The PTS has approached keen philatelist Edward Klempka for his take on Rowland Hill’s Postal Reforms. Edwards explains below.
On 5th December 1839 the uniform 4d post was introduced in Great Britain and Ireland. On 10th January 1840 the rate of postage was further reduced to 1d for a letter despatched to any part of the Kingdom. The 1d rate was available for letters of a weight of less than 1/2 ounce, heavier letters were charged 2d for the first ounce and an additional 2d for each additional ounce. Crucially letter had to be prepaid; or if posted unpaid were subject to an additional charge (double the prepaid fee).
This benefit was considerable; citizen’s, merchant's and business men could communicate with each other at considerably reduced cost. These reforms are credited as being one of the significant catalysts that fed the growth of the Industrial Revolution.
Fig 1 illustrates an envelope which was posted at Exeter on 15th February 1840 and prepaid 1d for its journey to London, upon arrival the letter was turned and returned unpaid to Exeter on 17th February 1840. Upon arrival the recipient was charged 2d upon delivery.
Whilst today it seems rather obvious that Postage Stamps, Cancellation devices and Postal Stationery are available; but to the postal reformers of 1840 it was far from obvious.
Questions needed to be answered;
- What form of prepayment method was to be used. Initially postage was paid in cash, but on 6th May 1840 the 1d Black and 2d Blue postage stamps was issued together with prepaid Mulready stationery. The use of postage stamps and stationery evidenced the prepayment.
Fig 2 shows a cover franked with 1d Black, paying postage of 1/2 ounce, posted Halifax 28th July 1840 and addressed to Keighley.
Fig 3 illustrates 2d Blue paying postage of up to 1 ounce, posted Cromarty 24th June 1840 addressed to Edinburgh and at Fig 4 can be found an illustration of a Mulready letter sheet used from Bristol 8th May 1840 addressed to Oxford.
- Stamps and stationery were to be cancelled so as to ensure they could not be easily reused. The cancellation devise chosen (Figs 2 3 and 4) was the Maltese Cross obliterator. Post office instruction to Post Masters set out the composition and colour of the ink to be used to cancel the stamps and stationery.
- Higher rates of postage, other fees and payments for overseas postage continued to be paid in cash.
The reforms have stood the test of time as almost 180 years later most of the world postal authorities have introduced these measures and I doubt if Rowland Hill ever imagined that his reforms would create a new world wide hobby of stamp collecting.
Fig 1 & 2 Figs 3 & 4