London Hexagonal Late fees

There was a late fee system in London from the 1790’s. By the payment of an extra 6d a letter could be handed in 7:00pm and 7:45pm at the Chief Office of the General Post after the closing of the mails and secure its despatch the same night.

From the late 1850’s to the 1870’s letters can be found with ordinary cancellations , but with an extra postage stamp in the top or bottom left hand corner of the envelope. This would appear to have been the way of paying the extra late fee charge.

There was a marked increase in the number of late fee letters handled by the Post Office when in March 1880 the ordinary late fee charge of ½d was introduced for the whole of the British isles. Late Fee marks with a hexagonal dated portion had begun to be used at a few large London offices in the late 1870’s and occurred into the 1890’s

Fleet Street Hexagonal Late Fee Cancellation

It is well worth a search of your collection as London Hexagonal Late Fee cancellations are very collectible items. I list them on my Ebay shop as and when I find them and they tend to sell very quickly. There make a great addition to a collection as they enhance late Victorian stamps which sold in millions.

1881 Sg 157 2½d blue Plate 23 ‘NG’ with Fenchurch Street Late Fee Cancellation

The example above has a catalogue value of £35.00 but in fine condition is readily available to purchase for around £2.80. The above example off cover would command a premium of around 40%.

London 2012 Olympic Games Dummy Stamps.

Dummy Sheet produced for Royal Mail end-to-end testing of producing and distribution process

A recent auction purchase included a pane of six London 2012 Olympic Games Dummy Stamps.  having no knowledge of the stamps I did a little research which I share below.

The stamps were produced for use in internal end to end tests undertaken by some Post Office branches in April 2012.  A letter dated 14 June 2012 to participating Post Offices stated: “We did a test on 19 April, which really helped with our planning, thank you to those involved in that.”

It is thought that the dummy trail sheets were produced by all six of the printers involved in the project. The cyclist depicted on the dummy stamp is Wendy Houvenaghel of Northern Ireland who was not selected for the final Olympic team.  

The stamps were delivered in a gold coloured outer envelope including an adhesive envelope with the name of the Post Office branch and its address, plus delivery route number and the quantity of dummy sheets enclosed and the sheet code GMW-E1.

The despatch note enclosed clearly stated IMPORTANT: TEST ONLY – PLEASE DESTROY THE SHEETS.

The destruction request was clearly ignored at some offices and Dummy Stamps Issue 27 – Q4 2012 stated that around 40 sheets had been seen on offer. At the time sheets printed in Swindon, Attleborough, London and Preston had been seen.  The full sheet contained four panes of six stamps.

Example of dummy stamp used in the post

Some were even used to send items through the post.

The Story Behind A Cover

I recently bought a number of covers from an Indian dealer which included an Air Mail cover addressed to J W Young Esq, OBE.  My interest was aroused when I read the second and third lines of the address: ‘Finance Member, Jodhpur State Council.  The cover was addressed to 16 St James Square, London, SW1.  I wondered who J W Young was and what he was doing in London in December 1933.

I began a search on the internet and came across  Within the Jodhpur section I found listed under ‘Dewans (Chief Ministers)’ James Wolston Young has served in this capacity between 9 July 1932 and 1934.  Being brought up properly I searched for other entries to confirm this information.  The ‘Report On The Administration Of The Jodhpur State for the year 1932-33’ states in Chapter 1 (3) 14. ‘Mr. J. W. Young, O.B.E., Acting Vice President and Finance Official.  Member, State Council, left for England, on November 5th, 1932, to attend the Third Session of the Round Table Conference and returned on January 20th 1933.’

I was able to access the India Office List for 1929 and found Mr Young within its Pages. 

I next learned from the UK National Archive site that Mr Young had died in 1934.  The entry reads: ‘File 279-P(S)/1934 Death of Mr. J.W. Young, Chief Minister Jodhpur State and the question of appointment of his successor. Relaxation of Article 759, C.S.R., in favour of Lt. Colonel D.M. Field in order to permit him to retire voluntarily from British Service and to continue in the service of the Jodhpur State’.

A further search revealed an obituary for Mr Young.  He was a founder member of the Himalayan Club and its first Honorary Treasurer.  The obituary is contained in The Himalayan Journal, Volume 7, published in 1935:

‘Peter Young, as he was known to his friends, was a son of the late B. J. Young of Richmond Park, Sheffield, and was born on the 18th September 1885. He was educated at Stonyhurst College, . 1 ml then went to South Africa. In 1909 he entered the Indian Audit and Accounts Service and was posted to Bihar. During the Great War he was at Simla, working under Sir Bhupendra Nath Mitra, (he present High Commissioner for India, in the Military Finance Department; and he was made an O.B.E. for his services. After .mother short period of duty in Bihar, he was lent to Jodhpur State, where he spent the last ten years of his life. As Accountant-General, as Finance Member of the State Council, and finally as Chief Minister, he was a watchful guardian of the State’s resources and a prudent administrator who had the complete confidence of the Durbar. He was adviser to the Indian States’ Delegation at the second and third sessions of the Round Table Conference, when his knowledge of State finance, his caution and good sense were of great value. Returning to India, he was seriously ill and was forced to go back to England again in the spring of 1934 for an operation which his devotion to duty and the interests of Jodhpur had dangerously postponed. He died after the operation on the 23rd May.

Young was not a mountaineer in the technical sense, but he enjoyed a trek through mountain country. He was a Founder Member of the Himalayan Club, its first Honorary Treasurer, and a member of an informal committee which met at Simla in the summer of 1928 to draft the Rules and Articles of Association. The Club was fortunate to have in its early days a financial adviser of his quality, and will remember him with gratitude.’

G. L. Corbett

Young had been in London In December 1932 as a member of the Jodhpur delegation at the Indian Round Table Conference Third Session which ran from 17th Novemebr 1932 until 24th December 1932.  He had also attended the Second Session between September and December 1931.

India Round Table Conference, Second Session, 1932

The origin of the cover is impossible to ascertain as the cancellations were applied at an angle and the location of the town it was posted in is therefore missing.  The cancellation is dated Tuesday 13 December 1932, so is likely to have been carried on the weekly Imperial Airways service which departed Karachi on Wednesday each week.  Depending on the logistic of the cover arriving in Karachi it would have been carried on the flight on Wednesday 14 December or Wednesday 21 December.  The service normally arrived at Croydon Airport the following Tuesday.  Therefore the earliest the cover could have arrived in the UK would have been 20th December.

Lamu Island Post Office

Lamu Island first came under the British sphere of influence in 1890.  The British had not taken a great interest in East Africa until Germany began to establish a colony to the North modern Etheopia. in 1890, the area around Witu was transferred to the British and along with it, Lamu Island.

Witu has been a German protectorate from 1885 but becomes part of the British sphere of influence in 1890, based on the treaty signed in that year with Germany.

The British East Africa Company, from its base in Mombasa, extended its activities along the coast to the border with the Italian sphere of influence in the north and to Lake Victoria in the west and from 1890, across Lake Victoria further inland into Uganda.

However, as the British East Africa Company did not manage to show a profit, it is forced to transfer its rights to the British government: in Uganda in 1893 and in the rest of British East Africa in 1895. The British subsequently form the protectorates of Uganda and British East Africa in 1894 and 1895 respectively.

By 1877 some letters from Coast were being taken north from Lamu to Aden by ships of the British Steam Navigation Company, although the bulk of mail was being transmitted via Zanzibar. A system of mail-runners was developed and expanded by the British East Africa Association, while individual traders and concessionaries organized their own service. That enjoyed the use of distinctive postage stamps in 1889-90.

A regular postal service in British East Africa was introduced in May 1890 and post offices opened in Mombasa and the island of Lamu.

Local Commemorative & Local Publicity Slogans

The British Post Office established in 1917 the precedent for using slogan dies as an alternative to bars for cancelling stamps mechanically. However, all the slogan dies used in the United Kingdom before 1956 were connected with national campaigns, or advertised important national or international events. Some slogans, such as those publicising the Royal National Eisteddfods, were used only at a small number of offices in the region closely connected with the particular event.

However, since 1956 when Rochdale used a slogan to commemorate the centenary of the granting of a charter of incorporation to that town, the Post Office became more receptive to applications for local slogans. At first it restricted such applications to slogans advertising local events and commemorating local anniversaries.

The Rochdale Centenary slogan is listed in Stanley Gibbons ‘Collect British Postmarks’ catalogued at £8.00.  The highest catalogue price of the period is attached to the Stalybridge Centenary Slogan of 1958, priced at £30.00

Then on 1 April 1963 it introduced the first of the Local Publicity Slogans. Since that date local authorities and the sponsors of local events have made extensive use of postmark slogans as a means of advertising the virtues of a town, or a particular feature, as well as for announcing outstanding local events.

For some years the British practice of having the town mark of machine postmarks to the left of the obliterator was strongly criticised. The Post Office had always insisted that this practice ensured that the place and date of posting appeared legibly on the cover, not on the adhesive. However, following continuing pressure first from philatelic circles, but more particularly from the potential sponsors of Local Publicity slogans, the Post Office relented. On 1 July 1963 Bath used the first transposed slogan.

This was a Local Publicity slogan, but before the end of 1963 Paisley became the first office to use a local interest” General slogan transposed, listed in Collect British Postmarks for just 80 pence.

Specially modified die heads could be fitted to Universal and some ALF machines, enabling slogan dies to be impressed to the left of the town die. In this way the slogan falls on the cover while the town die acts as the obliterator.

For the first few years the Post Office limited the use of these special die heads to slogans in fairly restricted use. However, by 1968, an increasing number of offices were using the special die beads for national slogans as well as local ones, and in 1971 slogans in the standard position were the exception where as before they had been the rule. Subsequently the Post Office reversed its 1963 decision and from 1976 transposed slogans became the exception rather than the rule.

Many thanks to The British Postmark Society for the use of this item. 

Origins of Slogan Postmarks in Great Britain

Origins of Slogan Postmarks 

Slogan postmarks can be said to go back to the earliest stages of the postal system.  London Bishop Marks were introduced in 1661 and four Receiving House marks were introduced around the same time. 

With the introduction of automatic stamp cancelling machines at the turn of the 20th century many foreign countries and the Dominions introduced slogan cancellations.  The Post Office appeared reluctant to follow their lead and it was only in 1917 that it agreed to assist the war effort by authorising the ‘Buy National War Bonds Now’ 

Several companies had made attempts to persuade to the Post Office to permit the use of slogans on covers and post cards.  These include H & F Pear (still making the soap) in 1910 and Gordon Selfridge of Selfridges earlier in 1917. 

Whereas British Slogan Cancellations have never carried commercial advertising – companies have used dies to carry announcement’s – negotiations between the Post Office and an advertising agency reached an advanced state in 1926 to the extent that Sir William Mitchell-Thomson (Postmaster General) proposed the scheme.  The Post Office even went so far as to issue an Inter-Departmental Circular advising Postmasters: 

‘It has been decided to use the obliterating dies of letter stamping machines of the Hey-Dolphin and Universal types as a medium for commercial adverts, and a contract has recently been placed with Messrs Frank Mason and Co. Ltd, of 3 Clements Inn, LONDON WC2 giving that firm the exclusive rights to obtain orders for such advertisements’ 

However, due to a concerted campaign from the public and other advertising interests the scheme was dropped on 9 November by the Post Office saying that the estimated revenue ‘in the current circumstances is quite small’ 

Between 1917 and 1956 all slogan dies were connected with national campaigns or the advertisement of national events. The most collectable slogan covers of the period are generally related to the Empire Exhibition of 1924-25.  Torchlight Tattoo slogans are priced between £10 and £50 in the Stanley Gibbons Collect British Postmarks catalogue. 

Other slogan postmarks to look out for relating to the British Empire Exhibition are the Torchlight Tattoo events, listed at catalogue prices between £10 and £75. 

The best of the pre-war slogan postmarks is the ‘Mt. Pleasant Opening’ catalogued at £400. 

Wartime Slogan covers are plentiful, but the Kitchen Front, Cambridge Cancellation is listed at £20. 

A Cover Which Tells its Own Story – Of Some Historical Interest

I was listing items on my webstore yesterday. One item that caught my eye was a Registered cover sent from Grimsby in Lincolnshire to Monroe in Michigan, USA.

It often takes some time and effort to track the route a cover has taken on its journey. In this case it told its own story. The cover carries postage of 4½d, made up of 2½d letter rate and 2d registration fee. The cover is cancelled with a Grimsby Registered Oval and is dated 10 May 1902.

The reverse of the the cover is also stamped with the Grimsby Registered Oval across the flap.

The cover was carried by rail to Manchester and is stamped with a Manchester Registered Oval ‘7 PM 10 MY 02’ and is further stamped with a Liverpool Registered Oval ‘10.30 PM 10 MY 02’

The Cunard Line SS Campania sailed from Liverpool to New York on 16 May which is the ship the cover would have been carried on.

SS Campania

The cover arrived in New York on 21 May as witnessed by the backstamp.

The cover arrived at its final destination – Monroe, Michigan on 23 May at 8:30AM

The story of the cover does not end here however. The original letter is enclosed. Written by V J Bertrand on 10th May 1902 it is addressed to Dr George F Heath ‘Publisher and Editor of The Numismatist.

Originally published by Dr Heath in 1888 as The American Numismatist the name was shortly changed to The Numismatist. The name was eventually purchased by the American Numismatic Association. The magazine is still published today.

Dr George F Heath

The contents of the letter are fascinating. Mr Bertrand tells us that ‘My speciality in collecting is Napoleonic medals and commemorative medals and paper money and English coins’

He goes on to request an advert in the ‘wanted’ column and encloses a money order for 4 shillings and 2 pence to cover this and his subscription to the magazine. rather helpfully has all of the issues of The Numismatist, vol 15, 1902 and Mr Bertrand makes four appearances within its pages:

V J Bertrand, Application For Membership
V J Bertrand, Application for Membership, June 1902 Issue
V J Bertrand, New Member, July 1902 Issue
Advertisment, July 1902 Issue
Advertisment, July 1902 Issue
Except from letter, September 1902 Issue

The cover and contents are currently for sale (30 June 2020) on my Webstore

Swaziland – Piggs Peak

Piggs Peak was named after Wiliam Pigg who discovered gold there.

Piggs Peak opened as a postal agency in 1904. The first postal agent was B P A Geldenhuis. It was subsequently upgraded to a sub post office and in 1910 the sub-postmaster received a salary of £120 per annum.

In 1923 the postal service between Piggs Peak and Barberton in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa was operated three times a week. The post was conveyed on foot and took 14 hours to arrive. The cost per annum of operating the service was £168.

Tools of The Trade

My first port of call is generally the internet.  I am a member of a number of philatelic societies and many provide some excellent information regarding post marks and cancellations.

The Great Britain Philatelic Society: have plenty of information including  listings of numeric and duplex numbers allocated to individual post offices throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

For collectors of Rhodesian stamps The Rhodesian Study Circle: have an excellent section listing post offices in the area in alphabetical order.  It is not necessary to be a member to access this information.

The Travelling Post Office and Seapost Society: are an excellent starting point for train and sea travel covers and post marks.

Air Mail enthusiasts should go to The British Air Mail Society website: where many of the society’s earlier journals are freely available for download.

There are clearly many more society websites which provide excellent information for the marcophilist to consult and I will be spotlight some of them in future blogs.

A good publication for Great Britain enthusiasts is the Stanley Gibbons publication Collect British Postmarks.  The book covers everything from the early stages of the postal system to modern postal labels.  I have built up a reference library over the years and a great source for purchasing second hand and out of print publications is HH Sales (Philatelic Publications) who can be found at

What A Difference A Post Mark Makes

One of the great joys of dealing in stamps and covers is buying an auction lot and working through the individual items.  Invariably I will find some very interesting items and a careful look at any stamps with a legible postmark is very high on my agenda.

I recently worked through an ex-dealers stock and came across a couple of items from British Levant.  My first impression was that the stamps were not in great condition and that they would be going into a bulk lot for auction on my Ebay shop  (

However, the post marks on two of the items drew my attention. Referencing my copy of Stanley Gibbons Part 1 prices for the 40 paras on 2½d lilac and 80 paras on 5d dull green are nothing special:

The fact that both values have got easily identifiable cancellations does change things somewhat.  The 40 paras overprint has a Beyrout (Beirut) British Post Office post mark.  The 2½d lilac overprint cancelled with a British Post Office Beyrout post mark is listed as Sg Z43 with a catalogue value of £12.00. 

Sg Z

The 5d dull green 80 para overprint is clearly a rarer beast.  Catalogued as Sg Z138 it is valued at £95 when cancelled with a British Post Office Constantinople post mark.  The image shows a particularly good example and clearly reads ‘British Post Office Constantinople JA 7 90’.

British Levant is a term used for issues used in the former Ottoman Empire.  Arrangements for setting up British Post Offices in the area were included in the Treaty of Balta Liman signed between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain in 1838.  However, the system dis not start to operate until 1857 when a post office for civilian use was opened in Constantinople in September 1857.  This replaced the Army Post Office which had been open since June 1854.

London Illustrated News 19 January 1856

In total there were five British Post Office’s opening in the Ottoman Empire.  The Beirut Post Office opened in March 1873 and closed on 30 September 1914 with the post office in Constantinople closing on the same day.  It did reopen on 4 February 1918 finally closing on 27 September 1923.