A bit later on the same day that I discovered that the frame on Charles was falling apart, I decided to have a look on some of the classifieds on some London cycling forums. Lo and behold I stumbled upon an old Royal Mail postie bike. Later that night and £80 later I was it's proud owner. I've always wanted a postman's bike with a dedicated front rack.
The wheelset on it is an old 32/40 spoke front/rear combination, the front is labelled "Raleigh Industries" and the rear is a Sturmey Archer FG dated 1957. The rims are stainless steel Westricks in 26 x 1-3/8" size and the spokes are stainless steel as well, score! I'm not too sure if these are the originals though.
The Royal Mail G.P.O bikes were produced by several manufacturers, Pashley, New Hudson, Elswick and many others. This one is an Elswick, shown by the decal on the seat tube, they are a now defunct bike company originally based in northern England.
The cranks are nice fluted Raleigh stamped ones, again not sure if these are original either.
The seat cluster lug has bolt on seatstays, like old school roadsters and is stamped P.O. presumably for Post Office.
The head tube is also stamped P.O. with a picture of a crown for Royal Mail. The dedicated front tray is mounted on specially made lugs which bolts fix through. The brakes are a set of crappy modern reproduction rod brakes, which will be definitely giving way for my Sturmey Archer drums.
A few more pics during sunset... I've ridden this bike in this condition for about 30km return on the weekend and it rides beautifully. Originally the front racks would have had a metal mesh tray, even though mine is missing I strapped my bag to the front, the great thing about having the front rack attached to the frame rather than the steering is that the steering stays light and doesn't have a tendency to flop to either side.
Noticeably though, this bike's geometry is very old school and quite different to the Raleighs and other English 3 speeds I've owned. The head and seat angle measure at 69° or so, with a very short stem and handlebar grips set back push the rider's position well towards a rear bias. This combined with what looks like a high rack (low trail) fork gives the front end a very light feel, I figure this is to offset the extra weight they would typically be carrying over the front wheel.
The Sturmey FG four speed hub seemed to work quite well, despite that the shifter that it came with was a 3 speed shifter so I wasn't able to use every single gear. The brakes were horrible as are all rod brakes, so these will go in the bin shortly - they look like a cheap replacement set, not the originals. The BB feels slightly loose but this will be overhauled soon. Generally though, the quality of the frame construction is very heavy duty, the lugs, tubing and junctions are all noticeably more significant than my old Raleigh. The forks are much thicker and heavier duty, as are the chainstays and seatstays, presumably as it was meant to be loaded up with lots of post.
I'm not 100% sure, but I likely will be getting this frame powdercoated, and doing a parts swap and rebuild... now to decide on a colour scheme and setup. Thanks for reading!