30th October 2019 GB Postal History with a difference – Don Davies

The Stamp Society was entertained with material not usually seen or even heard of before. Don Davies, a serious collector for more than thirty years took a look “behind the scenes” from days before the stamp to modern problems.

Before 1840 postal rates were complicated and expensive with the cost normally (90%) borne by the receiver. Don showed examples of methods used to reduce the cost with the use of private carriers, sending letters with goods, cross -writing and the complications arising from the calculation of charges. The use of special marks on covers to indicate charges to illiterate post boys were of particular interest.

1839 brought in postal reforms, beginning with the Uniform Fourpenny rate (which lasted only five weeks) followed by Uniform Penny Postage on 10th January 1840 and the issue of the Penny Black on 6th May, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp. Interestingly, stamps only became compulsory in 1852.

The origin of the postage stamp was shown with cypher labels which were a security device on documents. Oddities included examples of misuse of the Penny Black and attempts at re-using stamps, joining parts together and other fraudulent uses.

The “Mulready” letter sheets (the first postal stationery), also used to prepay postage, were unpopular and frequently the subject of caricature. Later, they were replaced by embossed envelopes. The first session concluded with examples of triangular envelopes and other odd-shaped items.

There were more surprises in the second half, describing how letters were so simply addressed and sometimes only found by stating a local landmark. Unusual addresses such as the use of the terms “North Britain” and “South Britain” on letters were new to most. Other examples included the use of a map for the address, poems and even anamorphic styles. In the 1850’s houses and streets were re-named to make delivery easier.

Another oddity was the use of writing on the flap of an envelope to reduce the weight of the letter.

The examples which Don Davies included in his display were of great rarity in most cases and he had sought out examples of high quality. His presentation was exceptional.

One final section included a range of “Machin” forgeries from recent times. Members were astonished at the quantity and variety of the forgeries that have been produced since 1993 and in recent years. There were examples that had passed through the post undetected and others that had incurred penalties for the receiver.

The final group brought a giggle with a range of censored postcards that had been banned by the Postal authorities.

This eclectic mix of philately was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended.

For more information about Banbury Stamp Society and details of future meetings, go to the Society website www.banburystampsociety.co.uk  or call the Secretary, John Davies, on 01295 255831.