Hunt Roope Teage,Oporto 1841

Mr Dawson of Southampton, to Hunt Roope Teage & Co,
Oporto, Portugal, 1841


Eunice Shanahan

This letter addressed to Portugal has these postal markings :-

1) a SOUTHAMPTON circular date stamp JU 18 1841 with the identifying letter at the base G

2) a postal charge mark of 1/9. This is the correct rate by the Falmouth Packet.

3) Beside the stamp is a manuscript marking of 490 (I have no explanation for that mark!).

There is no postage stamp applied, as it was still not compulsory to affix adhesive stamps. However, foreign letters had to be prepaid, so this charge was applied in red ink 1/7 per ˝ oz plus 2d inland postage. This rate came into force from 10 Jan 1840.

On the outer part of the letter there is a note by the receiver

1841 Edm R. Dawson 14th June, Rd 25th day Ad (abbrev for Answered.) The interesting thing about this is that although the postmark is JU 18, at Southampton, the letter inside is dated 14th June by the writer.

The contents of the letter are purely commercial, but not less interesting because of that. The writing is absolutely clear and legible, and the ink has not faded at all over the past nearly 180 years. An internet search has confirmed that there is/was a Gloucester Square in Southampton.

Gloucester Square 14th June 1841

Messrs Hunt Roope Teage & Co

Gent I beg leave to inform you that I have opened a commission and general Agency business including that of receiving and forwarding Goods by the Steamer & other vessels trading to this port.
In soliciting to be interested in the transaction of your business here, it may not be necessary for me to do more than refer to the Merchantile Establishments in which I have been concerned, originally at Bristol & latterly under the firm of Brown Dawson & Co of London as qualifying me to serve advantageously the Interests which may be confided to me in the Department I have undertaken. I beg further to add that it is my intention to do business upon the most moderate terms, and Remain, Gentlemen

Your obt Servant

Edm’d K. Dawson

He has added Oporto to the lower left, then on the inside he has continued

I beg leave also to state that I shall always be happy to render every assistance to Passengers you may embark from or arrive at this Port.

When the letter was ready for posting Mr Dawson sealed it with red sealing wax. The very small red wax seal has a distinctive design, of four faces, of which the combination of eyes and noses overlap. I find this absolutely intriguing. This is only visible by a high resolution scan, and shows on the left side two faces looking to the left, then a central facing face, then a face looking to the right. It is possible that there is another face looking right, but the pressure on the seal has not produced the image.

This is the second of three letters we have addressed to Oporto, and this information puts the postal system between London and Portugal into context.


Oporto (called Porto by the Portuguese) is a port and the second largest city of Portugal. My modern reference suggests the distance between the two is about 730 miles, but it does not explain whether that is ‘as the crow flies’ or that is the shortest distance by sea, using favourable currents.

Portugal and England were allies, and there was a fair amount of correspondence and trade between the two countries. There was a weekly Packet service to Lisbon. The mails were made up in London on Tuesdays, and left early Wednesday on the mailcoach to Exeter. From there the bags were taken to Falmouth, and despatched generally on the Saturday morning, if the Packet was in the Falmouth Harbour, and weather permitting.


This information about the Packet service does not explain why the Southampton date stamp is 4 days later than the letter was dated inside. If it had been sent to London first, there should have been a date stamp applied there, (and there are none), and it would not have taken four days to London and back again. It is possible that Mr Dawson wrote his letter, then, knowing which mail service would be available to meet the Falmouth Packet, only posted it on the 18th June.

I could find no reference to an entry for a shipping agent under the name of Dawson in Southampton around that time, so perhaps his offer of his services did not eventuate.

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