HERITAGE campaigners have hit out at Royal Mail for removing a 140-year-old post box from a road in Colchester.

Colchester Civic Society has written to the firm's chairman, Keith Williams, asking for the historic post box to be returned to its long-standing location in Mersea Road, near The Grapes pub, as soon as possible.

The cast-iron box is one of just two surviving examples in Colchester and the society says it is an essential part of the town's history.

Bob Mercer, who co-ordinates heritage and planning matters on behalf of the society, said: "The uniqueness of this style, known as the ‘anonymous pattern’ from 1879, was they had neither a Royal cypher or the name of Queen Victoria in the casting. This was due to an error by the Andrew Handyside foundry of Derby.

"There used to be a third post box of this style, in Lexden Road, but this was destroyed a few years ago when a vehicle crashed into to.

"The only example now left in Colchester is in Creffield Road.

"The Mersea Road post box is well known to local residents.

"It is regarded as a modest but significant piece of our history and heritage."

Mr Mercer added: "Its removal should never have been countenanced.”

The group has raised concerns the post box, which has been described as "irreplaceable", will end up on the scrapheap and Colchester High Steward Sir Bob Russell has also written to Mr Williams to express his concern at its disappearance.

He said: "It is yet another example of our fast disappearing historic street furniture from a bygone age when civic pride was much greater than it seemingly is today, with a cavalier disregard by those who have little consideration, if any, of the heritage items they are responsible for.”

A spokesman for Royal Mail said the postbox was removed due to "access issues for the landowner who is redeveloping the site" and it would be repositioned somewhere else in the area.

He added: "We are currently exploring options for siting an alternative location for the post box.

"In the meantime, customers can use other nearby postboxes or drop off mail at any Post Office branch."