Colonel Townshend

The Honourable Colonel Townshend, in London,
from Haute Ville Boulogne, 1836.


Eunice Shanahan

Letter dated July 4th 1836 from Haute Ville Boulogne, to The Honourable Col. Townshend, 25 Bolton Street Piccadilly. The postmarks are obviously the Twopenny post and the transfer stamp looks to be dated JY 5 4 Eg . This is a mystery, as there does not seem to be an explanation for the French address, as everything else points to it being a Twopenny Post letter.

  • Receiving office of the Twopenny Post, Oxford Street C.O, near Manchester Square, was in the Town lists of 1828 and 1837
  • the 2d handstamp. Up to 1805 all Twopenny Post letters were subject to the same charge, 2d, and those not prepaid were stamped with this large 2 about 29mm high at one of the Principal Offices. This continued in use but was later reduced in size to 22mm.
  • the unpaid date stamp was a new type introduced in 1836, and could have been applied at either of the two principal offices.
  • Is this likely to have been sent from Boulogne on the 4th and arrived in London on the 5th and if so, why is there no stamp to show it is a foreign letter? The address inside appears perfectly legible as Haute Ville Boulogne, but it is 2 penny post item lodged in Oxford St CO and had no country of destination in the address it is a mystery. Can anyone interpret the senders address in any other way?

    Is it possible that it could have been carried privately from Boulogne to London and then put into the Oxford St Receiving office? But surely not within one day?

    Is there a blindingly obvious answer to this question?

    We posted a query on the Great Britain Philatelic Society discussion board to see if there was anyone who could solve either of the queries for us. We received a reply from Winston Williams, a member of the GBPS.


    Re question 1, I would have thought given the regular cross channel steam service then running, it could easily have been privately carried over by a passenger who arrived in London the next day and put it in the post to catch the 4 o'clock afternoon post.

    You might even be able to give a good guess on what ship it was carried if you look in British newspapers of the day, like the London Shipping Gazette


    1) I checked this online but could only find from 1837 and this letter is 1836, but believe it is available if you have access to the source

    The amazing thing to me is that there were 4 pages of the newspaper giving the details of shipping in and out of London on that one day, which just goes to show the importance of shipping to trade and communication in the mid 19th century.

    2) The only word we cannot read is the signature. Could it be Scunthorpe? Grimthorpe? But there is no dot above the middle letter H…Thorpe?

    3) We could find nothing about The Honble Col. Townshend, on the internet, and from other letters in our collection to the Viscount Sydney (Thomas Townshend and family) there does not appear to be a Colonel in their line, but Bolton Street Piccadilly is still there – at least the houses on one side of the street are still standing.

    So, after all this background information, here finally, is the transcription of the perfectly legible letter.

    Haute Ville, Boulogne,
    July 4th
    You are just in supposing your name was well known to me, having frequently heard my excellent and beloved Brother in law mention you. Pray accept my thanks for your consideration in writing to me; tho’ the intelligence your letter contained has as you may imagine, greatly distressed me & my children. May I further intrude on your goodness & request you to tell me if you think my presence would be any alleviation to an afflicted friend?

    I have written a few lines to him saying I will immediately go to him & if he will allow me to offer what consolation the society of my children & self might occasionally afford him, I should feel most happy, & thankful.

    I entreat therefore you will have the kindness to find out from my dear Brother whether he would wish to see me. I cannot help flattering myself with the expectation & hope that the use of his Lands may be restored to him. His servant I am sure will be all attention to his good Master, & in you I know he has a true & valued friend, which must be an inestimable blessing in his dependant situation.

    Believe me Sir
    Your obliged
    Alicia …..thorpe

    The impression I get from reading this letter, is that a fellow soldier, or officer, of Colonel Townshend has lost his wife, who may be the sister of the writer of our letter, as she mentions him as her beloved Brother in law, and perhaps Colonel Townshend would be the supporting officer and friend. Old letters like this often pose unanswerable questions, and unless a visitor to the website contacts us to give us other details, we can never know.

    References: “British County Catalogue of Postal History Vol 3. London” by R.M. Willcocks & B. Jay
    The Local Posts of London 1680-1840 by George Brumell.

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