Harry Davidson, W.S. Edinburgh, 1820

Letters from the past

"Missing banknotes sent in the mail, 1820"

Harry Davidson Esq Writer to the Signet, Edinburgh

From Duncan Campbell, Inveraray, 1820

This letter is written on a very large sheet of paper with a very interesting watermark.

We have many different watermarks on our various old letters, but have never seen this one before. It does not have the name of the papermaker under this shield and crown, and the year 1814 is on the other half of the paper, not shown in this illustration.

The letter is sealed with the use of a beautiful signet ring, which has what looks like a swan standing with a motto above the head BE MINDFUL and at the bottom of the seal, the initials D C in a very fancy script. These are obviously the writer Duncan Campbell’s initials.


It has three postal markings 1) a poorly applied boxed INVERARAY mileage mark 464 - G where it was lodged, (the town name is usually written as INVERARY)

2) the charge mark of 4/6-1/2, which would have had to be paid by the addressee, and then

3) the Circular date stamp from Edinburgh on arrival FEB 10 1820 with B on the left to identify the hand stamp and M on the right to show it was dealt with in the morning.

Rockhill 7d ffeby 1820

Dear Sir,
Since writing you of this date with £353. 6/8 in Bank notes, I found the cover too small for the whole. I have therefore taken out of that letter £100 Stg of £5 notes which you will please receive inclosed and I remain

Dear Sir
Yours truly
Dunc. Campbell


This postage charge seems enormous, and to work out the cost, the mileage involved has to be known. The distance between these two towns via Glasgow, is about 110 miles, within the range of 80 to 120 miles which is a basic cost of 9d. So to make up the 4/6 this would be 6 times the basic rate, plus the additional halfpenny Scottish mail tax. The contents of the letter explains why it was charged so much above the basic rate.

So the answer to the high cost of postage is that this sheet of paper would have been folded and would have held 20 of the English Five-Pound notes, which counted as an enclosure and would then be weighed to work out the charges. There was a daily mail coach between the two places, and on the map it does not look to be a great distance. A perfect temptation to the rogues who held up the mail coaches to rob the contents of the mail bags.

Copyright By EARS Leisurewrite
Reference: ‘ Great Britain Post Roads Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839 Alan W. Robertson ’

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