The famous Victorian novelist was born in London and at the age of 19 joined the Post Office. In 1841, he left England to work as a surveyor’s clerk for the postal service in Ireland, where he was based in Banagher, on the banks of the River Shannon. While he was in Kingstown, near Dublin, he met Rose Heseltine, the daughter of a bank manager in Rotherham, and they married on 11th June 1844. In August of that year he was appointed Assistant Surveyor in the Southern District of Ireland and they moved to Clonmel, Tipperary, where his two sons, Henry and Frederic, were born. A year after his marriage, Anthony completed the first of his novels, The Macdermots of Ballycloran, published in 1847, which was followed by The Kellys and the O’Kellys in 1848 and La Vendée in 1850.
Although known worldwide for his novels, Anthony was also instrumental in improvements in the postal services and helped to activate the movement of mail from coaches and Bianconi’s cars, or Bians as they were popularly known, to the railways that were emerging across Ireland. As the increase in mail continued so did public demand for improved posting facilities, and in 1852 Anthony introduced the freestanding post box or pillar box as unmanned postal centres, with the first being erected on the Channel Islands, before they began to appear across the United Kingdom the following year.
Anthony moved back to London in 1859, where he later died in Marylebone in 1882. He remembered his time in Ireland as being, ‘very jolly…The Irish people did not murder me, nor did they even break my head. I soon found them to be good-humoured, clever – the working classes very much more intelligent than those of England – economical and hospitable.’