Instructional Marks


Instructional marks.


There are different types of instructional marks, and we do not have examples of all of them, but have put a few here on the website.

There are detailed illustrations and lot of information in the book referred to at the end of the page.

The first part of this page is related to instructional marks used to authorise changes to the charge applied on the letter.



Inspectors Crown

Inspectors Crown

Crowns were used as official confirmation of a change in the rate applied to a letter.

Many were used in London but others were used in Edinburgh, Dublin, Brighton and Glasgow

This example was in use in London between 1800 to 1840 always applied in red ink.

Inspectors Crown

G.R. Crown

This is a Scottish type, on a letter from Loch Inver to Edinburgh in June 1824. According to the reference book, British Postmarks a short history and guide — Alcock and Holland Edinburgh seems to have been later in introducing crown marks. Early in the 19th century a circular framed type with GR below was employed, and another unframed type, with the same letters, one on each side of the crown. However this example does not have a circular frame. The crown was used to confirm the change of rate from 1shilling and 1 penny plus the additional halfpenny mail tax, to two shillings and twopence halfpenny, and this amount has the initials underneath the amount.
Inspectors Crown

Inspectors Crown   detail of Crown

This is a good clear strike of this crown, clearly showing the cross above the crown. This type, applied in red ink was in use in the London General Post from 1800 to 1840.
It looks as though the crown has also been crossed through, but of course what has happened is that the crown handstamp has been applied to the incorrect charge mark of 1/ (one shilling), and the corrected charge written on the left of the address panel 2/ which was double the rate. There is no reason given for the double charge.However, the letter itself states that it has an inclosure, and that automatically doubles the charge.
Star types

Inspectors star

Another group, mainly from the London Chief Office and known from the 1790's to 1840's consists of varieties of a four-pointed star.
Some of the stamps have a solid star, but most of them are open, with a single or double frame, varying in size.

Inspectors Crown

Letters with the first type or with a similar single frame are said to have been used on letters found to be out of course, and this may be so in the cases where the letters concerned give no clue to the reason for such mark, but on other letters, in London and in Dublin, they were apparently stamped when free postage was disallowed. This may have been the case with this letter as the signature at the bottom left has been obliterated.

Inspectors Cross

This is the only example we have actually seen of this particular postal marking. The letter is dated 1800, and the General Post Receiving Office stamp is a framed Charing Crofs . The cross was applied in red ink during the years 1799-1846 and according to Willcocks & Jay are seen only on the occasional cover transferred from the General Post to the Penny or Twopenny Post, and which has been delayed for some reason. The handstamp was apparently applied in the General Post. The other manuscript marks are of interest, as these affect the cost of postage.

Erasure Stamps — Springs

Inspectors Crown

These marks were applied over charge stamps that had been incorrectly applied, charge stamps that needed amending or date or paid handstamps that had been incorrectly applied. In this example, the letter was charged as a Twopenny Post letter, but the Receiving House name behind the 2 is only partially applied, but it could be Croydon Common, which would have been in the country area, so it would have incurred the extra penny making it 3d.

Erasure Stamps — Springs

Inspectors Crown

The spring in red. This 3 was cancelled by the inspector, but why it was applied at all is a mystery. The 3d handstamps were supplied to the Twopenny Post offices in the Country area, to be applied to letters passing to or from the country area, and Lambeth was never in the Country area, always in the Town area. If you would like to read this letter and see all the postal details, click on this link.
letter to John Lamb Hare

To be delivered FREE

To be delivered free

This example is on a tiny FREE front, and the interesting thing about it is that it is addressed to Lieutenant Colonel Maberley, General Post Office and at this time he was Secretary of the Post Office. This is one of the series of stamps relating to the waiving of ordinary delivery charges for letters in connection with offices of the Post Office, certain listed charities in the administrative areas of the London, Dublin and Edinburgh Offices, and letters of serving soldiers. The main point of these stamps is that they did NOT have any connection with the parliamentary franking system and could not be so used by persons acting in their capacity as members of either House. So in this case although Skelmersdale had signed the letter on the front,(normally signifying the claim to Free postage) the free delivery was not because of his being a member of parliament, but because it was addressed to the Secretary of the post office, Lt. Col Maberley.

Above Weight

above weight

These stamps were applied in the London Office, and were confined to breaches of the Franking Regulations. The letters were not allowed to be over one ounce in weight to qualify for the free postage. The place and date of posting, written at the top of the address panel, and the signature at the bottom left show that it was a free letter, but was refused because of the weight.
Above number

above number

above number

This is the letter to the Marquess of Bute with a Double ring Crowned FREE in red dated 14 No 1836. This was an evening duty stamp of the type in use from 1807-1839. This has been struck through with 2 lines

The manuscript Inspectors mark “Above Number". This explains why the FREE stamp was cancelled and the postage charge had to be paid on delivery. The Franking Privilege was regulated and at the time this letter was written the addressee was allowed 15 incoming letters a day free of charge, and 10 letters out. On this particular day therefore, he must have received more, so the postage on this letter and any further letters received on the day was charged. These FREE postmarks were in use for almost 200 years, and they are a fascinating study, because of the variety. For more information, go to this web page on our website.

If you would like to read thisletter and see all the postal details, click on this link, letter to the Marquess of Bute

This second example has the handstamp, whereas the first one has the manuscript notation.This is only a front, not a letter, but it can be identified as a claim for the privilege of the FREE postage because of the place and date written at the top of the address panel, and the signature at the bottom left which in this case is Free G. Smith
More to Pay

More to pay

At first inspection this was a mystery to us because the letter was dated 9 April 1846, six years after the introduction of the penny post, yet it is charged two shillings (2/-) and has TWO stamps for More to Pay. The one in two lines probably applied in Scotland as that type was known in the 1850s, and the double circle one in black ink applied in London known to be in use there from 1816 to 1844, so this would be an extension of both dates.

The letter is a single sheet, with no enclosure, and is of very light paper, so it would not have weighed more than the half an ounce allowed for the penny postage. There seems to be no reason for such a huge charge on a letter at this time, yet the officials in both places deemed it necessary to stamp the letter, but not to explain WHY, or to change the charge to be collected.

BUT — closer inspection shows that things are not what they seem. 1) the 2/- at the top of the image is NOT the post charge — it may for instance have been written to indicate a total charge to be collected for other letters delivered at the same time.

2) the amount shown by the two MORE TO PAY stamps is not 2/- it is only 2

3) the place where an adhesive stamp should be (the top right hand corner of the address panel), is damaged, and indicates that a stamp which was on the letter has been removed, or fallen off, therefore the letter is classified as unpaid, and as such the postage rate was double, i.e. 2d instead of 1d.

Mystery solved, but this really does show why these old letters hold so much interest for us.

The next examples show marks used for information, rather than correction of the rates/charges



Paid 9d  

Twopenny Post markings. There are many on this letter but the instructional mark is the Paid mark

The letter was handed in at the Twickenham Two Penny Post Office.This was a Receiving Office in the country area and also a sorting office. It was in the Country area lists of the Twopenny Post from 1811.

As the General Post charge was prepaid as well as the local 2p post, the Paid stamp was applied by the Receiving office.
The stamp had a space for the correct amount to be entered,
in this case 9.

If you would like to read this letter and see all the postal details, click on this link letter from Louise d'Orléans

missent to Nottingham

Misssent to Nottingham, 6 May 1806.

In 1793 it was decided that missent letters should be forwarded to their correct destination from the office at which the missending was discovered, instead of being sent to the Dead Letter Office in London.

This example is only the outside wrapper of a letter written from Newcastle upon Tyne to Newark, but at this time it had to come to London, before going back to Newark. By some mischance it had been wrongly despatched, so to explain the delay the words Missent to Nottingham 5 was written in red ink.

Postage to London not paid   postage to London not paid


Both of these have the same stamp, which was in use from 1808 to 1819. The reason for the stamp in both cases was that the letters were re-directed, as they could not be delivered to the original address, and the addressee would have had to pay this extra charge when the letter was finally delivered.

The first is an entire letter sent in 1814 from Edinburgh to London, and then re-directed to Deventry.

The second item is only part of a letter sent from Calcutta to London, and then re-directed to St Andrews Square in Edinburgh. It is a marvellous piece of postal history because it has 10 different postmarks and charges. It is a pity that it has no contents of the letter attached.

Returned from Worthing

Returned from Worthing

This is a Free Front, (which,like the example for the above number) is also signed by G. Smith who had obviously been down in Worthing, but as he had returned the letter was re-directed to Brighton. The date of March 1831 was the height of the popularity of those two South coast towns, because of the lead set by the Prince Regent, later to become King George IV. People who could not afford the rents of the houses in Brighton stayed in Worthing, and travelled the short distance involved to all the Society functions.

TOO LATE marks
Self explanatory really, but they are so varied in shape and content that we have a separate collection of this particular postmark, so it is on the website. click here to go to that section


Although there are only 4 different types of this Scottish Mail Tax, most Scottish towns used them, as did London, and a few other English towns. We have another collection of this particular postmark as well, so it is on the website separately. click here to go to that section

Sources acknowledgment:-

British County Catalogue : London by R.M. Willcocks & B. Jay.

British Postmarks A short History and Guide by R.C. Alcock and F.C. Holland

Herewith my Frank by J.W. Lovegrove

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