The letter post of London 1584 – 1901

The aim of the collection

This collection presents the development of the letter post arrangements in London from the reign of Queen Elisabeth I to the end of the reign of Queen Victoria, i.e. 1584 – 1901. The collection covers the mail inside London, the mail sent to London and from London as well as the mail sent via London.


The first postal service in England was founded by the Romans in the first century AD. The carriers delivered messages directly from the sender to the receiver. This service was only for the government and the military administration.

When the Romans withdrew from England during the fifth century, their postal service was also terminated. The bishops, the abbots, the nobility and the cities developed postal services for their own purposes.

The trading increased during the Middle Ages and simultaneously multiplied the amount of the transporters of goods. At first, those transporters delivered letters locally but gradually they networked. Then letters could be sent far away using several couriers. This way of delivering messages turned out to be so reliable that even common people could trust those couriers. The central point of the transporters network was London.


1. The Post in England before the year 1661
1.1. The Carries ♦ 1.2. The Merchant Post ♦ 1.3. Post 1635-1660

2. General Post 1661-1839
2.1. Bishopmark ♦ 2.2. Morning Duty and Evening Duty ♦ 2.3. Sunday Post ♦ 2.4. Branch Offices ♦ 2.5. Receiving Houses ♦ 2.6. Paying ♦ 2.7. Delivery ♦ 2.8. Postal Rates

3. The Local Post of London 1682-1839
3.1. The Government Penny Post ♦ 3.2. Charles Povey’s Half-Penny Carriage ♦ 3.3. The 1794 Reforms ♦ 3.4. Cross Posts ♦ 3.5. Misdirected

4. The Overseas Mail
4.1. The Foreign Office ♦ 4.2. Ship Letters ♦ 4.3. The Ship Letter Office

5. The Franking System
5.1. Privilege to Free of Charge Letters ♦ 5.2. Local Post Charges ♦ 5.3. Breaches of Regulations

6. Post 1840-1901
6.1. Uniform Penny Postage ♦ 6.2. The London Inland Office ♦ 6.3. The London District Post ♦ 6.4. Circulation Department


The postal history of London is diversified and complex. For example, it is diversified, because the several independent postal systems operating simultaneously: the common domestic postal service, the foreign postal service and the local post service. Each of these had their own post offices, postmen, postal rates and postmarks. The great variety of the postmarks of which many are very scarce makes it also complex.

London had very important role concerning both domestic and foreign postal services in England. It had also very essential global role in the delivery of post. In addition, London was the capital of the British Empire. The London postal service and the British postal service were models for the postal services of many other countries. In that context, the significance of the postal history of London is essential.


There is no comprehensive study of the London postal history. Thus, the research demanded a study of wide range of sources. As a result of the comparative research, it has been found some new periods of usage in postmarks and even some new postmarks, which are not mentioned in the present philatelic literature.

The quality and the rarity

The quality of the British postmarks is on average quite poor. Much work has been done to find as good collection items as possible. This collection represents the best available quality on the market. Therefore, all the items in this collection are at least exceptional. There are several rare items among them (the definition of the rarity is based on the information in the literature). The following items deserve to be especially mentioned:
The Carries letter ♦ The Civil War letter of a private person (returned to the sender with answer) ♦ Domestic letter with “PD” postmark ♦ 4d Post letter ♦ Converted letter N in the word “peny” in a Dockwra type postmark ♦ Cable Street –receiving house postmark 3D – new discovery, not known in the research literature ♦ Letters with “Free” postmarks ♦ “Above number” postmark ♦ Very early experimental black Maltese Cross postmark ♦ Rural post house postmark of the London District Post


Alcock, R. et al, British Postmarks, 1960. ♦ Alcock, R. et al, Maltese Cross Cancellations, 1960. ♦ Brumell, G., The Local Posts of London 1680-1840. ♦ Clark, R., Rates to Reform, 2009. ♦ Cohen, S., London Fancy Geometric Post-marks, 1984. ♦ Cohen, S. et al, Collecting British Squared Circle Postmarks II (The London Offices), 2006. ♦ Danzig, R. et al, The Cancellations of the 1841 Penny Red, 1991. ♦ Feldman, H., Letter Receivers of London 1652 to 1857 I-II, 1998. ♦ Fernau, C., The ‘Hooded Circle’ Postmarks of the British Post Office from 1882, 1998. ♦ Harper, R., Numeral and Duplex Cancellations of Great Britain, 2003. ♦ Lovegrove, J., Herewith My Frank, 1989. ♦ Moubray, J. Et al, British Letter Mail to Over-seas Destinations 1840-1875, 1992. ♦ Parmenter, J., Barred Numeral Cancellations of London, 1999. ♦ Parmenter, J., London Late Fee and Too Late Mail 1840 to 1930, 2002. ♦ Raguin, M., British Post Office Notices 1666-1899 vol I, 1991. ♦ Robertson, A., The Maritime Postal History of London, 1960. ♦ Robertson, A., Great Britain Post Roads, Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839, 1961. ♦ Robinson, D., For the Port & Carriage of Letters, 1990. ♦ Staff, F., The Penny Post 1680-1918, 1992. ♦ Stone. J. The Inland Posts (1392-1672), 1987. ♦ Tabeart, C., United Kingdom Letter Rates Inland and Overseas 1635 to 1900, 2003. ♦ Westley, H., The Postal Cancellations of London 1840-1890, 1950. ♦ Willcocks, R., England’s Postal History to 1840, 1975. ♦ Willcocks, R. et al, The British County Catalogue of Postal History 3 (London), 1983.