7th November 2023 The Royal Mail Emerges, Postal Reform 1840 to 1880 – Bill Barrell

On Tuesday November 7th2023, Banbury Stamp Society welcomed Bill Barrel who gave a presentation on the beginnings of the Royal Mail.

Bill is a dealer as well as a collector and started by making available a selection of his stock for members to purchase.  The presentation material came from a medal-winning collection covering the postal reform in the mid 1800’s.  But Bill started with the origin of the Royal Mail, and a ‘King’s Messenger’ letter from 1584.  In 1650, an act was passed which created the monopoly for carriage of mail.  Material related to this act is scarce because much was destroyed on the Great Fire of London in 1666.  One item that Bill showed was a letter to Samuel Pepys dated 1665.  Over the next few hundred years, the ‘franchise fee’ paid to the Exchequer rose and revenue also started to be taxed to pay off the national debt, reaching a peak with the Napoleonic wars and resulting in sky-high postage rates. 

Postage reform occurred in three steps laid out in the reform acts in 1839: a uniform 4d post in 1839, a uniform 1d post in 1840 and the introduction of ‘labels’ in 1840.

Bill’s material told this story with newspaper items, post office circulars, first day covers and, when we got to the third steps, 1d black and red essays, proofs, blocks, covers, errors, forgeries, perforations – too much to detail, but, as an example, we were shown a penny red where the engraver had missed one of the corner letters making for a striking error.  He finished in 1879 when Perkins Bacon lost the contract for stamp printing.

The next presentation will be ‘From Tonga to Toga’ on Tuesday November 21st 2023, starting at 7:30pm, at the Hanwell Fields Community Centre. The Banbury Stamp Society is on-line at ‘www.banburystampsociety.co.uk’, or contact John Davies on 01295 255831.