Scottish Additional Halfpenny Mail Tax


Scottish Additional Halfpenny Mail Tax

by Ron Shanahan (Queensland)


All mail-carrying vehicles of any description, and even horses carrying the mail, were exempted from paying tolls for their passage through any Turnpike, Tollgate or Bar from July 15th 1785. Unfortunately a lot of the revenue for the upkeep of roads came from tolls, so the Act upset the Turnpike Trustees, who campaigned to have it repealed, but it was not until 1813 that by an Act of Parliament dated 3rd June, the repeal of the exemption of the Scottish mails was partially brought about. The Act was entitled:- "An Act to repeal the exemption from Toll granted for, and in respect of, Carriages with more than two wheels carrying mails in Scotland: and for granting a Rate of Postage, as an indemnity for the loss which arises to the Revenue of the Post Office from the Payment of such Tolls"

A bit of a mouthful for just the title! Basically it meant The Post Office must Pay. Still things don't change much — just check any current Parliamentary Acts, they are just as bad!

On June 8th, 1813, this order appeared in the Order Book of the Inland Office in London:- All letters for Scotland except for the following towns — Coldstream, Kelso, Jedburgh, Hawick, Montrose, Gallashiels, Greenlaw, Dunse, Lauder, Earlstone, and Boswell's Green — are to be charged with one single halfpenny in addition to the rates to which they are now liable, and letters coming from Scotland on and from tomorrow morning are to be charged in like manner." It must be understood that a packet weighing one oz. is only to have the additional charge of ½d not four half-pennies.

This meant that the Post Office could regain some of its losses by charging an extra ½d on every letter that was carried by a stage coach with more than two wheels, over a Toll Road in Scotland. The coaches did not have to pay each time they used a toll road as the Postmaster General's deputy at Edinburgh paid the Turnpike Trustees a regular lump sum.

Toll roads are a comparatively recent innovation in Australia, but in England in the 1830's there were more than 1,000 Turnpike Companies maintaining some 20,000 miles of roads.

Either the sender or the receiver could pay the additional half-penny charge. If the sender paid, the letter was endorsed with a manuscript ½, next to the postage rate, both in red and prefixed by paid or by the letter 'P'.

The charge could also be made by a manuscript ' ½' in the case of unpaid letters, but in this case it would be in black.

Handstamps were also used for unpaid mail. The handstamps were preferred by the Post Office and this was underlined by the issue, on 19th June, 1813, of the following:-

In cases where the stamp cannot follow the Scotch Tax so as to be perfectly distinct, the Officers must strike a fresh one, and no excuse can be admitted for sending out the Scotch Letters, other than well and clearly stamped.

However, this was not always adhered to and covers with quite late dates from places known to have had a handstamp, may be found with a manuscript ½'.

Fig 2 shows a letter posted in Dublin on October 5th 1833, with, on the front, the red square Dublin paid stamp Oc 5 1833 and the double ring red Edinburgh paid stamp Oct 7 1833. The manuscript postage rate is 1/4d plus the additional ½ making a 1/4½ rate. fig. 2.

Handstamp groups.

All the Additional ½ handstamps can be divided into four main groups.

Group 1. Addl. above ½ enclosed in a frame. ( Fig. 3. )

Group 2. Addl. above ½ without a frame. ( Fig. 4 ) .

Group 3. ½ enclosed in a frame. ( Fig. 5.)

Group 4. ½ without a frame. ( Fig 6 )

The four GROUPS can be divided into TYPES, taking into account the size and design of the frame, and whether the fraction line is a horizontal or a sloping one. There are many varieties and differences in design in these types, and distinct shape differences in the figures and letters. There are also colour differences with some marks being known in black, blue and red ink.

When I first became interested in this type of mark, I found I could get them quite cheaply, but of course those were the more common types of mark. Now that I am getting more, the missing ones are the expensive ones. Assuming , that is, that I can find them. If there is sufficient interest in this article I could perhaps follow up with some of these variations. I would also welcome correspondence with any reader with any of this type of material for exchange.

Source acknowledgment:- The Scottish Additional Halfpenny Mail Tax 1813 — 1839. K. Hodgson & W.A. Sedgewick. Published by the Authors.

Copyright EARS Leisurewrite


"These markings have fascinated collectors of British postal history for many years. The only written handbook, 'The Scottish Additional Halfpenny Mail Tax' by Ken Hodgson and Bill Sedgewick, on the subject is long out of print and sadly neither of the authors is still alive".

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