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.

The address side of this 'letter from the past", dated August 20, is covered with-red and black postal markings.

  1. a black circular datestamp of LEEDS 20 AU 1814. (1 wonder why Leeds and not Halifax, as the address on the letter is "Mitholm Nr Halifax"). Both were post towns in the same charging rate of 1ld for a distance between 170 and 230 miles from London — Leeds 191 miles and Halifax 195 miles
  2. a red manuscript P 7/3 to show prepayment of postage of 7/3d. There is a faint pencilled 7/3 in the top left corner as if someone has worked out the cost first and pencilled it in. The rates to Europe are very complicated, as it depended on which route was used, but at this time the cost would have included the inland postage to London- in this case 1ld — plus the shipping cost across the channel, — 1/8d — plus a sum of 2d less than the inland rate to London — another 9d, — then the inland cost to the destination. This adds up to 3/4d for the English part which leaves 3/11d for the foreign component to make up the total of 7/3d.
  3. the red London "tombstone" single frame datestamp 22 AU 1814. This had the code letter C at the top, and has the day before and after the month, showing that it was a morning duty stamp in use from 1810-1841
  4. a red FOREIGN double-circle stamp of 1814 with the numbers194 in the centre. This is an outward datestamp in use from 1806-1816 and would have been applied in London at the Foreign Section of the General Post Office. Willcocks & Jay note in their book of London Postal History that the significance of the numbers in the centre of these stamps is not known
  5. the word ANGLETERRE (the French word for England), in black — presumably applied somewhere on the Continent en-route to Bolzano. This may indicate that the letter was routed through France
  6. a red manuscript 2/36 which looks as though it was put on with a red crayon, rather than red ink. I assume this is the foreign component of the postage rate, and would have been written on by either the forwarding or receiving office in Europe.

Most of the markings are in red, denoting prepayment of postage, which was compulsory at that time for foreign mail from England. There are no transit or arrival datestamps on the letter. Other foreign letters in my collection have a postmark showing the appropriate arrival date

A printed invoice in the form of a Bill of Lading


3 December 2002