The postal history of the United Kingdom is notable in at least two respects; first, for the introduction of postage stamps in 1840, and secondly for the establishment of an efficient postal system throughout the British Empire, laying the foundation of many national systems in existence today. I chose to do this because I found that it is a lot of new information, and interesting information, which I like.
The story begins in the 12th century with King Henry I of England, who appointed messengers to carry letters for the government . The uniforms were provided by Henry III in the 13th century and posting houses were instituted by Edward I in the end of 13th century. The messengers could change their horses in the posting houses. The reign of Edward II in 14th century saw the first postal marking; handwritten notations saying &quot;Haste, post haste&quot;. Henry VIII created the Royal Mail in 1516 .
Brian Tuke w as appointed &quot;Master of the Postes“ by Henry VIII , while Elizabeth I appointed Thomas Randolph as &quot;Chief Postmaster&quot;. Under c hief postmaster , the Royal Mail was made available to the public (1635) . In 1661, Charles II made Henry Bishop the first Postmaster General who introduced the Bishop mark i n answer to customer complaints about delayed letters . T he postal system expanded from six roads to a network covering the country, and post offices were set up in both large and small towns, each of which had its own postmark. In 1680 William Dockwra established the London Penny Post . It is a mail delivery system that delivered letters and parcels weighing up to one pound within the city of L ondon .
The Great Post Office Reform of 1839 and 1840 was championed by Rowland Hill to reverse the steady financial losses of the Post Office. Hill convinced Parliament to adopt the Uniform Fourpenny Post. The rate went into effect on 5 December 1839 but only lasted for 36 days. This was immediately successful, and on 10 January 1840 the Uniform Penny Post started, charging only 1 penny for prepaid letters and 2 pence if the fee was collected from the recipient. O n May 6, the Penny Black became the world's first postage stamp in use. It soon became obvious that black was a not a good choice of stamp colour, since any cancellation marks were hard to see, and from 1841 onwards, the stamps were printed in a brick-red colour.
The Victorian age saw an explosion of experimentation. The inability of using scissors to cut stamps from the sheet inspired trials with rouletting and then with perforation . Rouletting is us ing small cuts in the paper instead of holes , perforating is puncturing the workpiece with a tool. In 1847, the (octagonal) 1 shilling became the first of the British embossed postage stamps to be issued . Surface-printed stamps first appeared in 1855, printed by De La Rue, and became the standard type. Surface-printed stamps of the 1860s and 1870s used the same profile of Victoria, but with different extras . Meanwhile, the age of the Penny Reds had come to an end along with the Perkins Bacon printing contract.
Due to the Customs and Inland Revenue Act 1881 new stamps valid also as revenue stamps were used. T he Penny Lilac was issued in that year, inscribed “ postage and inland revenue &quot;. The new low values were also surface-printed: first was a penny stamp coloured Venetian red in a square frame, issued in 1880. 1 883 and 1884 saw experimentation with stamps using fugitive inks with the 'Lilac and Green Issue'. These were rather plain designs, low values in lilac and high values in green, because those were the only colours available . The last major issue of Victoria was the &quot;Jubilee issue&quot; of 1887, a set of twelve designs ranging from half penny to 1 s hilling , most printed in two colours or on coloured paper.
When Edward VII came to the throne, new stamps became necessary. Edward's reign was so short that there were no major changes of design, but chalk-surfaced paper was introduced. This type of paper can be detected by rubbing the surface with silver, which leaves a black mark. By contrast, the stamps of King George V were innovative from the very first. Although the main design feature remained the same , a three quarter portrait was used for the first time. The UK's first commemorative stamps were issued for the British Empire Exhibition in 1924
The century of the postage stamp was celebrated in 1940 with a set of six stamps depicting Victoria and George VI side-by-side. By the following year, stamps were being printed with less ink, resulting in significantly lighter shades due to the wartime exigencies . In 1950 the colours of all the low values were changed.
When Elizabeth II came to the throne , new stamps were needed. The result was a collection of variations on a theme called Wilding issues, based on a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by photographer Dorothy Wilding. Wildings were used until 1967, when the Machin issues were introduced on 5 June. The Machin design is very simple, a profile of the Queen on a solid colour background.
Up to the 1950s, most of the stamps were definitive issues in which the portrait of the reigning monarch was the dominant element . A change came in 1965 when the Postmaster General Tony Benn issued new criteria for what could appear on stamps. Designer David Gentleman suggest ed the monarch's head be replaced by another national symbol, such as a Crown, Royal Cypher or words such as &quot;Great Britain&quot; or &quot;UK&quot;. Another trend is the growing use of stamps to commemorate events related to the present Royal Family. In addition, memorial stamps have been issued after the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales , and Elizabeth, the Queen Mother .
Regional issues were introduced in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales in 1958 . While these issues are only sold at post offices in the respective countries, the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh issues are valid throughout the United Kingdom. The Channel Islands and Isle of Man now issue their own stamps which are not valid anywhere else.
The United Kingdom has introduced postal services throughout the world and has often made use of British definitives bearing local overprints. Here are some of the first British Postal services abroad.
If you are interested in seeing some British postage stamps with your own eyes, you should visit The British Postal Museum&Archive in London.
The History of British Postage Stamps Author: Laura Paluoja Supervisors: Marje Maasen, Tiia Pukk Carl Robert Jakobson Gymnasium 11c 2011