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Printed Materials, Patterns and Samples to 1839

Introduction

This section covers a number of concessionary rates for non-letter mail that were authorised by various Acts.

Examples of these items are not often seen, but form an interesting area for collecting! In the early days of the posts it was common for postal officials to have a sideline in supplying subscribers with newspapers and Parliamentary Proceedings, sent by post under the franking privilege, a perquisite that was officially authorised by Act of Parliament from 1764.

Newspapers

Specific newspaper rates for the public first appeared in 1784 on the creation of the independent Irish Post Office, and applied only to newspapers sent between Great Britain and Ireland (but not within either island), an odd situation that lasted until 1825 when free carriage of newspapers stamped (with a revenue stamp) for the current newspaper duty was allowed. This latter posting option continued well after 1840.

Newspapers sent free by the General Post (either franked or under the revenue stamp) were still liable to local post charges as given below. The franking privilege for newspapers ceased in 1834.

Date Auth. GB-Ire. Local posts London
1d/2d Post
Ship Notes
1784
(1 Aug)
23/24 Geo 3 c.17 (Irish) 1d As letters As letters GB-Ireland rate only applied to newspapers
from GB to Ireland
1788
(25 Mar)
29 Geo 3 c.8 (Irish) 1d As letters As letters GB-Ireland rate applied to newspapers
in both directions
1805
(12 Mar)
45 Geo 3 c.11 1d As letters free/1d 2d Post rate only applied beyond limits of General Post delivery, otherwise free
1825
(22 Jun)
6 Geo 4 c.68 free As letters free/1d
1836
(13 Aug)
6/7 Wm 4 c.54 free 1d 1d 1d rates applied only to newspapers not carried between towns by the General Post (but applied throughout 2d Post area)
1837
(1 Aug)
1 Vic c.34 free 1d 1d 1d Ship letter rate applied to newspapers carried within British Isles by private ship

Parliamentary Proceedings

These were initially treated in the same way as newspapers. However, the franking privilege for Parliamentary Proceedings was never withdrawn until the introduction of Uniform Penny Postage in 1840, and in practice "Par.Pro." packets were normally sent out under frank.

As far as public charges go, since the text of the 1825 and 1836 Acts quoted above only makes reference to newspapers, it appears that the situation in 1805 (including the 1d GB-Ireland rate) technically continued until 1837, when the confusing mess of old postal Acts were repealed and replaced with a consolidated set of Acts. These latter did not include a public inland or ship letter Par.Pro. rate, nor a special local post rate for franked proceedings.

Date Auth. GB-Ire. Local posts London
1d/2d Post
Notes
1784
(1 Aug)
23/24 Geo 3 c.17 (Irish) 1d As letters As letters
1805
(12 Mar)
45 Geo 3 c.11 1d As letters free/1d 2d Post rate only applied beyond limits of General Post delivery, otherwise free
1837
(1 Aug)
1 Vic c.34 and 1 Vic c.35 1d As letters As letters

Patterns and Samples


1837: Liverpool to Cornwall with two "copper buttons" and price information
Sealed so charged 2s 2d double rate for 300-400 miles only (not treble)

A concessionary rate for letters containing "Patterns of Cloth, Silk, Stuff, and small Samples of other Sorts of Goods, and other Things" was first introduced in 1753. A single sheet letter or cover with the word "Patterns" on the outside could have any number of samples enclosed or attached and still pass for no more than the double rate for the distance sent, as long as the whole did not weigh more than 1oz. The separate Irish Post Office Acts from 1784 introduced the additional requirements that the wrapper had to be open at the sides, and contain no writing not directly related to what was being sent.

In 1795 a rate for such unsealed wrappers with no unrelated writing was introduced for Great Britain, alongside the original sealed wrapper rate -- such wrappers could pass for no more than single rate. The rules relating to Ireland were never changed (by either the Irish or UK Parliaments) until the 1837 consolidated Postage Act which followed the GB method and made no distinction as to place. Before this, pattern post sent between Great Britain and Ireland could presumably have been charged British and Irish postage in different ways, although it should be noted early pattern post items are very rare.

The situation can be summarised as below:

Date Auth. Great Britain Ireland
Sealed Unsealed Sealed Unsealed
before
1753
normal letter rate normal letter rate normal letter rate normal letter rate
1753
(1 Jun?)[*]
26 Geo 2 c.13 double only double only double only double only
1784
(1 Aug)
23/24 Geo 3 c.17 (Irish) double only double only normal letter rate double only
1795
(5 May)
35 Geo 3 c.53 double only single only normal letter rate double only
1837
(1 Aug)
1 Vic c.34 double only single only double only single only

[*]Before the Acts of Parliament (Commencement) Act 1793, unless an Act specified a date when the changes it made came into effect, the official date was backdated to the start of the session of Parliament in which it passed (in this case January 1753). In practice, the effective legal date for the new rate would have been the day it received the Royal Assent, but for this era this is not easily accessible. One other provision of this Act specifies 1st June 1753 as the date it is to take effect, so this is the most likely date.