How the UK postal system started
Posted on 11th January 2017 at 10:41
Until 1680 there was just one General Letter Office in London and Westminster to receive and deliver the mail that was bound for destinations outside London. There was no system or provision for the general distribution of letters or parcels within the city of London who’s population had now grown to around half a million people.
In 1680 William Dockwra and his business partner, Robert Murray established The London Penny Post, a premier postal system whose function was to deliver mail within London and its immediate suburbs for the modest sum of one penny.
The city of London needed an inter-city mail delivery system and The new Penny Post was influential in establishing a model system and pattern for the various Provincial English Penny Posts in the years that followed. It was the first postal system to use hand-stamps to postmark the mail to indicate the place and time of the mailing and that its postage had been prepaid. It quickly became a commercial success, however, although well received by most it did compromise the business interests of porters and established private couriers. It was also contraversially involved in publishing various criticisms towards the British monarchy, the Duke of York in particular, which ultimately led to the take-over of the Penny Post by crown authorities. The earliest known Penny Post postmark is dated 13 December 1680 and is considered by some to be the world's first postage 'stamp'.
If only we could offer postage for a penny today! Modern mailing houses such as 05 Direct Mail Ltd in Stockport, Cheshire still offer extremely low rates for postage by using Downstream Access postal companies (DSA). Mail can be pre-sorted then delivered to Royal Mail for distribution at cheaper rates. Read our blog about DSA for more information.
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