Mileage Marks

British Postal History
Mileage Marks

Town stamps which included a mileage figure

For many years the cost of posting a letter was based on the number of sheets and the distance the letter was carried. Surveys were carried out to calculate the distance between towns, and specifically the distance from London. This was because until the introduction of local 'Penny posts', and 'cross posts', letters sent from one part of Britain to another had to go into London and then out again. All over the country milestones were erected by the side of the main roads to inform travellers — many of these milestones are still there, like this one which shows the distances from London, to Marlborough, and to Devizes.

We find this an interesting section of the British postal markings, as there is a variety of types of stamps used over the period of their use.
It began in 1784 new namestamps were issued to postmasters which included the mileage from London, so the receiving clerk (knowing how far he was from London), added this to the mileage in the stamp of the sending town and was able to check the charge.

The calculation was done at the receiving post office, because at that time postage was usually paid by the person who received the letter, not by the sender. However, the mileages were often inaccurate, so in 1797 it was ordered that the mileage marks should be removed from the office namestamps, but not all were removed, and there are numerous examples of letters dated much later than 1797, bearing town stamps which still included the mileage.

John Cary carried out an official survey (By Command of His Majesty's Postmaster General) of the roads between the post towns of England and Wales, and an updated one in 1802 named "New Itinerary and Accurate Delineation of the Great Roads".

John Cary's maps were very popular with travellers as they showed the roads, the milestones giving the distance from Hyde Park Corner — and the Turnpikes, and any residence or building that was visible from the road.(see example below)

The maps were printed in 1790 and we have bought a set of reproduction maps, the first one of which is "a General Plan for explaining the different TRUSTS of the TURNPIKE GATES in the Vicinity of the Metropolis".

Salt Hill,

Extract from John Cary's map of Colnbrook to Slough, showing Salt Hill,

This clearly shows, Leonards Hill, Genl.Harcourt, Sophia Farm Mr Birch, Cranbourn Lodge, the D. of Glocester Eton College, (the British Public School), and Windsor Castle.

In the middle section is the Milestone for 22 miles, Lord Grosvenor's house, The Swan Public House, and the 20m milestone.

The right hand side shows, Stoke Hou. Mr Fenn,

Baylis of Ld Chesterfield, 21m milestone, Mr Millwood, Mr Hancock,

the 20m milestone and Water Dolphin (whatever that might be!)

The following pages show examples of the different types in use.

First mileage marks

Return to our Postal history home page