June 2024
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The World’s Oldest Post Office: Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

Sanquhar Post Office - Dumfries and Galloway - Scotland

Sanquhar Post Office,Dumfries and Galloway,Scotland - Photo by Iain McEwan

Mairiuna! I just received a package in the mail from our dear Scottish friends, Iain and Margaret, from Sanquhar, in which I discovered that the oldest post office in the world is located in their picturesque town on the river Nith, in the Dumfries and Galloway region.

Wow.. I’m so glad to learn about this fact!

The Crowns of England and Scotland had not been united for long when the post office opened its door to the public. Lots of activities were going on, each side of the border, and the Crichton family, owners of the Sanquhar Castle were very influential at that time.

No doubt they were frequent users of the postal services which were mainly confined to the aristocracy, until Sir Rowland Hill invented the “prepaid” postage stamp.

Here’s how it all began:

(…) The 1711 Act also empowered the establishment of Cross Posts, services between various towns, not on the main route to Edinburgh or London, and Bye Posts, which served as feeders to and from the Post Towns.

The men who carried the mail on foot were known as runners and they received fixed payments that, in many cases, were substantially greater than the salaries of the postmasters – an interesting reflection of relative values.

One of the earliest Cross Posts that was established was beetween Dumfries and Ayr, up the Nith Valley via Sanquhar ( pronunciation : SANK-er) and Cumnock.

This service was apparently established in 1712 and it would have been at this time that the present post office in Sanquhar started its long career as a change-house, where the runners rested and were refreshed, and exchanged mailbags before starting on their respective return journeys back to Dumfries or on to the next stage at Cumnock.

Source: Sanquhar Post Office, The Oldest Working Post Office in the World by Ken Thompson, copyright 2005

Sanquhar CDS 1712


Ken Thompson, author of the book, was the owner and manager of the Sanquhar post office for the past 17 years.

1841 Great Britain Imperforated 2c Deep Full Blue Cancelled by Single Scottish "303" Sanquhar Town Obliteration

1841 Great Britain Imperforated 2c Deep Full Blue Cancelled by Single Scottish "303" Sanquhar Town Obliteration.//Source: Sanquhar Post Office, The Oldest Working Post Office in the World by Ken Thompson, copyright 2005

Having occupied the same house since its inception, this post office is unique and was officially recognized in a British pictorial postmark in 1974.

Great Britain 1974 Pictorial Postmark

Great Britain 1974 Pictorial Postmark

I am delighted to have been introduced to this fantastic aspect of Scotland’s postal history and I wish to say ” Merci beaucoup” to Iain and Margaret  for their very kind attention in sending these documents.

Both booklets, the pictorial postmark, along with the photograph of today’s Post Office building , will occupy a very special place in my Scottish Topical stamp collection.

The World's Oldest Post Office - Sanquhar - Scotland

Sanquhar post Office, The Oldest Working Post Office in the World by Ken Thompson of Sanquhar Post Office, Copyright 2005 // The World's Oldest Post Office by UPU Union Postale Copyright 2006

Cacheted Enveloppe Commemorating Centenary Of The Federation of Sub-Postmasters-Sanquhar,Scotland.

Cacheted Enveloppe Commemorating Centenary Of The Federation of Sub-Postmasters-Sanquhar,Scotland.

Speak soon!


9 comments to The World’s Oldest Post Office: Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

  • Is this post office still working and is operational. I understand
    it was kept for sale in 2010 ? Can I send them a post car for cancellation for my collection.

  • Iain McEwan

    Hello – Thank you for your Comment, and for your interest in our website.

    Yes, the oldest Post Office is working as usual, although the business (and the flat that goes with it) is being offered for sale. Post Office management are taking care of it until a new owner is found.

    The staff receive a number of requests each year from philatelists and people interested in postal history. They’re busy, of course (as in post offices everywhere, there’s sometimes a queue) but they’ll be happy to stamp and return a postcard if you write to them at: Sanquhar Post Office, 39/41 High Street, SANQUHAR, Dumfries and Galloway. DG4 6DJ Great Britain.

    As you can see from the photograph (for which thanks are due to Mr Derek Hextall) the post office premises have been recently renovated. In fact this was very thoroughly done, quite an expensive project. But it’s good that the building has retained its air of antiquity – the front wall bulges outwards quite noticeably!

    A simpler wooden sign – now with paint again beginning to flake – has replaced the bright red one above the door. (You enter by the second door to the left of the window, for a little vestibule has been created inside.)

    With kind regards from the team at Scotiana!


  • Dear Iain,
    Thank you for the quick response with full information on the
    World’s Oldest Post Office as also conveying me the full postal
    address. I am grateful to you and hope you this spirit up for
    the sake of the world Philatelists/Enthusiast. Tku again and with
    best regards.
    Y M Kakar.

  • Iain McEwan

    Hello again – Thank you. I’m glad we’ve been able to help you.

    Perhaps one day you may visit Sanquhar? It’s a small town of about 2000 people, but a very old one, already a Royal Burgh long before the Act of Union of 1707.

    During the summer especially, visitors can obtain information on the nearby attractions at the old Post Office. Across the road, the Tolbooth Museum of local history includes a display on the world-famous Sanquhar knitting patterns. And Drumlanrig Castle, with its priceless art collection, is just 12 miles away.

    Kind regards from us all at Scotiana!


  • Hi Ian,
    In the last 10 years I have become extremely interested in the area stretching from Irvine to Dumfries, which I call the Burns Corridor because of Robert Burns spending almost all of his short life within it.
    The number of interesting people and places within the corridor is phenominal and I will try in my modest way to keep interest in them alive through my website. Places such as the Post Office in Sanquhar.

  • Dear Mr. Ian,
    Thank you for your cooperation and I have finally been able to
    receive back the cover of my letter sent to the Postmaster, Sanquhar
    duly date/delivery stamped on the face and on reverse. This no doubt
    is a real gem for my collection. Thank you again and much much regards.
    Y M Kakar,
    P O Box-18, GPO,
    Quetta – 87300,

  • Vinay G

    Hello! I came across your site when I was looking for some information regarding the Sanquhar Post Office. Recently, a friend of mine received a card from this PO and it had the cancellation of it being the world’s oldest PO.

    Also, reading some of the comments above, I guess that if we were to send them a card to the aforementioned address, they could possibly send us back the card with the required cancellation. Buy I need to know if we need to send them a self addressed card with the GB stamps affixed or how does it work? I’m from India and Post boxes and the related subjects is my philatelic theme.

    Any guidance is greatly appreciated.

    Cheers! Vinay

    • Hi Vinay. I would suggest you send your card inside an enveloppe, inclusive of a IRC (International Reply Coupon) in the amount of the international letter rate to cover GB stamps back to India. Sending an IRC and self-addressed envelope is the best way to deal with the problem of paying postage charges. Hope that helps! Janice D from Scotiana’s team.

  • Iain

    Barry and Mary Ford have just become the new owners of the famous little Post Office at Sanquhar – Mr Ford is only the 17th Postmaster in over 300 years, the office having operated continuously since 1712.

    Our high streets are now greatly changed – many other businesses have come and gone, and even very few bank branches remain. Post Office services now tend to be provided from a dedicated counter or kiosk within larger shops, and Post Office branches, I’ve heard, are scarcely viable any longer as stand-alone enterprises.

    This challenge, I think, must be met by the new owners, and I hope very much that Post Office management will assist them in every way to ensure the survival of the World’s Oldest office at Sanquhar, which is so important historically.


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