This letter was posted in London and addressed to Miss Carmichael. Litcham, near Rougham Norfolk. It has only two postal markings (Fig 1) :
1) London double ring evening duty date stamp JY 21 1824 with C letter stamp at side. A distinctive evening duty stamp was first used in 1795. It was usually applied in black, but occasionally in blue. This stamp was a double rimmed circle with the day in a smaller circle in the centre, the month at the top and the year, in two figures at the bottom. (Fig.2)
The double rim was usually an 'extra' stamp used at busy times. A variation of this evening duty stamp was in use in January and February only, during 1798. This example is a 19mm single rim circle, with the day in a small circle, and the year in two figures, but it had in addition a code letter outside the circle, not inside. This example is the letter G, and the letters from A to H are known. (Fig.3)
From 1800 the year was shown in 3 figures instead of 2. This was a double rimmed circle, with the day in a smaller circle, the month above the day, and the identifying letter at the left inside the large circle. This type of evening duty stamp was in use in the General Post until 1822. (Fig.4)
The next change was in 1823, when the stamp showed the year in full — four figures, as on this letter dated 1824. (See Fig.1) The evening duty stamps of this period can always be recognised by the fact that the year was shown in a curve, even when they were shown only in two figures. The morning duty stamps in contrast, always showed the year in a straight line. This 4-figure type was in use until 1828.
The evening duty period was always one of high speed, and the stamps were worn out every day and recut out of boxwood.
The second postal marking is the manuscript charge mark of ‘9’ — ninepence being the charge for a single sheet letter being carried a distance of between 80 and120 miles. At that time according to Alan Robertson’s listing, Rougham was 71 miles from London, so Litcham would have made the extra 9 miles to make it up to the 80 – it must have been pretty close, but it looks to be off the beaten track. The post office obviously did not miss a trick with the charging. See the map (Fig. 5)
The letter is a bit of a puzzle, as the date stamp is July, yet the letter inside is clearly
London June 20 1824. It seems to have been written by two different people, beginning with about 1½ pages with the 20th June date, and then starts again, in a different hand.
It is written on both sides of a single sheet of paper 9 x 14½ inches (approx 22 x 38cms) which has gold edges – a luxury nowadays with that metal being more than $900 an ounce! It also has a watermark of G & R TURNER — another sideline of our hobby ; the watermarks of the paper makers. It is sealed with red sealing wax and an imprint of a signet ring bearing the letter “B” presumably for Sarah Barnes who wrote the first part of the letter.
The last three lines of this part runs across the next page of writing. (Fig.6)
click here for larger image
Then the letter starts again in a very similar handwriting, but obviously not by the same person. This looks like an early form of re-cycling, as Miss Carmichael has apparently used the same piece of paper to reply. As it has no postmarks coming back to London, it must either have been kept as a copy of her reply, or it might have been carried back privately to Sarah Barnes.
Note: The next paragraph shows how angry she is with this man Smyth – he must have upset the whole family)
That is how the letter ends, with no signature or date or address. It is the kind of letter which makes me itch to find out more of the circumstances in which it was written — who was this villain ‘Smyth’ – and what had he done to stir up such enmity, and were matters ever resolved?
This article was first published in Stamp News the Australian monthly magazine.
Copyright By EARS Leisurewrite
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