Sunday, 29 June 2014

Bruton Maltese Cross ?

Below is a nice example of a black Maltese Cross on an 1841 1d red-brown, with a manuscript filing date inside of September 1841, alongside a "BRUTON" double-arc undated handstamp.

However Bruton was not a Post Town in 1841, although it had been previously.  Before the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post it was under the Fifth Clause Posts of Wincanton and Shepton Mallet.  By 1844 it came under Bath.  One assumption would be that the Maltese Cross was applied in Wincanton en route to Yeovil.  However there are no Wincanton marks to confirm this (both my examples of Wincanton Maltese Crosses have other clear Wincanton marks as seen below).

However Bruton was a major sub-office, and although it does not appear in the 1844 list of post-towns issued with the barred numeral obliterators, which went up to number "947", it did receive the next number "948".

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Martock Maltese Cross

Following on from the previous post, here is an example of a Martock (726) Maltese Cross cancel in red on a 1d black, from July 1840.  The cancel is quite faint but can be clearly seen with a glass.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Shepton Mallet Maltese Cross cancels

It is not known exactly which Towns in Somerset (or elsewhere in the UK) were issued with Maltese Cross cancels.  The first candidates come from the list of Post Towns that received Barred Numeral cancels in 1844.

The two sheets below confirm that Shepton Mallet (701) did receive a Maltese Cross, the first being an example of a red cancel in September 1840 and the second of a black cancel in February 1842.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Somerset Water Management

The floods in Somerset earlier this year (2014) caused widespread disruption, particularly to the farming communities.  The following gives some background to the management of water within Somerset.


Statute of Sewers passed, enabling the appointment of permanent Commissioners of  Sewers
Nationwide cholera epidemic
Poor Law Commission set up
Municipal Corporations Act
Edwin Chadwick's report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Classes
Royal Commission on 'Large Towns and Populous Districts'
Nationwide typhus epidemic
Nationwide cholera epidemic
Public Health Act
Land Drainage Act amended the powers of the Commissioners of Sewers and allowed for elected, as opposed to appointed, Drainage Boards
Native Guano Co. formed in Leamington Spa to dry and press sewage to sell as manure
Royal Commission on Water Supplies
Land Drainage Act sets up Catchment Boards to have oversight over Main Rivers
Water Act reorganised the water industry and encouraged more efficiency
Water Act establishes 29 River Authorities to look after the river systems and control the use of water
The Water Bill for England and Wales created 10 Regional Water Authorities with comprehensive management of the entire water cycle.
Water Act restructures Water Authorities to bring them in line with nationalised industries
The Water Act of 1989 allowed Local Authorities in England and Wales to sell off the water companies, who were responsible for water supplies and sewerage.  The National Rivers Authority was established with responsibility for managing water resources, pollution control, flood control and land drainage
National Rivers Authority replaced by the Environment Agency

The Somerset Levels and Moors is a sparsely populated coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset, running south from the Mendip Hills to the Blackdown Hills.  The Levels occupy an area of about 160,000 acres and are bisected by the Polden Hills; the areas to the south are drained by the River Parrett, and the areas to the North by the rivers Axe and Brue. The Mendip Hills separate the Somerset Levels from the North Somerset Levels. The Somerset Levels consist of marine clay "levels" along the coast, and inland (often peat-based) "moors".  One explanation for the county of Somerset's name is that, in prehistory, because of winter flooding people restricted their use of the Levels to the summer, leading to a derivation from Sumorsaete, meaning land of the summer people.

Commissioners of Sewers for Somerset had been functioning from the late medieval period (setup by the Statute of Sewers of 1531) over an area of about 160,000 acres although records of their activities survive locally only from the 18th century. A system of 'dole' work developed whereby landowners undertook allotted portions of works which were overseen by the viewers or dyke reeves who made presentments at the sewers sessions for their division.

Late 18th century and early 19th century schemes, eg. Axe, Brue and King's Sedgemoor Drainage, imposed further duties of maintenance of artificial streams. The responsibilities for these schemes devolved on the commissioners of sewers following the completion of works specified in the acts.

The River Tone remained under the view of the Conservators of the Tone, although from 1877 works were undertaken by the Drainage Commissioners. The Parrett Navigation Company, formed in 1836, took over navigation responsibilities for that river but was insolvent by 1860. Following the Land Drainage Act (1861) five drainage districts were set up for the Parrett hinterland, Chedzoy, Aller Moor, Stanmoor, Curry Moor and North Moor, and commissioners of sewers were appointed for the King's Sedgemoor district, thus removing it from the Langport and Bridgwater divisions.  General Commissioners for Othery, Middlezoy and Westonzoyland were appointed in 1841 under the terms of the enclosure act of 1830.

Following the Somerset Drainage Act (1877) overall control of the area of the rivers Axe, Brue and Parrett, Tone, Ile and Yeo (123,000 acres) was vested in the Drainage Commissioners. Ten new internal drainage boards were created, viz. Upper Axe, Lower Axe, Upper Brue, Lower Brue, King's Sedgemoor and Carey Valley, Bridgwater and Pawlett, Stockland, Cannington and Wembdon, West Sedgemoor and Langport. Saltmoor was also created but later amalgamated with Othery, Middlezoy and Westonzoyland.  However the Midland (Wells) and Northern (Wrington) Divisions of Sewers continued to exist after 1877

The 1930 Land Drainage Act set up an an overall authority responsible for the main rivers in each of the catchment areas, who would work closely with Drainage Authorities, who would be responsible for the internal drainage of smaller areas within a catchment. The funding for the drainage work could now be levied over a much wider area than had previously been the case.  Since the Statute of Sewers of 1531, it had only been possible to collect drainage rates from people whose land benefitted directly from the drainage works.  The new Catchment Boards could now levy rates throughout the entire catchment, not just on the low-lying parts of it, and could also levy rates on the Internal Drainage Boards within their area.  However, the 1930s were a time of economic uncertainty, and the Somerset Catchment Board was able to improve regular maintenance of the main rivers in the Somerset Levels, but would have needed to raise between £5 and £6 per acre to fund improvements. In a time of agricultural depression and falling prices, such rates were unrealistic.

The Land Drainage Act (1930) led to the creation of the Somerset Rivers Catchment Board which took over the powers of both the Somerset Drainage Commissioners and the remaining Somerset Commissioners of Sewers.  Three new internal drainage boards were created, viz. Gordano Valley, North Somerset and West Mendip.  In 1946 a board was set up for the Dunster district.

The Somerset River Board succeeded the Somerset Rivers Catchment Board in 1951 and took over river pollution prevention duties previously administered by local authorities. It also assumed the powers of the Avon Brue and Parrett Fishery District which had been created under the Salmon Fishery Act (1865). The Somerset River Board became the Somerset River Authority which was merged with the local water boards to become the Somerset Division within the Wessex Water Authority in 1974.

In charge of the rivers and sewers were:

·        Commissioners of Sewers for Somerset, 1400-1930;
·        Somerset Drainage Commissioners, 1841-1930;
·        Somerset Rivers Catchment Board, 1930-1951;
·        Somerset River Board, 1951-1960s;
·        Somerset River Authority, 1960s-1974;
·        Wessex Water Authority (Somerset Division), 1974-1996

Following on from the above, here are some monthly Rainfall reports sent in to the Somerset River Board, later the River Authority - not very exciting philatelically but demonstrating how things were measured in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Minehead Undated Circular handstamp from 1920 ?

The Registered envelope below has a 20mm single ring "MINEHEAD" undated circular (UDC) handstamp on the Registration etiquette label, along with steel "MINEHEAD / SOMERSET" single ring cancels dated 15th October 1920.

In Somerset the single ring UDC handstamps were issued between 1857 and 1859, and did not include one to Minehead (the UDC handstamps were for village post offices).  Should this handstamp be added to the list ?

On consulting with more knowledgeable members of the S&DPHG the answer is No.  The undated 20mm circular handstamp is likely to be an ordinary circular datestamp with the date slugs temporarily removed, being used to identify the Registration Label at a time when the Minehead office did not have a named Registration Label.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Another Dunster entire

Below is another Dunster entire with a black "DUNSTER" undated circular handstamp with a manuscript date (3rd August 1846) written in the centre.  By 1846 mail from Dunster was certainly not going via Taunton to be datestamped, so it appears that the Dunster office improvised this way of getting the despatch date on the mail.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Round and about Bristol - Clifton, Fishponds, Kingswood, Staple Hill and the Gorge

More postmarks with a Bristol theme, this time from round and about Bristol - starting with Clifton and a "CLIFTON / BRISTOL" circular date stamp from September 1906.

Then from February 1907 a "FISHPONDS" circular date stamp.

From January 1909 a "KINGSWOOD / BRISTOL" large skeleton.

And from February 1915 a "STAPLE-HILL / BRISTOL" circular date stamp.

Finally to finish off, some photographic postcards depicting views of the Gorge.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Some Bristol cancels

More recent acquistitions, this time from Bristol, starting with a "BRISTOL" squared circle cancel with "6" in the bottom corners from April 1905.

Then a circular date stamp with "37" in the bottom arc from November 1909.

Ending up with a Registered Letter envelope with "142 WHITELADIES ROAD BRISTOL.8" circular cancels from January 1967.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Random (3) - Taunton TSOs, West Harptree, Winsford, Yatton

The final batch of this random walk through Somerset, starting with some modern Taunton town sub-office (TSO) self-inking datestamps from North Street and Station Road from October 2013.

Next we go to West Harptree for a rather patchy "WEST HARPTREE / BRISTOL" steel cancel from August 1907.

Then to Winsford near the border with Devon, with a registered letter bearing steel "WINSFORD / SOM" single ring cancels dated September 1921.

And we end up with a postcard from Yatton, near Bristol with a "YATTON" double ring double-arc cancel dated January 1904 (and a private violet receiving mark from the Junior Constitutional Club in London).  The postcard has a nice view of Yatton church.