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The Southport
Stamp & Postcard
Club
Founded in 1930
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The Southport Stamp & Postcard Club

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Plain Postcards

 

The introduction of the postcard in Austria on 1st October 1869 set in motion a revolution in the communication of ordinary messages of no particular importance: the quick note, the mundane or humorous remark, the 'wish you were here' - indeed any short note for which no privacy was required. The essential ‘selling point’ of the postcard was that it was carried through the mails at a reduced rate - often at half the cost of the cheapest letter.

Great Britain was not tardy in following the Austrian example. The postcard was introduced here on 1st October 1870, and ‘first day postcards’ are keenly sought.

The first British cards were simple in the extreme. Completely blank on one side, the ‘business’ side contained a printed stamp-like impression representing the postage paid, and space for the address. Postage was charged at ½d compared to the regular rate of 1d for letters of up to half an ounce. The letter writers regained a slight advantage in October 1871 when their rate was extended to allow letters of up to one ounce to pass for 1d.

Postcards were supplied pre-paid by the Post Office. From 1872, the public could supply their own cards to the Post Office for stamping, the maximum size being 5½ inches by 3½ inches, but it wasn’t until 1894 that permission was granted for the public to use their own cards with postage paid by means of a stamp. Rather oddly, cut-out pre-paid stamp impressions from postcards had always been valid for use on a letter!

To see a much larger version of the images below, please hover your cursor over the thumbnail

‘Foreign’ postcards, for use to member countries of the Universal Postal Union, were introduced in 1875, at a rate of 1¼d. By 1879 the Foreign rate had been reduced to 1d. Reply Paid postcards for inland use were issued from 1882, followed in 1883 by Reply Paid Foreign cards.

Inland rate postcards could be uprated to Foreign rate by the addition of the necessary adhesives, and this was often done.

Although we, largely through experience, have come to regard postcards as second class mail, with a ‘who knows when’ delivery schedule, this was not the case in the early days. The card shown at lower left was posted in London on 10th January 1895 and received in Calcutta on 30th January. Not bad for pre-airmail days!

The first type of Great Britain postcard was introduced on 1st October 1870

The second style of GB Inland postcard introduced in 1878 addressed to Paris and uprated to 1d by addition of ½d stamp

The 1892 style of GB Foreign postcard, addressed to Calcutta. Posted on 10th January 1895, arrived 30th January!

Those businesses with a large requirement for pre-printed cards could, as an option, send these to the Post Office to be stamped in advance. They are very similar in appearance to the official cards - in many cases the distinction is little more than a variation in the form of words on the address side of the card, or the absence or configuration of the Royal Arms.

But as with most postal history, the cards themselves tell us of the day to day concerns of the people of the time. The card illustrated at left is a private card, stamped by the Post Office, for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. Addressed to the Goods Department of the London and South West Railway, at Bournemouth West, it is an instruction to deliver two wagon loads of coal to a local hotel, and to charge the LBSCR accordingly.

London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, East Croydon, to London and South Western Railway, Bournemouth West, re two wagon loads of coal.

Plain Postcards with added emotion

 

Many cards from the late 19th and early 20th centuries give us an insight into everyday life, but there is one group which, although conveying very little information to the casual eye, can, with a bit of research, tell a much more interesting story.

 

Throughout the first World War, serving members of the Armed Forces were permitted to send Field Service Post Cards home to their families and sweethearts. The rules were strict: no words could be added, only pre-printed phrases could be used. The cards were frequently postmarked with anonymous cancellations to conceal the whereabouts of the correspondent. But with the accessibility of army records it is now possible to decode the information which was hidden.

 

The Field Service Postcard on the left was postmarked on 24th October 1916 at Field Post Office number 75. With brilliant security, we know that FPO75 was attached to 75 Brigade, serving with 25 Division. In 1916, 75 Bde was involved in the Battle of the Somme, and on the night of 22nd/23rd October 1916 was relieved from the front line and was withdrawn to Doullens, having conquered  ‘Stuff Redoubt’ and ‘The Mounds’ to the north east of Thiepval.

Our card was sent the following day by P Dungworth to, presumably, his sweetheart Miss Vere Mallender of Rotherham, telling her that he was quite well, and had received her letter dated 16th October.

 

Did all turn out well? The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has no record of any Tommy of this name, so we can presume that he survived the War. Medal record cards held at the National Archives show that Percy Dungworth, number 105254, was a driver with the Royal Engineers; he would have been attached to 75 Bde. The 1911 Census records show only one male P Dungworth in the entire country: Percy Dungworth of Doncaster, born in 1900.

 

The 1911 Census lists Elizabeth V Mallender, also of Doncaster, born in 1897, the only female Mallender with an initial ‘V.’

 

So, here we have a card showing a 16 year old writing to his young lady to tell her that he was fine, the day after he came back from the front line. From a monetary point of view the card is worth a pound or two, tops. From the point of view of social history, priceless.