Registration Labels in the UK:
Forerunners and Introduction


Two of the most important requirements of a registration service are (a) marking letters clearly, so they cannot be confused with ordinary letters, and (b) identifying them in an unambiguous way when they are transferred between offices (or officers). The method generally adopted worldwide was to use a numbered "R" label of a distinct pattern, but in the British postal system the introduction of these was greatly delayed. This exhibit will outline the background for this.

Early registered letters in the UK were distinguished by being wrapped in green covers in transit, then from 1857 tied with green tape, replaced by blue crossed lines drawn on the cover in 1878. Numbered "R" labels were used in parts of continental Europe from the 1860s, which led to an early UPU rule that registered articles should bear a label or mark with a prominent capital "R" (for recommandé), with the option to add office name and identifying number. The latter were made a requirement by the 1897 Washington UPU Conference, to take effect 1st January 1899.

This number system was a great simplification compared to the more traditional method used by the British post office, in which registered items were identified on letter‑bills by the laborious process of writing out the name and address at each stage. The use of numbered labels allowed the item to be quickly and simply noted as (e.g.) "Townsville No. 1234". Official inertia meant no significant steps to implement this until 1905, with labels introduced on 18th February 1907.


Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Private Labels Used For Registered Mail
  3. Private Labels of Lloyds Bank Group Companies
  4. "R" Motifs for Distinguishing Registered Letters
  5. "R" Labels for Small Offices
  6. "R" Fee Paid Labels
  7. Overseas Labels on Registered Mail from the UK
  8. Official Complaints from the US Post Office
  9. Instructions on the Label System for Postmasters
  10. The UK Style of Numbered Registration Labels
  11. First Day of Use of Numbered Registration Labels
  12. Delay in Issue of Registration Labels in Scotland
  13. The Four Types of Registration Label in 1907
  14. "Sub‑Office" Labels for Large Posters
  15. Identification of "Large Poster" Sub‑Office Numbers
  16. Registration Labels on Incoming Letters