Inland Express/Special Delivery Rates 1891-1993


Express delivery originally meant payments for a messenger sent for the express purpose of carrying a particular letter, although the more modern sense is simply speeded-up mail. The modern system was introduced in 1891; there were a large number of services, rates, and options, for many of which payment was made on a separate form rather than on the actual cover.

The main ones were:
  • By special messenger all the way -- Service I
  • Express delivery after transmission by post
    (at the request of the sender) -- Service II
  • Special delivery in advance of the ordinary mail (at the request of the addressee) -- introduced under Service II, later Service III
  • Express delivery on Sunday -- originally for London addresses only as part of Service II, from 1921 included other cities and renamed Service IV
  • Express delivery of telephoned messages -- originally called Service IV, from 1921 Service V
From 1938 the services were revised, with Service II and IV now becoming Special Delivery and the others various forms of Express Delivery. From 1980 Special Delivery (the old Service II type) was the only service offered.

(Published express rates listings, such as the appendices to the various volumes of the Stanley Gibbons Specialised Catalogue, sometimes do not tally with the archival sources consulted. Under the circumstances I have, for the time being, generally tried to give the best source of each bit of information available to me as a small note next to it, to show whether it derives from primary or secondary sources. "Circular" = Post Office Circular, "Guide" = Post Office Guide, "Leaflet" or "Compendium" = basic or comprehensive PO leaflet of rates from relevant date, "SG Spec" = Stanley Gibbons Specialised Catalogue, "Wellsted" = Hilary Wellsted, Express Service 1891-1971, "Furfie" = Michael Furfie, British Civilian Postage Rates of the 20th Century. Corrections of any errors/typos and copies/scans of missing rates leaflets welcomed!)

By special messenger all the way (Service I)

1925 - tender envelope that had to be delivered by post and
so despatched by express, presumably to meet the deadline
This was the original express service of 1891 and the most fundamental, as the fees for the other services were based on these charges. Packets were delivered by specially despatched messenger and charged by distance from the delivery office (and sometimes also by quantity and weight). Charges were prepaid by stamps on a special form, so letters in this class are generally unstamped. Surviving forms are rare, but the rates are given for reference (and because stamps affixed to the item by the sender could be allowed for, so letters stamped for these rates may occasionally be seen).

There were a wide range of additional services (for example replies, further service by the same messenger, delivery from Chief Office), often charged as a new express service, and additional fees to cover such things as multiple packets to the same addressee, the messenger's waiting time at the address, and the use of a special conveyance (rail, bus, tram, cab), either at sender's request or where it was required for reasons of distance or weight (generally the actual fare in that case). The main fees are given below but there were a large number of rather obscure possible combinations and special cases!

Date Basic Fees Special Fees and Notes
(25 Mar)

POST 28/4
POST 30/2719
2d for first mile
3d each extra mile

in addition to full ordinary postage
Initially in London and 9 provincial towns, increasing to 40+ within a short time

Extended to delivery offices generally from 1st August
(1 Jan)

Circular 17 Dec 1891
3d per mile
1½d for each 1lb (or part) after first 1lb

Ordinary postage no longer charged
Sunday delivery at all offices where a delivery of ordinary letters were made

Weight charge for packets over 1lb was in addition to mileage fee
(18 Jul)

Circular 18 Jul 1893
Multiple packets by one messenger, not all to same person at same address: 2d per extra packet

No more than 10 packets and weight limit 15lb
(4 Oct)

Circular 4 Oct 1898
3d per mile
1d for each 1lb (or part) after first 1lb, to a maximum of 1s
Multiple packets fee: 1d per extra packet

Weight limit 20lb unless special conveyance used
(2 Jul)

Circular 26 Jun 1900
3d per mile
Weight charge abolished
(1 Oct)

Circular 25 Sep 1906
3d per mile
3d (flat fee) on any packet over 1lb
Weight fee not charged when special conveyance used
(1 Jun)

Circular 27 May 1919
Guide 1 Jul 1919
6d per mile
3d (flat fee) on any packet over 1lb
The July 1919 Post Office Guide gave a weight fee of 6d also, but as this is not mentioned in the Post Office Circular announcing the mileage fee increase, and in later Guide editions the fee is given as 3d, it is regarded here as a typo
(1 Jan)

Circular 14 Dec 1932
6d per mile
Weight charge abolished
(1 Jan)

Circular 26 Oct 1955
1s per mile
Multiple packets fee: 2½d per extra packet
(1 Oct)

SG Spec vol 3
Multiple packets fee: 3d per extra packet
(17 May)

SG Spec vol 3
3s per mile
Multiple packets fee: 4d per extra packet
(15 Feb)

20p per mile

Multiple packets fee: 3p per extra packet
(24 Jun)
50p per mile

(13 Jun)

Multiple packets fee: 4p per extra packet
(27 Jul)
Last day of service

Special delivery after transmission by post at sender's request (Service II)

1923 - 1½d postage + 6d express delivery after transmission by post
"Under this Service Letters and Parcels are forwarded by Mail in the regular course of post to any Express Delivery Office in the Kingdom, and on arrival there are sent out for delivery by Special Messenger." Most express covers that are seen are from this service, where postage and express fees were paid by the sender in stamps affixed to the cover. Rates were initially per mile, from August 1938 a flat fee.

From 1938 this service was referred to as "Special Delivery", with the term "Express" confined to its original Service I/Service V meaning of a letter sent by messenger all the way. Separate "Special Delivery" labels (originally white on green) were introduced in the 1960s, although not always used in preference to the red Express labels! Upon the introduction of two-tier post on 16th September 1968 it applied only to first class letters, and from 28th July 1980 special delivery became the only service generally available, the service being rebranded with new purple labels. The system eventually merged with the registration system in 1993 as what became known as Priority Services, as in practice the two systems had many similarities of handling.

Date Fee Date Fee Date Fee
(1 Aug)

Circular 12 Jun 1891
2d for first mile
3d each extra mile
(1 Jan)

Circular 17 Dec 1891
3d per mile 1919
(1 Jun)

Circular 27 Jun 1919
6d per mile

6d 1956
(1 Jan)

Circular 6 Oct 1955
1s 1965
(17 May)

Circular 24 Mar 1965
(15 Feb)

20p 1974
(24 Jun)

40p 1975
(29 Sep)

(20 Aug)

80p 1981
(26 Jan)

£1.25 1982
(1 Feb)

(5 Sep)

£1.65 1989
(2 Oct)

£1.75 1990
(17 Sep)

(16 Sep)

£1.95 1993
(27 Jun)

Last day

Special delivery in advance of the ordinary mail at addressee's request (part of Service II originally, later Service III)

1898 - stamped to order Service III envelope for a
large restaurant at Ludgate Station, possibly meant for orders?
This service was introduced along with the changes above from 18th July 1893. It allowed persons to apply to have packets addressed to them delivered by special messenger in advance of the ordinary mails.

Rates were the same as for standard express delivery (Service I); the charges on at least one packet had to be paid by stamps attached to a special form. (Examples of this are known.)

Circular 18 Jul 1893

Express Delivery on Sunday (part of Service II originally, Service IV from 1921)

1909 - 1d postage + 9d Sunday express fee for all offices in Western district
While there were regular Sunday deliveries in the provinces until 1921, and express letters were sent out from offices where there were deliveries of ordinary letters, this was not the case in London where most Post Offices were closed on Sundays. In 1899 arrangements were made to deliver Service II express letters on Sunday in London by direct messenger from the London Chief Office of St-Martin's-le-Grand. They had to be specifically endorsed for Sunday delivery and at least half the fees prepaid. The charges were the normal Service I mileage rates, calculated as the distance from the Chief Office to the approximate centre of the postal district in which the address lay, and so were generally high.

In 1921, Sunday deliveries generally were withdrawn, and an extended version of Sunday Express Delivery was introduced. It applied only to (and from) a small number of cities -- Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Sheffield, with Cork, Leicester, Nottingham and Southampton added later (although some combinations involving Irish Free State offices were not possible). The basis of the fees remained the same for London, although for the other towns there was a flat fee of 1s in addition to the mileage charge. In 1935 the service was revised on the basis of a flat fee for all destinations. It was scrapped along with Express Delivery itself from 28th July 1980.

(1) London fees by district

In the table below, the areas are grouped by main district, with the name of the sub-district and the district number allocated in 1917. In the early years some offices were listed grouped under Battersea, Norwood or Paddington, but in the first two cases these were later grouped under the district letter. In a few cases the names used changed, or new delivery offices were opened after 1899. The 1919 rate increase was due to the doubling of the mileage fee from 3d to 6d, and there were a few revisions to the nominal mileages in 1921.

District 1917 no. Sub District 1899
(12 Feb)
(1 Jul)
(1 Aug)
E.C. E.C. 1-4 3d 6d
E. E.1 Head District 6d 1s
E.2 Bethnal Green 6d 1s
E.3 Bow 1s 2s
E.4 Chingford 2s 3d 4s 6d
E.5 Clapton 1s 2s
E.6 East Ham (Nov 1912) 1s 9d 3s 6d
E.7 Forest Gate 1s 6d 3s
E.8 Hackney 9d 1s 6d
E.9 Homerton 1s 2s
E.10 Leyton 1s 6d 3s
E.11 Leytonstone 1s 6d 3s
E.12 Manor Park 1s 9d 3s 6d
North Woolwich 1s 9d --- ---
E.13 Plaistow 1s 6d 3s
E.14 Poplar 1s 2s
E.15 Stratford 1s 3d 2s 6d
Victoria Docks 1s 3d --- ---
E.16 Victoria Docks and North Woolwich --- 3s 6d
E.17 Walthamstow 1s 6d 3s
E.18 Woodford and South Woodford 2s 4s
N. N.1 Head District 6d 1s
N.9 Edmonton, Lower 2s 3d 4s 6d 4s
N.18 Edmonton, Upper 1s 9d 3s 6d
N.3 Finchley, Church End 2s 4s
N.2 Finchley, East 1s 9d 3s 6d
N.12 Finchley, North 2s 4s
N.4 Finsbury Park 1s 2s
N.5 Highbury 9d 1s 6d
N.6 Highgate 1s 3d 2s 6d
N.7 Holloway 1s 2s
N.8 Hornsey 1s 6d 3s
N.10 Muswell Hill (c.Oct 1905) 1s 6d 3s
N.11 New Southgate 1s 9d 3s 6d
N.13 Palmer’s Green 2s 4s
N.14 Southgate 2s 4s
N.15 South Tottenham 1s 3d 2s 6d
N.16 Stoke Newington 1s 2s
N.17 Tottenham 1s 6d 3s
N.19 Upper Holloway 1s 2s
N.20 Whetstone 2s 3d 4s 6d
N.21 Winchmore Hill 2s 3d 4s 6d
N.22 Wood Green 1s 6d 3s
N.W. N.W.1 Head District 9d 1s 6d
N.W.2 Cricklewood (c.Jan 1907) 1s 6d 3s
N.W.11 Golder's Green --- --- 3s 6d
N.W.3 Hampstead 1s 2s
N.W.4 Hendon 2s 4s
N.W.5 Kentish Town 9d 1s 6d
N.W.6 Kilburn 1s 3d 2s 6d
N.W.7 Mill Hill 2s 6d 5s
N.W.8 St John’s Wood 1s 2s
N.W.9 The Hyde 2s 3d 4s 6d
N.W.10 Willesden 1s 9d 3s 6d
S.E. S.E.1 Head District 6d 1s
S.E.2 Abbey Wood --- 5s
S.E.20 Anerley [Norwood] 2s 4s
S.E.3 Blackheath 1s 6d 3s 3s 6d
S.E.4 Brockley 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.E.5 Camberwell 9d 1s 6d
S.E.6 Catford (or Catford Bridge) 1s 6d 3s
S.E.7 Charlton --- 3s 6d
S.E.8 Deptford 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.E.21 Dulwich [Norwood] 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.E.22 East Dulwich [Norwood] 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.E.9 Eltham --- 4s 6d
S.E.23 Forest Hill [Norwood] 1s 6d 3s
S.E.10 Greenwich 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.E.24 Herne Hill [Norwood] 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.E.11 Kennington 9d 1s 6d
S.E.12 Lee 1s 6d 3s 3s 6d
S.E.13 Lewisham 1s 3d 2s 6d 3s
S.E.14 New Cross 1s 2s
S.E.19 Norwood [Norwood] 1s 9d 3s 6d
S.E.15 Peckham 1s 2s
S.E.16 Rotherhithe 9d 1s 6d
S.E.25 South Norwood [Norwood] 2s 4s 4s 6d
S.E.26 Sydenham [Norwood] 1s 9d 3s 6d
S.E.17 Walworth 6d 1s
S.E.27 West Norwood [Norwood] 1s 6d 3s
S.E.18 Woolwich --- 4s
S.W. S.W.1 Head District 9d 1s 6d
S.W.12 Balham [Battersea] 1s 6d 3s
S.W.13 Barnes [Battersea] 2s 4s
S.W.11 Battersea [Battersea] 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.W.2 Brixton 1s 2s
S.W.3 Chelsea 1s 2s
S.W.4 Clapham 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.W.5 Earl’s Court 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.W.6 Fulham 1s 6d 3s
S.W.14 Mortlake [Battersea] 2s 4s 4s 6d
S.W.15 Putney [Battersea] 1s 9d 3s 6d
S.W.7 South Kensington 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.W.8 South Lambeth 9d 1s 6d
S.W.9 Stockwell 1s 2s
S.W.16 Streatham [Battersea] 1s 9d 3s 6d
S.W.17 Tooting [Battersea] 1s 9d 3s 6d
S.W.18 Wandsworth [Battersea] 1s 6d 3s
S.W.10 West Brompton 1s 3d 2s 6d
S.W.20 West Wimbledon --- --- 4s 6d
S.W.19 Wimbledon [Battersea] 2s 3d 4s 6d 4s
W. W.1 9d 1s 6d
Padd­ington W.2 Head District 1s 2s
W.3 Acton 2s 4s
W.4 Chiswick 2s 4s
W.5 Ealing 2s 3d 4s 6d
W.6 Hammersmith 1s 6d 3s
W.7 Hanwell 2s 9d 5s 6d
W.8 Kensington 1s 3d 2s 6d
W.9 Maida Hill 1s 2s
W.10 North Kensington 1s 3d 2s 6d
W.11 Notting Hill 1s 3d 2s 6d
W.12 Shepherd’s Bush 1s 6d 3s
W.13 West Ealing (or Ealing Dean) 2s 6d 5s
W.14 West Kensington 1s 6d 3s
W.C. W.C.1-2 6d 1s

Circular 7 Feb 1899, Guides 1899-1934
(2) Provincial fees and later uniform fees

Date Fee Date Fee Date Fee
(1 Aug)
1s + 6d per mile 1935
(1 Jan)
1s 6d 1956
(1 Jan)
(17 May)
9s 1971
(15 Feb)
50p 1974
(24 Jun)
(29 Sep)
£1.50 1980
(27 May)
Last day

Guide, Circular, Leaflets

Express delivery of telephoned messages (originally called Service IV, from 1921 Service V)

1908 - telephone express envelope used in Torquay
This service enabled a telephone subscriber to call the delivery office and dictate a letter, which would be sent out by express messenger in a specially printed envelope.

In addition to the charges for the call and the express delivery (at Service I rates), there was a 'writing down' fee of 3d for up to 30 words and 1d for every additional 10 words. It was introduced in July 1893 and ceased as of 1st January 1956.
SG Spec vol 1-3