BACK in the autumn of 1968, postmen in Burnley were delivering a new service from a new sorting office. For their revamped workplace coincided with the arrival of the first and second-class post. The cost of postage to the customer, then, was 5d and 4d respectively, and postmaster Alfred Tweedle said, despite widespread criticism, the ‘two-tier service’ was more streamlined and efficient.

Prior to its introduction there had been six different rates – for ordinary letters, printed paper, newspapers, samples, postcards and literature for the blind – and each one was covered by different regulations.

In Burnley, first-class mail left the sorting office at 9.30pm for Preston, with second-class letters sent on 75 minutes later.

First-class mail was sorted overnight on the travelling railway post offices, which covered the country, while second-class letters were sent on ordinary passenger and goods trains and sorted at the post offices next day.

The average daily outgoing mail from Burnley 40-odd years ago was 51,000 items, which did not include abnormal postings, such as quarterly gas bills, electoral registration forms, advert campaigns and trade journals, which could number as many as 100,000 to 200,000 a week. But mail in the town was expected to double in the next six months, following the opening of the Great Universal Stores admin block.

As a taster of what was to come, the sorting office was dealing with a major advertising campaign by the company, involving more than 45,000 letters, which weighed 22 tons.