham | N18 Upper Edmonton | N19 Upper Holloway | N20 Whetstone | N21 Winchmore Hill | N22 Wood Green
|London postal district | North Western|
|London postal district | Eastern|
E1 Head district | E2 Bethnal Green | E3 Bow | E4 Chingford | E5 Clapton | E6 East Ham | E7 Forest Gate | E8 Hackney | E9 Homerton | E10 Leyton | E11 Leytonstone | E12 Manor Park | E13 Plaistow | E14 Poplar | E15 Stratford | E16 Victoria Dock | E17 Walthamstow | E18 Woodford
|London postal district | W|
Western: W1 Head district
Paddington: W2 Head district | W3 Acton | W4 Chiswick | W5 Ealing | W6 Hammersmith | W7 Hanwell | W8 Kensington | W9 Maida Vale | W10 North Kensington W11 Notting Hill | W12 Shepherds Bush | W13 West Ealing | W14 West Kensington
|London postal district | South Eastern|
SE1 Head district | SE2 Abbey Wood | SE3 Blackheath | SE4 Brockley | SE5 Camberwell | SE6 Catford | SE7 Charlton | SE8 Deptford | SE9 Eltham | SE10 Greenwich | SE11 Kennington | SE12 Lee | SE13 Lewisham | SE14 New Cross | SE15 Peckham | SE16 Rotherhithe | SE17 Walworth | SE18 Woolwich | SE19 Upper Norwood | SE20 Anerley | SE21 Dulwich | SE22 East Dulwich | SE23 Forest Hill | SE24 Herne Hill | SE25 South Norwood | SE26 Sydenham | SE27 West Norwood | SE28 Thamesmead
|London postal district | SW|
 Map of London postal districts
 Outer districts
The postal districts of neighbouring postal areas cover the rest of Greater London:
 See also
 External links
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