I found this letter from the past really interesting. It was written by Thomas Peters, at 6 Gt Ormond St. London, to Capt. H Shippard at 28 Rue de Laecken Brussels, Belgium. The Army Lists show that in 1830 Capt. Shippard was in the 29th Regiment of Foot, and that he was placed on half pay on 17 Apr 1835. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of half-pay is: the allowance paid to an officer when neither retired nor in actual service.

He was of a notable family: his father, Alexander Shippard had a distinguished naval career, beginning in 1786 on board the Irresistible. He served with Nelson in the Vanguard, was promoted to Rear-Admiral on 28 June 1838, received a pension for meritorious service, but died in Malta on 4 April 1841. Capt. Shippard's mother was Jane Knight, daughter of Admiral Sir John Knight K.C.B. He married Elizabeth Lydia Peters, daughter of Capt. Joseph Peters

The letter was written only a month after Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne, yet in 1998, after nearly 160 years and the ravages of two world wards, both the addresses are still in existence. In London, 6 Ormond St is still residential, but in the Rue de Laecken, the houses have been replaced with modern office buildings with shops on the ground floors. There are 8 different postal markings on this letter, some better struck than others. The image shows 4 of them:

Postal Markings

  1. London Branch Office - Charing Cross Maltese Cross cancel in Red PAID C V 22 JY 22 1837, struck twice, once only partially. This type of postmark was in use from 1834-1847. Manuscript charge marks
  2. 2/8 in top left corner in black ink,
  3. then in red ink 2/8,
  4. also 10 in black ink.

The rate to Belgium from July 1812 was 1/4 single - so this would have been charged as a ‘double’ letter. This image shows the reverse of the letter with the other 4 marks:-

  1. Black double-circle LONDON 22 July 1837 Foreign Office date stamp. This is an example of the first postmark which actually showed the town as London, and it was in use from August 1836 to August 1837
  2. a second strike but dated 24 July 1837. The calendar shows it was a Monday, so I think it is safe to assume that the first strike was received on Saturday then re-stamped when it was ready for despatch on the Monday
  3. a faint red transit stamp 2-line boxed ANGLETERRE OOSTENDE
  4. Blue double circle datestamp arrival at Brussels BRUXELLES 26 JUL 1837. My Belgian contact has told me that when the letter reached Brussels it could have been delivered on any one of the SEVEN daily deliveries - which sadly, is not the case nowadays.

The Letter

July 22nd 1837

My Dear Cap. Shippard

I received your Half pay immediately on its being due and called in Arlington Street before forwarding it to you and found your family returned and quite well, your father, I thought looking much better than when I last saw him. Mrs Shippard had been endeavouring to see Lord Fitzroy Somerset1 to ascertain the chance of your being called upon, and had an appointment to see him as yesterday (Friday) and was to write me the results in time for this days Post - or I should have forwarded your pay 2 days ago. I have received a note from her - and send you the following extract.

William may write to ask the favour of remaining a little longer on half pay, but there are so many old officers who want to get out, with receiving the difference, that they have only a few like William on a specified short period with a promise to return on paying the difference, and he had been already allowed longer than they promised. I said where were the Regiments - He (Lord F. Somerset) replied ‘all over the world’. I think a good one might be selected, however, William is to ask for a little longer time.-

The amount of your half pay is £31-17- 0 and I enclose a Bank Post Bill deducting as follows
Paid in addition to £1 received for stamp..}
Power of Attorney......................... }.-10/-
N.B. the Power of Attorney required a 30s. Stamp which I endeavd to resist but to no purpose
Advertisements2 in the Times Paper.....6s........-12/- Do. in the Morning Chronicle.........6s.........-12/-.......1-14 Postages . . . . . . .£ 30-3.- Which I hope will arrive safely.

I suppose it is probable that you will not be able to get leave of absence for any great length of time, and sincerely trust they will send you to some comfortable place and that you may all remain well and able to bear the bustle of moving. I heard from house the other day and all my friends are quite well.

I am sorry to tell you I received the letter, I copy below from Mr Whiteway, the day before yesterday, and think it right to send it to you, though I am much pained at being the medium of communications so little satisfactory but do trust that Lydia may be prepared by the past for a letter of this nature.

With kind remembrance to her

Believe me
Yours very Truly, Thos. Peters

Mr Peters then adds this copy

Mr Whiteway presents his Complts & will be obliged by Mr Peter’s inform’d lines of his receipt of Mrs Shippards answer to his letter with the balance of the legacy & the Watch? He cannot imagine that Mrs Shippard or Cap. Shippard can have had an idea of the consequences of the delay in forwarding to him for Mr Joseph Peters the little property of his in their possession - Mr Whiteway believes he has not had a bed to lie on for the last week independent of the concomitant privations he is hourly enduring.

George Street, Thursday Morning.

A letter like this puts history at my fingertips. It has much more impact than a paragraph in a text book. I find it difficult to believe that a married man with a son could manage to live on half pay of £31-10-0d , although the letter from Thomas Peters does not state if that is for a year or a half-year.



ew Political History Social History Letters from the Past

Last modified 12 December 2002