The first handstamps used in England were made of carved, close grained wood or brass or steel and consequently were expensive. Since, after 1860 it was deemed no longer necessary to stamp the office of posting on mail, for thirty years many small post offices had no means of handstamping letters or parcels. Registered letter had their receipts completed manually and other documents had the office of posting entered manually. Only offices which were money order offices had a steel datestamp. Alcester became such an office in 1846.
In 1881 postal orders were introduced and in 1883 parcel post introduced,- this led to an increase in the amount of counter work which necessitated a datestamp. During the later part of the Nineteenth Century the process for vulcanising rubber was perfected, providing a cheap substance that could be moulded to form a datestamp. Thus the "Climax" dater was gradually brought into use from 1885 as the small sub-offices started to sell postal orders. This type of handstamp cost only one fifth of the cost of a steel one, but had a life of only two to three years. This meant that it needed to be replaced at fairly frequent intervals and each new one varying slightly from the others.
In the Alcester area, the first office to receive a Climax dater was Great Alne on 16 June 1886. This handstamp only included the village name and date, but shortly after handstamps were issued to:
|Cookhill||7 April 1888|
|Coughton||11 August 1888|
|22 May 1891|
|Ardens Grafton||14 June 1894|
|Dunnington||12 March 1896|
|Haselor||4 October 1897|
All these rubber datestamps were inscribed with the name of the village and "REDDITCH" (their post town) with the date.
By the end of the century, Alcester had become a Railway Sub-Office (RSO). This meant that the maicrity of mail arrived in the town via a railway travelling post office rather than from the post town (Redditch). Thus the village datestamps were changed to show "ALCESTER11, "ALCESTER S.0." or "ALCESTER R.S.O." (or "BIDFORD ON AVON" in the case of Broom) and later "WARWICKSHIRE" was added also.
By 1904 postal orders were being issued at all sub-offices and, therefore, all received rubber datestamps which began to be used for handstamping mail, sometimes struck alongside the parent office handstamp. This period saw an explosion in the volume of mail handled - the picture postcard was in its heyday. People sent a postcard where we would probably make a 'phone call today.
From 1905 villages were officially allowed to use rubber datestamps as cancellers on mail. This had the effect of wearing out the datestamps even faster and steel datestamps became more economical and gradually replaced village rubber datestamps which finally disappeared by 1935.
|14 June 1894||22 May 1891||7 April 1888||19 July 1894 (Repair)|
Impressions taken from the Post Office Proof Book
|11 August 1888||16 June 1908||2 April 1919||13 March 1896|
|16 June 1908||4 October 1914|
|Cut out from parcel label
Great Alne 4 July 1904
20 October 1914
|Haselor 28 December 1913||Haselor 1 September 1919||Haselor 11 May 1920|
|small typeface||Rubber distorted by acid in the black ink|
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Spring 1994 Index