Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Bristol Penny Post - Bedminster, West Town

A couple more Bristol Penny Post items, firstly a boxed "No.11" from Bedminster in November 1836.

And an indistinct boxed "No.45" from West Town - the shape of the "5" matches other examples and it was addressed from Backwell which is half a mile from West Town.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Did Dunster have a Maltese Cross ?

Below is a wrapper from Dunster from November 1843, with a very nice convex "DUNSTER" mark, a clear Maltese Cross cancel and a "TAUNTON" double-arc code D dated handstamp.

Dunster came under Taunton as a Fifth Clause Post and then became a Sub-Post Office from February 1829 (so mail to/from Dunster was charged at the appropriate General Post mileage rate).  It was issued with a "778" numeric obliterator in 1844.

It is not clear from the markings above whether the Maltese Cross was applied in Dunster or in Taunton, as the wrapper has both Dunster and Taunton handstamps.

"The Maltese Cross, Volume 2" by Prof. S. David Rockoff and Mike Jackson devotes 3½  pages to Taunton and is also not clear whether Dunster had its own Maltese Cross cancel.  Their rule-of-thumb is that if an office received a numeral obliterator in 1844 then (probably) it had been cancelling stamps with a Maltese Cross immediately prior, so on this basis Dunster should have had a Maltese Cross.

Taunton was issued a replacement Maltese Cross on 25th August 1843, with an impression recorded in the Proof Books. 

Could this Maltese Cross have been acquired by Taunton for Dunster ?  It was normal practice for Post Towns to order handstamps for their sub-offices and Dunster remained a sub-office of Taunton right up until 1932 when it transferred to Minehead.

Here are enlarged views of the two strikes:

It does not look to me as if these are the same handstamp - in particular in the bottom (actual) strike, the top-left of the middle cross is stretched out to the left.  This does not appear in the proof strike in any quadrant.

Looking at the Maltese Crosses for Taunton illustrated in "The Maltese Cross, Volume 2", they are characterised in general by being poor strikes, so the clarity of this strike may suggest that it is not from Taunton and thus from Dunster.

However the jury is still out on this - what do you think ?

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Maltese Crosses - Chard, Langport

A couple of relatively late Maltese Crosses from some recent acquisitions.  First Chard from March 1843.

And next a Langport Maltese Cross from January 1844, some four months before Langport was issued with a "721" numeric obliterator.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Somerset Post Offices - interactive map

I've just finished creating an interactive map of the Post Offices in Somerset, with data taken from Ken Smith's list of the post offices in the county (all the UK lists are available here).

My website is available here - it may take a little while to load as it has to perform a fair amount of processing !

What I've done is to take Ken Smith's list in free form text, such as:

Abbots Leigh (Avon) 1837: PP.BRISTOL.  UDC 9-1-1852.  Rubber 1888.  T.O.5-11-1895(ALH).  MO-SB 1-6-1897. Closed 31-7-1974.  Re-open 16-2-1976.  Closed 10-10-1980.
Aisholt                          1835: PP.BRIDGWATER.  UDC 4/1853.  Rubber 1893.  T.O.20-12-1933(AIZ)(discont.2/2/1938). Closed Dec.1947.
Alford                           6-8-1850: UDC: BATH.  By 1883 CASTLE CARY RSO.  T.O.22-8-1893(AOD).  17-2-1920 BATH. 6-1-1941 CASTLE CARY.  Closed 1958/60.

converted it to a structured XML file and inserted the approximate latitude and longitude of each post office (as best I can, some locations are guesses):
     <NAME>Abbots Leigh</NAME>
     <DESC>1837: PP.BRISTOL.  UDC 9-1-1852.  Rubber 1888.  T.O.5-11-1895(ALH).  MO-SB 1-6-1897. Closed 31-7-1974. Re-open 16-2-1976.  Closed 10-10-1980.</DESC>
     <DESC>1835: PP.BRIDGWATER.  UDC 4/1853.  Rubber 1893.  T.O.20-12-1933(AIZ)(discont.2/2/1938) Closed Dec.1947.        </DESC>
     <TYPE>SO-R</TYPE><PT>CASTLE CARY</PT><SD>1883</SD><ED>1905</ED>
     <TYPE>SO</TYPE><PT>CASTLE CARY</PT><SD>1905</SD><ED>1920</ED>
     <TYPE>SO</TYPE><PT>CASTLE CARY</PT><SD>1941</SD><ED>1960</ED>
     <DESC>6-8-1850: UDC: BATH.  By 1883 CASTLE CARY RSO.  T.O.22-8-1893(AOD).  17-2-1920 BATH. 6-1-1941 CASTLE CARY.  Closed 1958/60.</DESC>

and then written some javascript to display markers using Google maps, a brief extract below:

       map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById('map'), {
         zoom: 10,
         center: new google.maps.LatLng((51.2, -2.7)),
         mapTypeId: google.maps.MapTypeId.ROADMAP

      for (i = 0; i < offices.length; i++) { 
         // Create marker and hide it
         marker = new google.maps.Marker({
             map: map,
             title: offices[i].name,
             visible: false,
             icon: iconurls[offices[i].iconum],
             position: new google.maps.LatLng(offices[i].lat,offices[i].lng)

Definitely back to my roots as a systems programmer in the 1980s !

The web page has three different types of filters to show just a subset of the offices:
  1. By Date:  specify a Start date and/or an End date and click the "Apply Dates" button.  To reset, blank the date fields and click the button again. Either date may be specified by itself or in combination.  When a Start date is specified, only offices that were in existence after that date are displayed.  When an End date is specified only offices that were in existence before that date are displayed.
  2. By Type:  check or uncheck the "Select Types" check boxes to display or not display offices of that type (the key below the map describes the types).  If an office is of the selected type within whatever date range is specified then it will be displayed.
  3. By Post Town or RSO:  Expand the lists in the right-hand side bar to see the Post Towns, Railway Sub-Offices and Post Towns external to the County.  RSOs that were also Post Towns are listed under Post Towns.  Check the check box next to a Post Town/RSO to just see the offices under it - filtered by date range and/or type if specified.  Check multiple Post Towns/RSOs to see offices under any of the offices checked.  Uncheck the Post Town/RSO(s) to revert back to the whole county display.
The display will automatically zoom to show whatever offices need to be displayed - check the "Static Zoom" check box to freeze the zoom level.  Uncheck it to allow automatic zoom.

Click on any of the markers, or on the underlined links in the right-hand side-bar, to display details on an office in an info-window.

What is it for ?    I don't know yet !   But it is interesting, for example to put in different date ranges for a Post Town like Bath and see the extent of its "patch", for example up to 1840, 1840-1905, 1905-1950, and more recently.  Also interesting to see where the Railway Sub-Offices were (select RSO and SO-R by type).

The webpage would work for any County if someone creates the XML file - I've created a mainly empty one for Dorset with data for just a few Post Towns (all the other offices in Dorset are there, under "External Towns" / "undefined" but haven't had their data created).

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

North Petherton "excessive" local delivery charge in 1804

The entire illustrated below (courtesy of mozzerb from Stampboards) is from Dorchester to North Petherton from 1804, dated 17th November 1804 in manuscript inside.  It has a "DORCHESTER / 123" handstamp (52x12 mm, DT 218, in use 1805-10 according to the British County Catalogue so this is an early usage) and a manuscript "1/-" for postage.

Dorchester to Bridgwater (which was North Petherton's Post Town) is approximately 55 miles so the postal rate in the General Post would have been 6d (for 50-80 mile) - as this had an enclosure it would have been charged double rate or 1/-.

On the reverse is another manuscript mark which appears to be "1/3".  This may well be the total charge to the recipient including a local delivery charge of 3d. on top of the 1/- General Post charge.  There is some documentary evidence that either the Bridgwater Postmaster or a local carrier charged this sort of amount as evidenced by a visit of the Surveyor to the area in April 1834 following complaints of the lack of a Penny Post. He submitted a report recommending the establishment of a Penny Post walk to North Petherton, to include the hamlets of Hamp, Huntworth, Moorland, North Newton, St. Michael Church, Thurloxton, Binford, Boomer, and Road. In supporting the recommendation, Francis Freeling wrote to the P.M.G., 'I presume your Grace will authorize his proposition, which will release the inhabitants from the excessive charges of 3d. and 4d. on their letters ..... '.

If this manuscript "1/3" is the total charge including the unofficial local delivery then that might explain why the "1/-" on the front is not crossed out.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Bristol Penny Post - Flax Bourton

Below is a recent acquisition, a much redirected entire originating at Flax Bourton and going originally to London, then redirected to Worthing, and then apparently re-addressed to Plymouth.  However there do not appear to be any markings that show that it actually went from Worthing to Plymouth.

The entire bears a "L.C.O. / POSTAGE NOT PAID / TO LONDON", presumably to ensure that the recipient in Worthing paid for the postage from Flax Bourton to London plus the postage from London to Worthing.  

The postal charge marking are not clear.  There may be an "11" crossed through on the front at the left, perhaps a "1/7" again crossed through on the front at the right and there looks to be a "1N" on the reverse. 

Flax Bourton to Bristol would be 1d for the local Penny Post, plus Bristol to London (122 miles) would be 10d in the General Post, making 11d in total which may match the first manuscript marking on the front.

London to Worthing is about 60 miles which would be 8d in the General Post, making a total from Flax Bourton of 1/7d, which would match the second manuscript marking on the front.

Assuming that the postage to this point was paid, then Worthing to Plymouth could match the 1/- charge on the reverse (expressed as "1N") if the mail route was between 230-300 miles - the direct route along the coast using modern roads is just over 200 miles so this is very feasible.  This would imply that the entire did make this journey.  If so, perhaps the "WORTHING" double-arc handstamp dated 3rd September 1835 was from this last stage rather than as a receiving mark for the journey from London ?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

"The Bristol Royal Mail"

My Christmas present to myself this year was a copy of "The Bristol Royal Mail" by R.C. Tombs, published in 1900.  As well as details of the Bristol post, here are a few extracts that I found amusing, interesting or downright gruesome.

On Christmas:  "The inflow of Christmas cards is pretty evenly dispersed over the earlier days of the season, but the great rush comes on the night of the 23rd and the morning of the 24th of the month.  ...  The Christmas season is departmentally regarded as consisting of the days from the 20th of the month to Christmas Day, the 25th inclusive"

On Valentine's Day:  "One of the many changes that have taken place in the manners and customs of the people as affecting the Post Office is very noticeable as regards the observance of St. Valentine's Day.  Thirty years ago the votaries of the patron saint, in their thousands, vied with each other, year after year, to honour his memory, and make the Post Office the medium of sending to every close friend some kind of love token ... Only too often, however, the day was made the occasion to strike a blow at the fickly lover by means of some gross caricature.  On the eve of St. Valentine the energies of the staff were formerly greatly taxed to get rid of the enormous piles of packets which flooded the various receptacles in the city.  All this is, however, changed; the occasion now passes by almost unnoticed in the sorting office and by the postman."

On the Postal Service Staff:  "To become  a perfect all-round postal clerk a man must possess  intelligence, must be cool, fertile in expedient, have  a retentive memory, and withal be quick and active  He must know how to primarily sort, sub-divide,  and despatch letters. He must have a good  knowledge of Post Oflice circulation and be able  to bear in mind the names of the smallest  places—hamlets, etc.-in the kingdom, the varying  circulations for different periods of the day, and  the rates of postage of all articles sent through  the post. He must be able to detect the short-paid  letter, and to deal with the ordinary letter, the  large letter, the unpaid, the registered, the foreign,  the “dead.” insufliciently addressed, the oflicial,  the fragile, the insured, the postcard (single and reply), the letter card, the newspaper,  the book-packet, and the circular (the definition  of which is very difiicult).  He is responsible  for the correct sortation of every letter that he deals with, and he has to be expert in tying letters  in bundles. He has to cast the unpaid postage and  enter the correct account on the letter bill; take charge of registered letter bags and loose registered  letters, and advise them on the letter bill; see to the correct labelling, tying, and sealing of the mail bags  he makes up; checlr the despatch of mails on the bag list; dispose of his letters by a given time, the  hours of the despatch of mails being fixed. In consequence, he often has to work under great  pressure in order to finish in time. The postal clerk has to surcharge unpaid and insufliciently prepaid correspondence; to see that all postage stamps are  carefully obliterated, that the rules of the different  posts are not infringed; to attend to the regulations  relating to official correspondence. He has to decipher imperfectly and insufliciently addressed correspondence, search official and other directories  to trace proper addresses. In addition to all this  he has in turn to serve at the public counter, and there attend to money order, savings bank, postal order, and other items of business of the kind."

On the dangers associated with servicing the Post:  "It was on that  railway that in 1890 a sad occurrence happened at Watford, when a young man whilst in the discharge  of his duties as fireman lost his life. The deceased was leaning over the side of his engine, which was stationary, watching for the signals to be turned, when the day mail train from London dashed by.  The travelling Post Ofiice apparatus net which had  picked up a pouch at a point a few score yards away was still extended and it struck the unfortunate young man on the head, completely severing it from  the body. The poor fellow’s cap was torn from his  head by the apparatus net and fell into the travelling  Post Office carriages with the mail pouches much to the consternation of the travelling sorters, who found evidence of the mutilation on the apparatus framework. The net was only down for the short space  of ten seconds. The travelling oflicials first heard full details of the accident on their arrival at Tring, where the train next stopped."

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Climax Rubber Handstamps - Yeovil ?

The previous posts have exhausted (!) my current stock of rubber Climax handstamps with one exception which does not fit with any other known usage of Climax Rubber handstamps.

It appears to be issued to a Post Town (Yeovil) rather than a sub-office, and it is used in January 1954, nearly twenty years after the previously last known usage of a rubber Climax handstamp.

It appears to be the correct size (allowing for the characteristic distortion) and the date format is correct with a period "." after the three letter month.

Were rubber Climax handstamps also issued to head offices, perhaps for internal use ?  This envelope, being returned to the Netherlands, was probably being handled separately from the normal mail so may have been handstamped with whatever canceller came to hand in the office.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Climax Rubber Handstamps - Weston-super-Mare, Wincanton & Wiveliscombe sub-offices

The last of my Climax Rubber cancels ... almost.

Locking had three "LOCKING / WESTON-SUPER-MARE" Type Ib handstamps, the first issued in February 1895, the second known from September 1911 and the third from May 1921.  These were follwoed by a "LOCKING / WESTON-SUPER-MARE / SOMERSET" Type 2 handstamp knwon used from September 1930.  The example below is from July 1911.

Milton had four "MILTON / WESTON-SUPER-MARE" Type Ib handstamps, the first issued in August 1896, the others known used from July 1912, June 1913 and December 1913.  The example below is from August 1914.

Charlton Musgrove initially came under Bath and was issued with a "CHARLTON MUSGROVE / BATH" Type Ib handstamp in April 1898.  It then moved to come under Wincanton and was issued firstly with a "CHARLTON MUSGROVE / WINCANTON S.O. / SOMT." Type 2 handstamp in September 1904, then with a "CHARLTON MUSGROVE / WINCANTON S.O. / SOMERSET" Type 2 handstamp in August 1911, and finally with a "CHARLTON MUSGROVE / WINCANTON / SOMERSET" Type 2 handstamp known used from August 1914.  The examples below are of the last two handstamps, from November 1911 and April 1914.

Cucklington also initially came under Bath, being issued with a "CUCKLINGTON / BATH" Type Ib handstamp in May 1898.  It then moved to come under Wincanton and was issued firstly with a "CUCKLINGTON / WINCANTON S.O. / SOMT." Type 2 handstamp in September 1904 and then a "CUCKLINGTON / WINCANTON / SOMERSET" Type 2 handstamp known used from October 1911.  The example below is of this last handstamp from September 1915.

Like the above, Yarlington initially came under Bath and was issued with a "YARLINGTON / BATH" Type Ib handstamp in November 1898.  After the move to Wincanton a "YARLINGTON / WINCANTON S.O. / SOMT." Type 2 handstamp was issued in September 1904 and a "YARLINGTON / WINCANTON / SOMERSET" Type 2 handstamp is known used from December 1909.  The examples below are both of this last handstamp, from August 1910 and June 1914.

Chipstable was intially issued with a "CHIPSTABLE.WIVELISCOMBE / SOM." Type Ic handstamp in November 1899.  This was follwoed by a CHIPSTABLE / WIVELISCOMBE" Type Ib handstamp, known used from December 1908 and then by a "CHIPSTABLE / WIVELISCOMBE / SOMERSET" Type 2 handstamp knwon from March 1912.  The example below is of this last handstamp, being from June 1918.