"Court case anxiety —
Brighthelmstone to London 1786 "


Eunice Shanahan

This letter is an early example of the provincial mileage mark stamps, introduced in 1784, which have the mileage (in this case 59) in front of the town name, but unfortunately, on this letter the mileage is not visible, as the stamp has been applied rather poorly — so it is a case of identifying it from the reference books.
As in so many of our letters, the address is legible, except for the second name. It is odd how many examples we have where either the addressee or the writer's names are illegible. (Fig.1)

Mr Attrie at Mr Ustofsons?
No. 205 Fleet Street London
Postal markings :-
1) Charge mark '4'. In 1784, the rates were increased by 1d for distances below 150 miles, so this step, for single letters up to 80 miles went up from 3d to 4d;
2) partially struck " 59 Bright Helmstone" 2-line in reddish black, but the mileage is not visible — and then, on the reverse of the letter
3) a London receiving Bishop Mark large size 28 IA for 28 January , the day after the letter was posted in Brighton. This type of stamp was in use from 1713 to 1787.
There is also a large red wax seal showing an animal, which looks like a hind. (Fig.2)

The Time Bill for 1797 shows a total time of 12 hours 25 mins distance of 73 miles travelling through Croydon, Godstone, East Grinstead, Uckfield, Lewes, Brighthelmstone, and Shoreham.
Left Steyning at 5 pm East Grinstead 12 am then London GPO at 5.25 am The notes say "this time to be punctually observed, that the Mail may be in London at Twentyfive minutes past Five O'Clock in the Morning."

It was a daily mail coach. As the letter was written at Shoreham, I wonder why it did not have a Shoreham postmark.

This letter was written when Brighthelmstone, was a little fishing village in Sussex. It grew in popularity when the Prince Regent — later King George IV, made it almost his second home, but he decided that the name was too cumbersome, so he suggested it be shortened to Brighton. He commissioned John Nash to build houses for him down there, and finally between 1815 and 1822 had the Royal Pavilion built for his pleasure. It met with ridicule, and condemnation for the expense, but where the 'Court' went, the rest of society followed which ensured the growth and development of Brighton.

So now to the letter — I noticed that in the first sentence he uses "Brighton" and not "Brighthelmstone", which is interesting, as according to the reference books "Brighton" was not used generally until the early 19th century.

"Shoreham January 27th 1786
Dear Sir
According to promise I have sent a Hare to Brighton to go by the Coach of tomorrow which I hope you will receive safe"
(Note : we have other letters which tell of items other than mail being sent by the mail coach, notably a Salmon from London to Canterbury!) The letter continues with an explanation as to why he is writing — his concern about his Court case.
"the anxiety I feel for the want of a Cause in which my interest and future fortunes are so materially concerned will I hope plead an excuse for my again requesting every Measure and precaution that Wisdom and prudence can dictate or the necessity of the affair require may be taken on our part, as this is a matter in which the Characters of the party's must have great weight in the minds of the Court and an impartial Jury.

I think it will be necessary most fully to inform the Counsel of the Nature of the transaction and what circumstances we can collect to substantiate the worthy character of Mr. Barnet."

(Note: He is obviously concerned about secrecy, not being prepared to name names, even in a sealed private letter. He is also letting his lawyer know that he has some ideas about presenting his case.)(Fig.3)

"In the conversation that took place between you know who on this business, the Bench asked if this was the Duke of Marlboro's Barnet, but Mr Bridger not knowing could give no answer.
I have a shrewd suspicion, he had attempted to practice some villainy on the Duke, which did not succeed quite equal to his expectations, it would be right to get at the bottom of that story if possible, and have it gently touched on in Court, in order to identify the person of the said Mr. Barnet.
I am fully persuaded you will do every thing you judge can be of any use to us. Let me know as soon as the affair is decided which God grant my be in the favor of
Your sincere Friend
T. Norton"

P.S. If you should have money to pay Waldron the Upholsterer who lives in Chatherine Street Strand, and buy me Burnes Justice."

(Note: I could not find any reference to Waldron the Upholsterer in the earliest Pigot's London directory I own, dated 1825, so maybe he was out of business by then.
'Burn's Justice' was a reference book about the law, available at that time, so presumably he wanted to check a legal point or two about his case. This is an example from the book which must have been an invaluable resource :-
"According to the Chitty's Burns' Justice, page 766, the warrant must be directed to a jailor, it must state a cause for the committal, it must show the offence, and if it be by statute that too must be stated, besides it must comply with the forms.")

Then he has turned the page and written down the side (Fig.4)

"Do not shew this letter to any one for particular reasons."

Well, 220 years later, it is going to be seen by a lot of readers of Stamp News, and visitors to our website, but reading the letter makes me wonder about the outcome of his court case.

This article was first published in Stamp News the Australian monthly magazine.

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