How to Read England's Postal Codes

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Sending and receiving mail from England can be confusing because of England's postal codes.
Sending and receiving mail from England can be confusing because of England's postal codes. (Image: air mail in macro image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com)

England's postal codes are designed to give precise identifying information about a location in order to route letters to that location correctly. The first part of the postal code refers to an administrative center like a large city or region, followed by a number. The second part of the postcode will be comprised of a number and two more letters, which indicated the exact location of the business or home. There are a few exceptions to this system, mainly in London, which is further divided into regions such as north, northwest, south, and southeast. Combining the address number with the postal code creates a unique mailing address.

Things You'll Need

  • Alphabetical list of Royal Mail Postcode prefixes
  • Map of postcodes in England
  • Map of London postcodes

Look at the letter or letters at the start of the code, for example, in a code like CB2 1TQ. Look up CB on your postcode list, and you will find the name of the postcode area, in this case, Cambridge.

Look at the number, which will refer to the postcode district or area within Cambridge. Look at the second part of the code, ITQ. Look up the inward code sector (the number) and unit code sector, the two letters, to find the location situated at that postcode, in this case, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Look at the letter or letters on your next address, for example, SW1 2AA. Look up SW on your postcode list to find the name of the area, in this case SouthWest London.

Look at the number, which will refer to the postcode district or areas within SouthWest London.

Look at the second part of the code. Look up the inward code sector (the number) and unit code sector, the two letters, to find the location situated at that postcode, in this case, 10 Downing Street, the home of the British Prime Minister.

Repeat Steps 1 and 2 with all postcodes outside London. Repeat Steps 3 through 5 with all postcodes within London.

Tips & Warnings

  • The postcode system encompasses not just England, but Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and also Ireland.
  • You can look up locations via the postcode by entering it into Google Maps and clicking "Search."

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