(selected foreign postcodes at end)


·         UK list

·         UK background

·         Canada

·         Links to other countries' codes and other sites

UK codes list

AB Aberdeen
AL St Albans
B Birmingham
BA Bath
BB Blackburn
BD Bradford
BH Bournemouth
BL Bolton
BN Brighton
BR Bromley
BS Bristol
BT Belfast
CA Carlisle
CB Cambridge
CF Cardiff
CH Chester
CM Chelmsford
CO Colchester
CR Croydon
CT Canterbury
CV Coventry
CW Crewe
DA Dartford
DB Dublin [for keying in at the postcode reading desks, not used by the public]
DD Dundee
DE Derby
DG Dumfries (Dumfries and Galloway)
DH Durham
DL Darlington
DN Doncaster
DT Dorchester
DY Dudley
E London East
EC London East Central
EH Edinburgh
EN Enfield
EX Exeter
FK Falkirk
FY Blackpool (Fylde)
G Glasgow
GL Gloucester
GU Guildford
GY Guernsey
HA Harrow
HD Huddersfield
HG Harrogate
HP Hemel Hempstead
HR Hereford
HS Hebrides (recoding of PA8#) because of unacceptably high level of manual miscodes to PA8, introduced in 1995.
HU Hull
HX Halifax
IG Ilford
IM Isle of Man
IP Ipswich
IV Inverness
JE Jersey
KA Kilmarnock
KT Kingston-upon-Thames
KW Kirkwall
L Liverpool
LA Lancaster
LD Llandridnod Wells
LE Leicester
LL Llandudno
LN Lincoln
LS Leeds
LU Luton
M Manchester
ME Medway
MK Milton Keynes
ML Motherwell
N London North
NE Newcastle-upon-Tyne
NG Nottingham
NN Northampton
NP Newport Mon.
NR Norwich
NW London North West
OL Oldham
OX Oxford
PA Paisley
PE Peterborough
PH Perth
PL Plymouth
PO Portsmouth
PR Preston
RG Reading
RH Redhill
RM Romford
S Sheffield
SA Swansea
SE London South East
SG Stevenage
SK Stockport
SL Slough
SM Sutton (Sutton and Mitcham)
SN Swindon
SO Southampton
SP Salisbury (Salisbury Plain)
SR Sunderland
SS Southend-on-Sea


ST Stoke-on-Trent
SW London South West
SY Shrewsbury
TA Taunton
TD Galashiels (Tweed)
TF Telford
TN Tonbridge
TQ Torquay
TR Truro
TS Cleveland (Teesside)
TW Twickenham
UB Southall (Uxbridge)
W London West
WA Warrington
WC London West Central
WD Watford
WF Wakefield
WR Worcester
WS Walsall
WV Wolverhampton
YO York
ZE Lerwick (Shetland/Zetland)


Background to UK postcodes

The origins of the existing UK Postcode go back as far as the middle of the nineteenth century and arose from the rapid growth of London in the earlier years of that century. So rapid was this that the then Post Office could no longer regard the city as a single town from the viewpoint of sorting mail. Thus the division of London into Postal Districts in 1857-8 effectively divided the capital into smaller and semi-independent postal towns. Sir Rowland Hill. the designer of the first stamp and the man who introduced the uniform postal rate for the whole country, carved up London into eight such Districts. These were denoted by letters representing compass points, such as N (Northern), E (Eastern) and WC (Western Central). Thereafter, all mail from the rest of the country was sent directly to the appropriate office. Between 1864 and 1912, cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Dublin and Sheffield followed this lead.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century in London — then the world’s largest city — the situation became clogged again. Initially as a war-time labour-saving device, a suffix on the Postal District denoting the Sub-District was introduced formally in 1917. The allocation of the numbering was alphabetical. Thus the Eastern District became E1 whilst Bethnal Green Sub-District became E2 and Bow became E3 [note how the numbers were assigned following the alphabetical order of the names of the sub-districts]. Glasgow followed London’s lead and was the next to introduce such numbering in 1923. Subsequently the original Postal Districts in London became Areas and the Sub-Districts became full Districts in modern terminology.

The next stage in the saga came in the 1950s when the first post-war investigations into the mechanisation of mail sorting were made. It soon became evident that a more sophisticated system of coding was required and that a major exercise would be needed to maximise the use of the new Postcodes by the public. Experiments based on Norwich in 1959 onwards led to the decision to use an alphanumeric (i.e., including both alphabetic and numeric characters) Postcode. Even after much publicity, however, these Postcodes were only used by less than half the senders of mail in the areas concerned. Despite internal doubts about the wisdom of the Postcode within the Post Ofice at that time, a revised version was introduced in Croydon in 1966 and proved more successful. By 1974, the whole of the UK had been allocated Postcodes and Norwich had been recoded. From the viewpoint of Royal Mail, the exercise has been an extended but successful one.      

Converting the Postcode to machine-readable form was originally achieved by an operator receiving the letters one at a time and typing the Postcode on the letter onto a keyboard. This then printed a series of phosphor dots on the envelope to indicate both the Outward and Inward codes. The more modern way is to use optical character readers, which print a form of barcodes on the envelope which is then read by the sorting equipment.[Abridged and adapted from Postcodes, the new Geography by Raper, Rhind and Shepherd (Longman, 1992).

Some aptly chosen UK postcodes

DH99 1NS—National Savings certificate administration, Durham.

GIR 0AA—Girobank headquarters, Bootle.

SAN TA1—Special postcode for children's letters to Santa Claus.

SE1 8UJ—Union Jack servicemen's club.


Canada (included since it is a derivative of the UK system)

@#@ #@# [postfix format, where @ is an alpha character and # is a numeric]

The first letter of a Canadian Postal Code identifies a province, or part of a province:

A = Newfoundland B = Nova Scotia C = Prince Edward Island E = New Brunswick G = eastern Quebec H = Metro Montreal, Quebec J = western Quebec K = eastern Ontario L = central Ontario M = Metro Toronto N = southwestern Ontario P = northern Ontario R = Manitoba S = Saskatchewan T = Alberta V = British Columbia X = Northwest Territories Y = Yukon Territory.

In the second position (the first number), a 0 indicates that the postal code is for a whole post office, usually indicated for rural communities. The 6th character (last number) is also usually a 0 in such cases (as in L0M 1S0). All addresses for the community have that postal code, whether these are rural routes, postal boxes or in some cases, smaller towns with letter carrier routes. Other numbers for the second position indicate the postal code is in a larger urban community with letter carrier service. The postal code is thus precise enough to identify street blocks, particular rural routes or groups of postal boxes. Postal Codes are always separated into two blocks of three characters. The first three characters are the Forward Sortation Area (FSA), an "area code" to identify a district. The last three characters thus identify the block, postal box set, or post office within the FSA.

Some special FSAs: K1A is for federal government activities in Ottawa; M7A represents the Ontario provincial government, G1A represents the Quebec provincial government. One code document indicated that A9W, A9X and A9Z were used as test FSAs (these would not be for actual locations; likely to check equipment, etc). H0H 0H0 is a special code used to write to "Santa Claus". This is a special promotion prior to the Christmas holidays.

The letters D, F, I, O, Q and U are never used in a Canadian Postal Code, due to potential conflicts with other letters or numbers. Canada Post Corporation announced plans to extend the Postal Code by adding extra numeric digits. This is intended to identify the exact street number on a block. or the particular postal box. As of this writing, none of these extended postal codes have been announced. [ Extract from Postcode formats of the world, a website now defunct.]


·         The official UK postcode lookup site is at

·         Excellent resource on UK postcodes at

·         Link to German postcodes, which converts old-style postcodes to current format. [now defunct]

·         Link to US Zip Code search.

·         Postcode formats of the world. [now defunct]

This survey is not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, so amendments and additions will be welcomed gratefully by the compiler. Thanks!

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