The Transition from Maltese Cross to Barred Numeral Obliterators


The Maltese Cross obliterators served for almost four years before they were superseded, in 1844, with "barred numeral" obliterators, so-called as they comprised a series of horizontal lines with a number in the centre to signify the Post Town that had cancelled the mail.

This idea is accredited to Francis Abbott, at the time, a Senior Clerk in the Secretary's Office at the General Post Office in London. He had earlier suggested that each significant Post Town be allocated an individual number but due to the high number of Post Towns requiring a unique number, five different
designs were adopted. Their introduction occurred over a seven-week period, as follows:

England and Wales: on 1 May
London Inland: on 17 May
London District: on 21 May
Scotland: from 19 June
Ireland: from 21 June

Whilst there does not appear to have been any formal Post Office Notice advising Post Masters of the introduction of the new obliterators, a notice was published in several London newspapers on Friday 10 May 1844; it was widely distributed in the Provincial Press during the following week.

This exhibit illustrates, chronologically, the transition from the Maltese cross to the barred numerals for each of the five designs using last and first day usages of the cancellations supplemented with later (earliest recorded) usages.


Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. English and Welsh Provincial Post Towns
  3. English and Welsh Provincial Post Towns
  4. English and Welsh Provincial Post Towns
  5. English and Welsh Provincial Post Towns
  6. English and Welsh Provincial Post Towns
  7. English and Welsh Provincial Post Towns
  8. London Inland Office
  9. London District Office
  10. Scottish Post Towns
  11. Scottish Post Towns
  12. Scottish Post Towns
  13. Scottish Post Towns
  14. Irish Post Towns
  15. Irish Post Towns
  16. Irish Post Towns