Michael Spencer In Bangalore, 1835
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Bangalore to York, 1835
This letter has a good assortment of postmarks and postal markings which allows me to trace the route taken by this letter written by Michael Spencer in 1835 from Bangalore in the southern Highlands of India to his father I. Spencer, The Plantation, Nr. York in England.
It began on November 10th 1835 when it was written partly by Michael and partly by his wife Ellen. The writer noted on the bottom left corner of the front of the letter Bangalore November 14 1835 - then at the top he wrote 'Post Paid' - and then at the back of the letter 'To be sent by the first ship to England'. Then, in another handwriting 'postage pd to Madras As 14'.
The first postmark was a boxed 'BANGALORE POST PAID' postmark, in red ink, rather faint after all these years. From there it went to Madras where it received two postmarks, an oval datestamp in black MADRAS 17 NO 17 1835 and then the oval MADRAS OUT STATION SHIP LETTER date stamp also for 17 November - so it took 3 days to get it to the despatch point. The next postmark was the boxed INDIA LETTER PORTSMOUTH in England but that was undated, so the next was the London, morning duty circular datestamp showing the code letter F, and the date 23 MR 23 1836, which should only have been a day or so after the letter had been received in Portsmouth. There is no receiving town stamp to show when it was received in York. This is a total of 4 months for the journey.
(From the Stamp Atlas : Stuart Rossiter & John Flower)
The charge marks on the letter (which must cover the cost of the inland postage, as it was marked post paid, and perhaps the amount paid in India only took it to the first port in England?) This is a query as Portsmouth to London is 72 miles and London to York is 195, so combined total is 267 miles which should have cost 1/- so why was it altered to 1/4d?
The inside page of the letter has been cut out, (except for the place and date) and the rest of the letter is one of these really messy crossed letters, written on twice all over the pages, so that it is a puzzle to see where the letter continues from one page to another, plus it is written in two different hand writings, one of which is rather thin and faint. As a result I cannot be 100% sure of all the words - but that is one of the challenges of these old family letters.
On the inside the only two lines that are left where the rest was cut off are quite tantalising
"almost unaccountably affected at the event in which a horse of his ran and...."
The next sentence is the end of Michael's part of the letter :- "with best love to all, believe me, your affectionate and grateful son, M.M. Spencer - Ellen writes below to Isaac."
The letter is then continued in a totally different writing, in a faint ink, and the lines are crossed, so it is very hard to read the beginning paragraphs.
"My dear brother,The page has then been turned and writing crossed
...and impress upon you most awfully the truth that "death Smites", with no distinctions, taking the strong and the weak. One of the strongest men in the Regiment Captain Borough was suddenly called to his last account after less than 24 hours illness. the event has cast a gloom over the whole Company.That is the end of Ellen's part of the letter, but then Michael takes over again on the 'ears' or 'wings' of the letter, and they are also both 'crossed', but in his case they are much easier to read, but some of the words still need deciphering!
"My dear Polly & Jinny
officers went out the other day and bagged 32 /thirtytwo/ couple of snipe - 12 of which I floored myself - this beats the Ingses at Poppleton out & out.
(*) is this why the page was removed as it included a drawing?
We have had this old letter for a long time, and I had fun checking out the location of Nether and Upper Poppleton, (which are near York), and Madras and Bangalore (in India) in our atlases at home, but nowadays they can be found on line.
I put a request on the CD archives list to see if anyone knew if there was a Mr Groves, Tailor, living in York, or Poppleton at that time, and received a reply 1/1/2002 from Margar1813@aol.com GENUKI for Yorkshire, quoting from the Baines directory of York 1823, showing that there was a record of such a man, listed among the tradesmen.
Miscellany of trades
This is just one of our letters written to and from India in the mid 19th century, and it shows how important the correspondence was at that time. The letters are full of information about the life in the new country, and reminiscences of 'home'. This letter was sent in November 1835 and took until March 1836 (nearly four months) to arrive so that you can imagine the excitement such a letter would have generated. It is such a contrast to the instant communication of the 21st century with one-line text messages full of abbreviations being sent on mobile devices directly from one person to another completely by-passing any postal systems. Life has changed forever, and there will be no necessity for postal historians in the future.
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Copyright Ears Leisurewrite 2007.