Established in 1712, just five years after the unification of Scotland and England, the oldest functioning post office in the world is located on the High Street in Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. Since opening its doors it has continuously served as a local post office, gathering place, and curious attraction for people both near and far.
Originally serving as a staging post for mail carriages, the post office featured stables that most likely provided a resting place for the horses required at the time to draw mail carriages. The Sanquhar Post Office does feature something modern post offices lack, a three-bedroom cottage, a courtyard, and outbuildings that all belong to the post master and have throughout the centuries served as their home.When it was constructed the post office was more of an outpost and had no amenities for the customer, including but not limited to the absence of counters.
Sanquhar is a small town of roughly 2,000 people, so the post office has become something of a lifeline for elderly as well as a roadside attraction and destination for postal history buffs and collectors who want to get historic stamps on their letters home.
The historic post office was modernized in 1974 and hand canceling postage was replaced with an updated canceling machine, though the machine was hand-operated nonetheless. The post office was almost closed in 2014 when a buyer couldn’t be found and a community takeover fell through. It was saved in 2015 by Nazra Alam and her husband Manzoor, and plans were promptly put in place, though never fulfilled, to turn part of the building into a postal museum.
Unfortunately, the post office was once again placed on the market in late 2019 and its life as a museum may have to wait another three-hundred years.
World’s Oldest Post Office Facts
- The Sanquhar Post Office has been recorded as the oldest working post office in the world by the Guinness World Records.
- The term “post office” was first used in the 17th century after the legalization of the private mail services in England.
- The post office predates the second oldest, in Stockholm, Sweden, by eight years, and the third oldest, in Santiago, Chile, by sixty years.
- Matthew Hogarth ran the business for 70 years and after his retirement became a regular visitor.
- The Sanquhar Post Office has been in continuous service since 1712.
- The town of Sanquhar is most well-known not for the post office but for the Sanquhar Declaration. A speech read by Michael Cameron that focused on the opposition of government interference in religious affairs.