Dig out those old letters

This year marks 500 years since the postal service was formalised.

Thursday, 5th May 2016, 8:10 am
Updated Thursday, 5th May 2016, 9:15 am

Those 500 years have witnessed enormous social and cultural change, and two world wars.

Throughout all of that, letters flew across the country, as the post was the way for people to exchange news; of great, overwhelming political events or of tiny, intimate but life-changing family events.

The postal service gave ordinary and extraordinary people the chance to share their thoughts.

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Discovering what they were is what gives me the greatest pleasure as a historian (the best words you can ever read in a letter are “burn this” – which prove that the writer didn’t want you to read it!)

Personal letters can open a little paper window onto the great events of the past.

That’s why I’m working with Royal Mail to ask people to hunt out long-forgotten letters that might help to re-tell the social and cultural history of the United Kingdom through the words of the people who lived it.

We’d like people to look in their attics, rummage around in their garages, and search their sheds for old letters and postcards.

Some might be from centuries ago, others might have just been delivered last week.

We’d like to know what these letters have to say – from the first time someone travelled abroad to the impact of conflict.

If you find something brilliant in your own family letters you can upload it either through http://www.royalmailgroup.com/lettersofourlives or by sending a photocopy to the address below.

They will be documented as part of this fascinating project.

I can’t wait to read all the letters and postcards, and to share in the pride of the families who have found a story to tell us.

I’m champing at the bit to start piecing together a hidden social history of our country.

Lucy Worsley,

TV historian and chief curator,

Historic Royal Palaces,


Letters of our lives,

Riverside House - Riverside Estate,

Sir Thomas Longley Road,

Medway City Estate,