Registration Labels in the UK:
Forerunners and Introduction
IntroductionTwo 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.