THE POST OFFICE OF FIFTY YEARS AGO.
Thus, a letter just under 2 ounces in weight, which now goes from Land's End to John o' Groat's for 1½d., would, fifty years ago, have been charged sevenfold the heavy rates given in the above table. Such a letter, even if sent only from London to Croydon, would have been charged a postage of 2s. 4d.; if sent from London to Manchester, it would have been charged 6s. 5d.; while from London to Cork the postage would have been 9s. 11d., or nearly 80 times the present rate.
In order to ascertain whether letters contained enclosures, they were held up against strong artificial lights, many post offices in those days being built without windows, the better to facilitate such examination; and many letters got stolen in the post office through its being thus discovered that they contained bank-notes or other valuables.
How seriously these high charges tended to suppress correspondence may be gathered from the fact that, except in the town and local "penny posts," where postage was comparatively low, the Post Office was but little used. Half the letters delivered in London fifty years ago were posted within 12 miles of St. Paul's, three-quarters within 100 miles, and only one-fourth in all the world besides.
As another illustration, which will perhaps bring this hindrance of correspondence more fully home to the present generation, it may be mentioned that
- For a remarkable case of this kind, see Sir R. Hill's pamphlet, Appendix, p. 72.