These letters graciously have been shared with the Victorian Web by Eunice and Ron Shanahan; they have been taken from their website. The letters give an insight into the daily lives and concerns of 'ordinary' people without whom history would not exist. The letters are a wonderful example of how much history may be gleaned from such sources.

There were two sets of rates in force during the Regency Period : under the Act of 1805 the rates were set for the cost of sending a single sheet letter. If a further sheet was enclosed in the letter the cost was double. If the letter weighed an ounce the cost was four times the base rate.

Wisbeche letter Click on the image for a larger view

Although it is slightly before the Regency period, this letter written in 1800 is a good example. The sender has put a note on the front of the letter "Two Sheets inclosed".

The postal official has written the weight 1oz (one ounce) and the correct postage due is therefore 4 times the base rate for the distance of between 60 and 100 miles i.e. 4 x 6d = 24d or 2/- (two shillings). Wisbeach was 89 miles from London.

The following tables show the stages of distance, the cost involved, and then an example of a town within that range, or a linked image of a letter bearing that charge.

Note: we have 29 letters dated between 1805 and 1812, some of them with inexplicable charges on them, for instance the Southwell letter of 1808. Sleaford was 117 miles from London so that would be in the 8d rate for a single letter. If this was a double letter it would therefore be 2 x 8d = 1sh 4d, but the charge mark appears to be 1sh 2d. If it had to go to from Sleaford to London (8d), then London to Southwell 9d the combined cost would be 17 pence or 1sh 5d.

distance during 1805-1812 Cost in pence Notes
Not exceeding 15 miles 4 a 'one-horse stage'
15 to 30 miles 5 Leith/Haddington
30 to 50 miles 6 Tetsworth
50 to 80 miles 7 Dover
80 to 120 miles 8 Birmingham
120 to 170 miles 9 Derby
170 to 230 miles 10 Cardiff/Aberdare
230 to 300 miles 11 Newcastle-on-Tyne
for every 100 miles above 300 add 2d Southwell
Then in 1812 the rates were changed to the following :
Distance during 1812-1839 Cost in shillings & pence Notes
Not exceeding 15 miles 4d Southall
above 15 less than 20 5d Leatherhead
above 20 less than 30 6d Cardiff to Merthyr Tidville
above 30 less than 50 7d Luton
above 50 less than 80 8d Chipping Norton
above 80 less than 120 9d Dorchester
above 120 less than 170 10d Bristol to London
above 170 less than 230 11d Dartmouth
above 230 less than 300 1 Shilling (12d) Redruth
above 300 less than 400 1s. 1d Edinburgh to London
above 400 less than 500 1s. 2d Glasgow
above 500 less than 600 1s. 3d Aberdeen
above 600 less than 700 1s. 4d Forres Scotland
above 700 miles 1s. 5d Wick, Caithness

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3 December 2002