Sutton Place, Hackney

"Matthew Blunden to William Chambers, 1832"

by

Eunice Shanahan

This is a very short letter, written on a heavy cream paper with a watermark of the paper maker R. BARNARD 1830, and the main interest in this case is the four postal markings.

It is a Twopenny post letter, which was part of the postal system in London, and by 1830 there were 148 Receiving Houses in the Town area of London and these Receivers were paid a fixed annual salary of two pounds plus 1d for every ten letters taken in.

Lists were issued of these Receiving Houses, which had to be amended as they were constantly changing. There were 6 such lists published from 1794, with the reorganisation of the London Post, to January 1st 1839, when a further change was made. The Receivers sent their letters 6 times daily to the Principal Office to which they were attached.

The letter was written by Matthew Blunden in Hackney, and he lodged the letter in the Twopenny Post Receiving House HACKNEY N.O., he marked it post paid at the bottom left corner, and he paid the postage of 7d. There they applied

  • 1) The stepped framed office stamp, in blue ink, and also
  • 2) the instructional oval Paid in blue ink. The catalogue shows this only in either red or black, and we have not seen another one in blue ink. The amount which has been paid (7) was inserted in manuscript. This stamp was only used in Country Receiving houses on letters which pre-paid the postage on General Post letters. Hackney N.O Receiving house was in the Country lists of the Twopenny Post in 1827 but was transferred to the Town lists, and then appeared in 1837, 1838 and 1839.

    The letter was then transferred to the Chief office of the Twopenny Post, where it received

  • 3) the date stamp in red ink, with the PAID at the top with the year either side of that word 18 32 the month and day in the centre FE 9 and the time of the collection at the bottom of the stamp 7 NIGHT 7. The Chief office stamp always had the month before the day.
  • The letter was then transferred to the General Post, where it received
  • 4) the circular PAID date stamp for 9 FEB 1832, and the charge of 7 also applied in red ink. This covered a distance of between 30 and 50 miles and Reading was 38 miles from London.
  • So now to the letter

    It is addressed to Wm Andrews Esqre, Foulney Green, Reading, Berks.

    Although it is hard to read the address on the outside of the envelope, the inside writing is completely legible.

    Sutton Place Hackney feb 8 1832

    Dear Sir

    I Return you many thanks for a draft wich I received for six pounds twelve shillings and ten pence

    Your Humble

    Servant

    Matthew Blunden


    I could find no information about the addressee William Chambers or where he lived, foulney Green Reading, but the writer, Matthew Blunden, lived in a house in a terrace which is still lived in today and this information and image was accessed through Wikipedia.

    Description

    On the south side, is a stock–brick three–storeyed terrace of Georgian houses built by Charterhouse. The terrace was likely to have been designed by its inhouse surveyor, William Pilkington, between 1790 and 1806. It was then leased to William Collins in 1809. The terrace replaced a school in the large medieval Tan House (occupied by Thomas Sutton in Tudor times) which occupied the site at the east end of the terrace, next to Sutton House. Sutton Place was constructed along the line of the short path across Church field, connecting Upper Homerton with the parish church of St John-at-Hackney. The terrace is ‘soot washed ’. This was a technique whereby the entire frontage was given a coating of soot, before fine white lining was applied to the darkened mortar between the bricks. This gave the appearance of’much finer brickwork. The terrace appears uniform, but numbers 1 and 2 are the earlier and finer houses, with ‘barrel' backs. Wrought iron railings and a light well separate the frontages from the street, with under pavement cellars for each house. It is a condition of the listing that external decoration must be black. This emphasises the austere look of the terrace.

    The north side of the street consists of villas built in 1820, also listed. The street survives intact, as it remained in the ownership of Charterhouse into the 20th century. Sutton Place has itself appeared in the film of Virginia Woolf’s The Hours.

    There is another side to life in a terrace house such as this, and this is a description of the downstairs side, in the time this letter was written.

    As many as three servants would live and work in the basement of each house, hauling coal from the cellars to the grates in the upper house. The basements would have consisted of a small sitting (and sleeping) room, together with a kitchen at the back; with all the household cooking performed on a small range. Because this was such a small space, many of the washing and cooking activities took place in a range of small sheds at the rear of the buildings.

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