'Money Letters' and Other Inland Registration Forerunners


This display is an overview of the ways that people sent valuables through the post before the introduction of a formal Post Office registration service in 1841, covering both the Post Office and private methods. The growing volume of trade and commerce by the late 18th century inevitably meant that items of monetary worth often had to be sent through the mails, and their loss became of increasing concern to the Post Office.

'Money Letters': In 1788 John Harraden, Clerk of the Money Book in the Inland Office, devised a general system for the registration of property letters. He proposed that an office in London should be set up to accept letters for registration on payment of a fee; they would be advised separately on letter-bills, enabling their progress to be traced. Although his plan was not fully implemented, a truncated version of its ideas came into operation in 1792.

From 22nd September 1792 the public were encouraged to hand their "Money Letters" to the window clerk or postmaster. The addresses were written on the letter-bills, the letters wrapped in the bill for onward despatch, and a signature taken on delivery. In effect, they were given de facto registration at no additional charge (but as they contained enclosures by definition, they were liable to at least a double rate). This was "a mere rule of the Office" in order to reduce losses from the post – it only applied to items of intrinsic value such as coins and jewellery (whose shape and weight made them readily detectable when enclosed in a letter), and no liability for losses was admitted. It was finally abandoned on 10th January 1840 upon the commencement of the Uniform Penny Post, due to fears that it would be impossible to handle an increased number of Money Letters.

Banknotes: The turn of the 19th century was the heyday of private banking in Britain, and notes and bills in letters became a convenient way to transfer funds. They were especially useful if money had to be sent over long distances, or in large amounts. The "Money Letter" system did not cover letters containig only "valuable Paper", which were not easily distinguishable inside a letter. The officially recommended method for mailing notes was to cut them in two and send each half by a separate post - an expensive procedure. As a result of this advice, the designs of banknotes were altered from 1792 to include the serial number at both ends.

Arrangement of the Display: the four virtual "frames" are divided up as follows:

Section Description Pages
Introduction Scene-setting material. 1-2
Money Letters The Money Letter system from 1792 to 1839. 3-32
Banknotes by Post Ways of sending "valuable Paper" via the mails. 33-42
Alternative Methods Assorted ways of sending items of value, both public and private. 43-55
Registration in Ireland Distinct features of the independent Irish Post Office. 56-60
Parliamentary Papers Legislation and Parliamentary reports related to registration. 61-64


Frame 1

  1. Types of Valuable Item Sent Through the Post Office
  2. Sending Articles of Value Without the Postal Service

Early Money Letters
  1. 'Money Letters' - The First Steps in Inland Registration
  2. 1802 Money Letter with Mixture of Cash and Valuable Paper
  3. Early Money Letter with Valuable Paper and Local Delivery Charge
  4. 2d Post Returned Letter Wrapper with Money Letter Reference
Local Posts
  1. Money Letters Sent by Local Posts
  2. Money Letter Sent Wiithin a Penny Post
Postal Forms
  1. 1820s Inter-Office Letter Bills with Specific Provision for Money Letters
  2. See sheet 9
  3. Accounting Form for Missent and Redirected Letters with Space to Note Money Letters
  4. See sheet 11
  5. Official Wrappers for Money Letters
'Compulsory Registration'
  1. 'Compulsory Registration' of Letters Containing Money
  2. Supposed Money Letters
  3. Supposed Money Letters

Frame 2


Money Letters in Practice
  1. 'Cash Letter' Endorsement on 1812 Letter
  2. Cash Letter Re-Rated by Inspector Due to Additional Enclosure
  3. The Cost of Money Letters
  4. Chelsea Out-Pensioner Requesting New 'Instructions'
  5. Multiple Bills and Notes Sent in Money Letters
  6. Franked Money Letters
  7. Money Letters to 'People in a Humble Sphere of Life'
  8. 'A Small Coin in the Letter'
  9. Stating Good Reasons for Sending as a Money Letter
  10. Collected Subscriptions Sent as a Money Letter for Safety
  11. 'Valuable not Money' Endorsement
  12. Avoiding Confusion when Money Was Not Sent
2d Post Returned Letter Wrappers
  1. 1825 2d Post Returned Letter Wrapper with Money Letter Reference
  2. 1826 2d Post Returned Letter Wrapper with Money Letter Reference
  3. 1828 2d Post Returned Letter Wrapper with Money Letter Reference
  4. 1831 2d Post Returned Letter Wrapper with Money Letter Reference

Frame 3


Sending Half Banknotes
  1. In the Absence of Registration
  2. Benefits of Sending Bank Notes in Halves
  3. Official Recommendation to Send Bank Notes in Halves
  4. Ingenious Mail Robbery, 1808
  5. Sending Half Bank Notes by Post
Sending Complete Banknotes
  1. Sending Whole Banknotes by Post
  2. £1500 Bank Post Bill Sent in Ordinary Letter
  3. Pound Note Sent 'With Care'
  4. Notice to Postmasters Regarding Valuables by Post and Money Letters, 1830
  5. See sheet 41

The Money Order Office
  1. Alternatives to the Post
  2. The Money Order Office
  3. The Money Order Office - Warning Regarding Use of Revenue Stamps
Private Carriers
  1. Acknowledgement of Banknotes Sent by Carrier 1785
  2. His Lordships Silver Plate Sent by Two Carriers
  3. Letter Carriers Annual Account Including Cash Letter 1812

Frame 4


Private Carriers (cont)
  1. Request to Pay Money Sent 'Per Dairymaid'!
Post Office Provision
  1. Request to Send £100 in a Sealed Parcel Care of the Postmaster
  2. Handwritten Cheque Sent by Post
  3. A Novelist Complains to the Post Office Secretary
  4. GPO Notice Sent with Reply to Missing Letter Enquiry, 1837
  5. GPO Notice Sent with Reply to Missing Letter Enquiry, 1837
  6. Bankers Parcels
  1. Money Letters in Ireland
  2. Money Letters in Ireland
  3. The Irish Double Size Registration System
  4. Dublin REGISTER'D Mark on Letter Going Beyond Ireland
  5. 'Supposed Money Letter' in Dublin Penny Post
  1. The Bankers Parcels Act 5 Geo IV cap.20
  2. Post Office Act of 1835 - Registration Clause
  3. Post Office Act of 1837 - Registration Clause
  4. Tenth Report of the Commisioners of Inquiry 1838