8th October 1722. No ‘Snail Mail’ Then.

In Victoria’s Britain, with many local postal deliveries a day, it was possible to call the doctor by post-card to receive attention the same day: ‘snail-mail’ is a modern inconvenience.

One thing the post did was help to standardize addresses and so aided the uniformity of the spelling of town and village.

The [British] General Post Office(GPO), had long held the monopoly for the delivery of the posts, but before the Penny Post came in 1840, the recipient had to pay the cost.

The early use of Cancellation Marks on the Royal Mail came in the 18thc and the earliest recorded use of a Burton on Trent, Staffordshire, cancellation is for today in 1722 from ‘Seany Park’ to London, where it was received on the 10th. Two Days later! (1)

It cost a postage of 6d, based on the mileage involved, an amount later marked on the cancellation.(2)

1859 postmark

1859 Spoon Cancellation, Burton upon Trent, a time when there were 6 deliveries a day.

1862 stamp

1862 postmarked Burton upon Trent,  6d ‘lilac’ stamp.






However ten years later in 1732, in the first issue of the Derby Mercury, there was an advert by a James Holmes saying he was available to carry letters and parcels, ‘owing to a want of a more speedy despatch of letters and parcels between Nottingham and Derby’.

This was an early example of private enterprise despite its being illegal as infringing Post Office monopoly.

By 1765 the three MPs for Staffordshire, William Bagot, Lord Grey and Lord Harvey, presented a petition on behalf of Burton-on-Trent to the General Post Office in London, and the Earl of Uxbridge who owned most of Burton, exerted pressure concerning service and prices.

Their particular grouse was the high charges added by Burton Postmaster, William Stratham. The charge to Lichfield from London was 4d, where it was sorted. He applied an extra 2d charge for the journey to Burton.

Then it was the custom to reply to letters, the same day, so another 1d was levied transporting this back to Lichfield. It resulted in Burtonians having to pay an extra 3d.

A circular date stamp was issued to Burton in March 1830. These were issued in various colours of rose red, magenta, blue, green and black.(3)

With the growth of sub post-offices, local village cancellations began in the Burton area in June 1844, four years after the introduction of the Penny Post, which was to be the pattern across the rest of the country.(4)

Burton head post office

Burton head post office early 20thc

Early view

Early long view from New Street, which can be dated as after the 1905 Head Post Office.






By 1874 Burton had its own Head Post Office built by local builder Richard Kershaw with its Italianate campanile tower, which like so many buildings then, added some style to the area. There were also 10 local ‘receiving houses’ (sub-post-offices).

Over 100 years later came e-mail.

(1) As children, when a stamp hadn’t been franked, we steamed it off for re-use. Naughty

(2) 6d or 6 pence (240 pennies to the pound), was a lot of money then, so the service was only for the ‘well-heeled’.

(3) 30th March 1830.

(4) 28th June 1844.

Ref: burtonontrent/postal-service-history/Pic Images.

Ref: History of Burton on Trent/postal-history.


Tags: , , ,

About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: