Uniform four-penny post sets stage for comprehensive reform

This cover was mailed from Ipswich to Norfolk on the first day of the uniform four-penny post as indicated by the ‘P4’ in the bottom-left corner.

The first “real reform” of Great Britain’s postal system came in December 1839, when the uniform four-penny post was implemented. The short-lived change, which was in effect for only 36 days – from Dec. 5 until Jan. 9, 1840 – saw the end of rates calculated by distance. Instead, postage was now charged based on weight – four pence for pre-paid letters up to half an ounce – and there was no penalty for multiple sheets. What’s more, for mail with rates already less than four pence, the existing lower rates applied. Before the uniform four-penny post was implemented, the Select Committee, of which Sir Rowland Hill was a member, did an “amazing investigation of the number of letters mailed,” said Tom Slemons, a U.S.-based director of the Great Britain Collectors Club. Continue reading →

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