Rates and Terms

All postal charges were payable on receipt, except sometimes within penny post cities (a city which has its own intra-city postal system) (Browne 43). Returned mail was returned free to the sender (Ellis 38).

In London in the late 1700s, letters were picked up and delivered 4 to 8 times daily with 10 to 12 delivered in business centers. Outside London the service was slow and undependable through most of the 18th century (Modert 345).

In 1801, postage was raised to twopenny for intra-city mail and threepenny for outer London districts (Browne 40). Despite postage increases, postal volumes remained high. Post Office Secretary Francis Freeling recruited carriers to deliver directly to people's homes in London so that more value was obtained for higher postal charges (Browne 41).

In the early 1800s, 20% of London's population lived in poverty and the sound of the postman's knock was one of fear and dread to many families who often had to go out and sell a household item to pay the postage (Browne 43). Carriers were often delayed by waiting for change at most other residences as well (Robinson 204). Stamps impressed in red ink on each sheet indicated that the postage had been paid (147).

Special items of value, such as coins, rings, and other jewelry, could be mailed but cost double postage. Letters containing valuables were marked "Money Letter" in red ink (Robinson 147).

While accounts vary slightly from source to source, according to Robinson intra-city London postage was 1d and postal rates for single sheet letters leaving London were as follows:

1789 all 2d

1797 3d under 15 miles, 4d 15 to 29 miles, 5d 30 to 59 miles, 6d 60 to 99 miles, 7d 100 to 150 miles, 8d to and from Edinburgh

1840 all reduced to Penny Post (147, 154, 156, 208)

Modert adds that rates peaked in 1812 when a single-sheet letter ranged in postage from fourpence for 15 miles or less to seventeenpence for 700 miles (345).

A list of rates hung in every Post Office (Ellis 39), and mileage marks were stamped or written on the back of folded letters by the sending office until 1840 when they became obsolete (Robinson 155-156).

Because postage rates increased if the letter contained more than one sheet of paper, letters were inspected to see if they held more sheets than paid were for. Letters were "Everyone taken before a lamp" (Robinson 205).


Rates and Terms

Mail Carriers

Mail Coaches

Mail Guards


Postal Moneys Used for War

Postal Reform of 1840

Austen's Style

Quotes from Austen's Characters