Too Late Postmarks

'Too Late'  and  Late Fee  postmarks.

By Eunice Shanahan

The 'Late Fee' was in use from 1790 at the Chief Office of the General Post in London. It cost 6d (six pence) and could be paid only between 7pm and 7.45 pm to ensure despatch of the letter in that night's mails. The mail counter closed at 7 pm, but the mails were actually despatched at 8pm. There were three different postmarks while the system was in effect. First a square frame, then a circular frame and then a square frame again. This square one was used from 1813 until the early 1850's. They were usually applied in red ink. This example showing the date as 2 MA 2 1815 left London that night, and travelled to Aberdeen via Edinburgh, where it received a morning date stamp.

As a matter of interest, the figures written on the front '2/2' which has a line drawn through it, and '2/6' are the postage charges. The 2/2 is incorrect as it is the rate for London to Edinburgh, but the letter was going beyond Edinburgh, to Aberdeen, which was 528 miles from London — and that was 1/3d for a single letter. However, the letter had an enclosure, so it cost double the amount. It also incurred the Scottish Additional Halfpenny tax — stamp applied in London, of the type in use from 1813-17.

The "TOO LATE" stamp was adopted by the Post Office as a counter measure against the complaints from the general public of delayed delivery. The collection times of the mails were advertised, and if letters were received after the stated time, and the sender did not intend to pay the additional 'Late Fee' charge, the letters received the 'TOO LATE' stamp.

These stamps varied from town to town and are an interesting study.

If the letter is complete, the other postmarks, and the contents of the letter also add to the story.

Where the Too Late stamp is on a complete letter, I may have transcribed it on the webpage. If the letter has no interest for you, use the BACK arrow on your browser to return to the postmark page or click on the 'NEXT' for the next type of Too Late mark.

This first section will illustrate the 'straight line' Too Late marks — framed and unframed.

Straight line