5th April 1801. Has The Post Arrived?

The Twopenny Post is featured in Jane Austen’s, ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (Ch. 26), when Marianne sends Willoughby a letter by 2d post, this at a time when letters were delivered several times a day.

There was a Penny Post (1d), within 10 miles of the London Post Office from 1711: it was 2d between London and a wider area. Beyond 80 miles the charge was 3d. However with workers only receiving a few shillings a week, the service was confined to the better-off.(1)

The change to payment by sender or receiver came with the 1794 reorganization, so post needed to be stamped accordingly. Before many people probably couldn’t afford to receive post, so much was destroyed.

Penny Black.

Penny Black.

It was Today when the 1801 Stamp Act introduced the Twopenny Post, for London Town, ‘a charge on all letters carried in districts of what was previously called the Penny Post, whether a local letter or one passing  to or from the General Post Office’. However from London to the suburbs the charge was 3d.(2)

In London there were many receiving houses in shops and more in the growing suburbs when after hours post was dropped in shutter slots.

Old General Post Office. Lombard St.

Old General Post Office. Lombard St.

Deliveries to the main Post Office took place six times daily, where they were sorted, taxed, stamped then delivered. For long distance mail, use was made of coffee-houses, the haunt of merchants and traders, as receiving centres.

Before 1794 there were five offices as well as the main GPO in Lombard Street which in 1814 was the chief office for London Town area of the 2d Post. There letters received the House Stamp and any charge mark for use of the carrier and addressee.

Lombard Street was joined by Westminster (closed in 1834) and St. Martin’s in le Strand replaced Lombard Street in September 1829.

Property numbers came in the 1770’s, to be compulsory in London in 1805. Sealing wax and wafers were not replaced until 1839 when the envelope was gradually introduced. 

However the great revolution came in 1840 with the arrival of the cheap stick-on 1d (penny) post stamps.

(1) In 1780 one example was overprinted 4d for a single letter, over 80 miles from London, from Carmarthan to London dated 27th November 1780 to Edmund Challoner Grecian Coffee House, Temple Bar.

Challoner was the solicitor to the Governors of the Queen Anneis (sic) Bounty: the ‘Bishop Mark’ is dated I De.

(2) Charges were increased to help pay for War against Napoleon. The 2d post was not so designated until a 1805 Act, which mentioned in part, ’previously the Penny Post, now known as Twopenny Post’.

Ref: georgianindex.net/r-mail.

Ref: janeaustenworld.wordpress/post-in-18thc.Pic of PO and Postman.

Ref: earsathome.com/2penypst/Pics of letters.


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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.

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