In January 1829, a couple of weeks after he had returned from his sales trip to Yorkshire, Michael Goodall set off to try his luck in the west of England. His next three letters were all posted in Bristol , which is 122 miles from London on the Great West Road. This was a 16 hour journey by mailcoach, and in January it would have been very cold and probably unpleasant with rain or snow or sleet. I still find it astonishing that such journeys could be undertaken at all, let alone on a daily basis. After all, there were no street lights, and in January in England it is dark by about 4 in the afternoon, and although the coaches had lamps, they were not the illuminating beams of modern technology. The driver had to keep a timed record of each of the stopping points, and as the mailcoaches from the West of England were timed to arrive in London at 8 o'clock each morning much of the journey would have been through the night.
All three of the letters have similar postal markings :-
1) a black circular datestamp of Bristol
2) a red circular morning-duty receiving date stamp of London
3) manuscript charge marks. These of course are all in sterling — i.e. 12 pence = one shilling, 14 pence = one shilling and twopence — written as 1/2.
They were all posted on a different day, and received in London the day after posting.
The first letter dated 17th January 1829 was posted in Bristol that day and was received in London January 18th, where it cost his head office 10d to receive it. In the letter he says :
" Dear John ,
The enclosed orders please attend to. I have your letter to Mr Woods, and the parcel to The Rummer. Mr Wood's address will always find me at Bristol. Have looked around the Bristol people to prepare them for Monday. Shall leave this for The Ram Inn Gloucester, Wednesday morning before breakfast, be at The Fleece, Cheltenham Thursday night, and The Bell, Worcester, Saturday — in haste,
yours truly, M Goodall.
P.S. please send me the remainder of my cigars in next parcel, I find them useful this cold weather."
The inside page of the letter is filled with details of the sales he has made and the orders taken. He notes the names of customers he has called on, and lists the sales and orders he has made, showing that he stopped at Bath on the way.
(Note: As a matter of interest, 'the Rummer' he refers to in the letter is a well-known public house. Also, it seems likely that Mr. Woods rented out rooms and provided meals for commercial travellers such as Mr Goodall. Many travellers preferred to stay at private 'digs' rather than in hotels and public houses — they were usually quieter! Nearly all the references to places where he stayed were the public houses, many of them are probably still in existence.)
Bath was a noted health spa where the upper classes stayed to drink the mineral water, or to bathe in them,(in the baths built by the Romans about two centuries earlier, and known by them as Aqua Sulis). Bath is also important from the postal historian's point of view as it was where Ralph Allen and John Palmer lived. Both of these men made significant contributions to the development of the postal services.
He then adds
..." what you cannot do of these orders, get at some of the neighbours. Let me have Jackson Pratts stripe books."
When the letter was received by the Head office, notations on the orders show that the clerk has initialled that the sales have been entered, and the orders noted.
The second letter was posted in Bristol, 19th January and received in London Jan 20th 1829. Like the first letter, the manuscript charge of 10d was the correct rate for a single sheet letter for a distance between 120 and 170 miles from London.
" Dear John,,
I send you this to say I shall not be able to get done here till Thursday, will remit tomorrow. Things are not very busy here and bad weather
Yours truly, Michael Goodall.
If anything, address to Mr Woods."
Among the sales and orders he lists Rhoda Green, Bristol,
1 doz navy blue handkerchiefs, 10/- 100
1 doz Monteiths 12/6, 87 474 475
6 doz sorted handkerchiefs 10/- all sold.
(Note :- a 'Monteith' was a cotton coloured handkerchief with a white design. He sold hundreds of handkerchiefs! These were apparently an essential item of dress — probably used to ward off the disgusting smells from the unsewered city streets, and from other less attractive aspects of 19th century life).
The ladies hankies were often wisps of fine Scottish cambric and elaborately decorated with lace and with embroidered initials and coats of arms. On the other hand, the men's handkerchiefs were more sturdy, but still decorative. When pantaloons and trousers were first brought into fashion, they did not have pockets, so a handkerchief was — as the name implies — held in the hand. This being the case, it would be very visible, and so could not be just any old piece of cloth! They were often quite fancy, coloured or plain, often with patterned borders, and with embroidered monograms.
Then he adds...
" Rhoda Green's order may wait till you get fresh from Glasgow."
Maybe Rhoda Green would have been lucky — if the London office managed to get their supplies from neighbours or from the manufacturers in Scotland. Glasgow at this time had a flourishing cloth industry, and from other letters in this correspondence, it is apparent that Goodall and Alston being Scotch Warehousemen sold a lot of the Scottish products.
The third letter was sent from Bristol, on January 21st, 1829 and received in London on 22nd January. The postage on this one cost 2/6d, and this amount was again written on both the front and the back of the letter. This is three times the basic rate — signifying that it was either overweight, or contained an enclosure, or was more than one single sheet. Luckily, the contents of the letter contains the explanation.
Enclosed is 123.3.11d cash and bills. Please attend to the orders. Giles, and Thomas & Parnell deserve your best attention.
This is a perfect example of written records helping to explain historical details. For instance, the amount of money quoted 123.3.11d could not have been included in loose cash, as the letter was only a single sheet folded over and sealed, so it must have been paper money.
In this regard, the General Post Office had issued a Notice as early as November 24th 1797, advising customers that when they sent such Bank Notes through the post, they should be cut in two pieces, and posted at different times, the second one not being sent until receipt of the first piece was acknowledged. The Notice also advised persons who did not approve of this mode of remitting Notes or Drafts, payable to Bearer, on ACCOUNT OF THE INCREASED POSTAGE, were advised to send Bills of Exchange or Bank Post Bills, MADE PAYABLE TO THE PERSON TO WHOM THEY ARE SENT, OR SPECIALLY INDORSED TO SUCH PERSON OR ORDER.
Sir Francis Freeling 1764-1826
Sir Francis began his career in the Post Office at Bristol. He later became Secretary to the Post Office, 1798 until his death in 1826. He was one of the Post Office's great administrators. As is shown on the Post Office Notice, he was in fact a Joint Secretary with Anthony Todd in 1797.
This postcard (copyright National Postal Museum London) was issued for Stamp World 90, the International Stamp Exhibition held in London that year. It shows the portrait of Sir Francis which is part of the Post Office Collections. The card also has information about the National Postal museum — address, and opening hours etc.
Money Matters — Bank Notes by post
Although this letter is not part of the Alston correspondence, it is corroborative evidence of the accepted practice. The letter, dated September 2 1828, from Major Bull of White Oak Newbury was sent to a firm of solicitors, Messrs Williams, Whitmore & Co of 9 New Square, Lincolns Inn London.
The letter begins :-
I have received yours inclosing two halves of a hundred pound note, and a five pound note for which I am much obliged.
The balance of £4. 15. 3d you will be so good as to pay to Mrs Bevan."
He then continues his letter concerning the sale of the Estate and ends with this paragraph:-
Will you be so good as to send a note to Mrs Bevan to say the money will be at her Bankers on Saturday next as Mr Bevan omitted saying this in his letters."
The solicitors have noted on a fold of the letter :
"3rd Sept 1828 — ansd enclosing the other halves , sent Mrs Bevan the £4. 15.d".
Another interesting point demonstrated in this correspondence is the number of ladies who were in business. At this time — remember this is more than 150 years ago, long before the concept of 'Women's Lib' — many unmarried ladies supported themselves by setting themselves up as milliners, or dressmakers. Many adopted fanciful names — often French — and called themselves 'modistes' to add a touch of class, to enable them to sell their services to the upper ten thousand. The aristocracy and nobility were very fashion conscious, and their patronage could make or break a dressmaker. There was no trip to a chainstore (the modern miracle of convenience shopping), to buy ready-made clothes.
To keep in business the dressmakers had to have the latest materials and knickknacks, which they obtained from the travelling salesmen such as Michael Goodall, the representative of Goodall and Alston.
On this west of England journey, Michael Goodall covered 322 miles by the time he had returned to his London office. He did not go to Bath and Bristol again until April — his next journey was only as far as Newbury and Reading. After that it was on to Worcester and Shrewsbury, a different part of the country, and another 450 miles travelling. These journeys were only made possible because of the improved roads and transport — but that is another story.