SHOW MENU

Island Packet and Internal Ship Letter Rates to 1839

Introduction

There were several separate charges for mail to offshore islands that was carried on Post Office packets -- letters to or from these islands would be charged the packet rate in addition to any inland rate for carriage on the island itself, plus the rate from the mainland port to the destination or from the town of origin, as appropriate. The packet charges were all abolished on the commencement of the Uniform Fourpenny Post in 1839.

The general rule for other islands around the coasts was that charges were made on the basis of the total distance, with the distance of the sea crossing taken into account in the General Post rate as if it had been part of the land journey. There were some variant local rates also.

Channel Islands 1794-1839


1813: from Newton Abbot in Devon to Guernsey via Weymouth, charged 1s 1d
Apparently 10d for 120-170 miles direct to Weymouth + 3d packet charge

The Channel Islands are separate Crown Dependencies, but for postal purposes were generally treated as if part of England. Mail was carried by private ship before a packet service was established from Weymouth in 1794 (although there is mention of an earlier service from Southampton with no separate charge); indeed, even after the establishment of a Post Office packet much mail was carried privately and the ship letter charges were often not paid in the Islands. As for the internal charges, mail from south-west England might be routed direct to Weymouth by cross post, but otherwise was routed via London first.

Inland postage within the islands was to be charged on the English (from 1801 British) scale, although examples are seldom seen. There was a Jersey Penny Post from 1831.

Date Auth. Sngl Dble Trbl Oz +ea.
Ľoz
Between Other rates added where relevant Notes
1794
(6 Feb)
34 Geo 3 c.18 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d UK and
Guernsey or Jersey
To/from Weymouth Island inland charges on English scale (British scale from 5 Apr 1801)
2d 4d 6d 8d +2d Guernsey and Jersey Island inland carriage
1805
(12 Mar)
45 Geo 3 c.11 3d 6d 9d 1s +3d UK and
Guernsey or Jersey
To/from Weymouth Island inland charges on British scale
2d 4d 6d 8d +2d Guernsey and Jersey Island inland carriage
1837
(12 Jul)
1 Vic c.34 3d 6d 9d 1s +3d UK and
Guernsey or Jersey
To/from Weymouth
3d 6d 9d 1s +3d Guernsey and Jersey Island inland carriage

Isle of Man 1766-1839

The Isle of Man is a separate Crown Dependency, but for postal purposes was generally treated as if part of England. Mail was carried by private ship before the first packet service was established between Whitehaven and the main island port of Douglas in 1766, with Douglas becoming a sub-office of Whitehaven. There were repeated complaints about the quality of the service, and in 1822 the packets were switched to Liverpool, with the Isle of Man (Douglas, for practical purposes) becoming a Post Town in its own right.

There were no official internal island posts until 1832 (although there is mention of unofficial ones); the rates were 4d from Douglas to most of the island, but 5d to Ramsay which just fell into the 15-20 mile band. In 1838 these internal posts were converted into an Isle of Man Penny Post for a considerable saving.

Date Auth. Sngl Dble Trbl Oz +ea.
Ľoz
Other rates added where relevant Notes
1766
(5 Jan)
London Gazette, and 7 Geo 3 c.50 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d To/from
Whitehaven
Act authorised packet from 5 Jul 1767 (Tynwald Day), regular­ising service announced in the Gazette in Dec 1765
1805
(Mar)
45 Geo 3 c.11 3d 6d 9d 1s +3d To/from
Whitehaven
1822
(6 Aug)
3 Geo 4 c.105 6d 1s 1s 6d 2s +6d To/from
Liverpool
Isle of Man upgraded to Post Town status
1832
6d 1s 1s 6d 2s +6d To/from
Liverpool and Douglas
Official internal island posts set up on General Post scale (became Penny Post in 1838)

Shetland Islands 1763-1839

The first official post to the Shetlands (to Lerwick, the only post town in this period) was a packet service sailing from Leith, and sometimes Aberdeen. Originally, charges appear to have been set on the basis of a rate between Edinburgh and Lerwick plus the rate from Edinburgh to the destination. From 1801 charges were on the "total distance by sea and land" basis as routed via Aberdeen.

Due to the unsatisfactory nature of this service, from 1816 letters were sent by any available private ship from Leith, with a rate from Edinburgh added to the postage from Edinburgh to destination. However, some continued to be charged by the previous "total distance" method, and some even appear to have been charged an 8d ship letter rate as if they were overseas mail! From 1835 packets were restarted, this time from Peterhead (215 miles by sea), with charges again made on the total distance.

A Lerwick Penny Post was not started until January 1839; previously, an unofficial post operated with charges of 1˝d, 2d, 2˝d or 3d depending on distance.

The charges below are, perforce, generally as found in Edinburgh directories rather than official Post Office records.

Date Sngl Dble Trbl Oz +ea.
Ľoz
Other rates added where relevant Notes
1763
6d 1s 1s 6d 2s +6d To/from
Edinburgh
Packet service sailing from Leith or Aberdeen
1784
(Aug)
8d 1s 4d 2s 2s 8d +8d To/from
Edinburgh
1797
(Jan)
9d 1s 8d 2s 3d 3s +9d To/from
Edinburgh
1801
(Apr)
Charged by total distance on sea and land, via Aberdeen (250 miles by sea to Lerwick)
1816
7d 1s 2d 1s 9d 2s 4d +7d To/from
Edinburgh
By private ship from Leith (but some letters charged by previous method)
1824
6d 1s 1s 6d 2s +6d To/from
Edinburgh
1835
(Jan)
By packet service
Charged by total distance on sea and land, via Peterhead (215 miles by sea from Lerwick)

Other Islands

The general "total distance" rule applied to charges on letters for the other main groups of islands around the coasts. Some specific notes follow.

Orkney Islands: Most mail was sent via Wick to Kirkwall, the main post town (sea distance 45 miles). From about 1830, some mail appears to have been sent via Leith also (sea distance 240 miles).

The Hebrides: Mails for Skye and the Outer Hebrides were routed via Inverness, those for Mull and the southerly islands via Glasgow.

Scilly Isles: A post office opened in St Mary's in 1804 as a sub-office to Penzance (sea distance 30 miles). A 2d charge has been seen on letters between the Scilly Islands and Penzance, although this may have been reduced to 1d as illegal in 1836.

Internal Ship Letters

A "ship letter" was one carried by a private vessel (as opposed to one contracted to the Post Office). This was common and officially sanctioned for overseas mails, but rare and of at best debatable legality for mails carried within the British Isles. Letters are occasionally seen which have been charged the current ship letter rate in additon to inland postage, as for foreign letters, but this option was not included in legislation until 1835.

Date Auth. Single Double Treble Ounce +ea.
Ľoz
Other rates to be added where relevant Notes
until
1835
Current ship letter charge To/from
each port if relevant
Not authorised by Act of Parliament
1835
(21 Aug)
5/6 Wm 4 c.25 8d 1s 4d 2s 2s 8d +8d To/from
each port if relevant
Between two ports in the British Isles