During the early years of the postal Service, mail was only conveyed to and from the post offices or receiving offices, of post towns. There were no rural or village postal deliveries, letters were fetched from towns by private servants or village messengers. Some Postmasters unofficially employed carriers and charged for the service and in some cases small towns received an allowance from public funds to aid the post. Within the limits of a post town, deliveries of letters were free, although this was not universally implemented and many postmasters made a private charge.
In 1829 Francis Freeling, Secretary to the Post Office, wrote:
"The whole of the inhabitants of Alcester having refused to continue to pay the gratuity of a halfpenny on the delivery of letters. The sub-deputy having for more than six months been obliged to pay out of her small salary of £32 a year the sum of 5/- a week or £13 per annum for delivering the letter twice a day".
It was recommended that~she be relieved from this expense by allowing that sum for the service. This was approved and signed "Manchester".
The first official local penny post had been operating in London since the Post Office took over a penny post established by William Dockwra in 1680, but the next was not set up until Freeling experimented with local penny posts in 1790's starting with Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham, These proved largely to be successful and the first penny post outside the cities was organised in Shifnal in 1806. As the name suggests, a penny post charged an extra penny for collection or delivery between a post town and its outlying villages. Even newspapers or "free" letters were charged a penny in the penny post, despite being free in the general post.
|In South Warwickshire, the Stratford upon Avon Penny Post was founded in 1819 with a delivery at Feckenham, a village some 15 miles from Stratford. The Post Office surveyor visited Feckenham "a thriving little place which manufactures needles". He found that, until 1819, the village had received its mail 4 days a week by an unofficial post operated by Mrs Gardner, described as a 'respectable woman" . The inhabitants were found to be willing to be served by a twice daily penny post from Crabbs Cross, where bags could be picked up or dropped off by the Stratford to Redditch mailcart. A Crabbs Cross shopkeeper, Mr Samuel Aston, agreed to receive and exchange mailbags. Feckenham also had a link into the Bromsgrove Penny Post.|
In the same year 'a Penny Post was set up between Stratford and Wellesbourne, which became receiving house "No 2". Wellesbourne also became a receiving house under the Kineton Penny Post.
On 6 April 1835, a new Penny Post service between Stratford and Bidford on Avon was started, Bidford becoming receiving house "No 3".
Finally, in 1839, a penny post was set up at Hockley to serve Packwood, Umberslade and Lapworth. Penny posts were abolished with the introduction of Rowland Hill's uniform penny post in 1840.
Seven different Stratford Penny Post handstamps were used between 1819 and 1840, together with numeral handstamps which indicated the receiving house. Some of these are illustrated below.
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Autumn 1993 Index