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Rates on Mail between Britain and Ireland 1660-1839

CONTENTS

Introduction

Mail travelled between Great Britain and Ireland by Post Office packet boat. There were four principal packet routes over the years -- between Holyhead and Dublin (from 1635, the "standard" route), Port Patrick and Donaghadee (first mentioned 1662, regularly from about 1720), Milford and Waterford (first mentioned 1654, regularly from 1787), and Liverpool and Dublin (from 1826). Charges depended on which route was followed -- the general principle was the inland postage plus an extra charge for sea carriage ("packet postage"), though this might be incorporated into a general rate for mail between London or Edinburgh and Ireland.

For most of this period, the inland postage consisted of separate British and Irish rates to the ports at either end of the sea crossing, according to the rates in force at the time. However, from 1827 the rate was calculated based on the total distance travelled on land in either country (using the British rather than the Irish scale of rates). The packet postage was always considered part of the British postage.

Details of the charges for each route are given separately below. All these packet postage charges ceased upon the introduction of the Uniform Fourpenny Post on 5th December 1839.

Holyhead to Dublin (or Howth) 1660-1839

Before 1801, a rate was quoted between London and Dublin, which implied carriage by this route -- there was no separate packet postage. Letters to and/or from country towns in either Britain or Ireland paid the standard British and/or Irish internal postage rates between the town and the capital in addition to the London-Dublin rate. (There seems to have been some confusion regarding letters sent direct to or from Holyhead without passing through London; sometimes the British postage on these was charged at the London rate, sometimes at the rate between the town and Holyhead.)

From 1801, packet postage was quoted, which (until 1827) was added to the British internal postage rate to or from Holyhead, and the Irish internal postage rate to or from Dublin, where relevant. For two short periods in the 1810s the packet landed at Howth instead of Dublin, and then the Irish postage was calculated based on the distance from Howth (which meant 2d extra to Dublin, 1d extra to some other Irish towns).

Menai and Conway Bridge Charges: as a means of defraying the expense of construction of these bridges, an extra 1d (per sheet or ĵoz) was added to letters to or from Ireland that crossed the bridges on their way to or from Holyhead. Since any letter by this packet route crossed the Menai Bridge, the extra penny was essentially an increase in the packet charge, but the extra Conway penny was only applied on letters that actually crossed that bridge. (Just to avoid possible confusion, this was not a toll on all letters that crossed the bridges -- internal British mail did not pay any extra fee.)

Date Auth. Single Double Treble Ounce +ea.
ĵoz
Other rates to be added where relevant Notes
1660
(Dec)
12 Cha 2 c.35 6d 1s 1s 6d 2s +6d To/from Dublin Rates set between anywhere in England (or Wales) and Dublin
1711
(1 Jun)
9 Anne c.10 6d 1s 1s 6d 2s +6d To/from
London and Dublin
Rates set between London and Dublin
1768
(6 Jul)
GPO Notice 6d 1s 1s 6d 2s +6d To/from
London or Holyhead and Dublin
Notice stated that letters could be circulated directly via Bye and Cross Roads, not necessarily via London (see above for discussion)
1801
(5 Apr)
41 Geo 3 c.7 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d To/from
Holyhead and Dublin
Via Dublin
1813
(Jun)
GPO Notice 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d To/from
Holyhead and Howth
Via Howth
1813
(Jul)
GPO Notice 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d To/from
Holyhead and Dublin
Via Dublin
1818
(Jul)
GPO Notice 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d To/from
Holyhead and Howth
Via Howth
1819
(2 Jul)
59 Geo 3 c.48 3d 6d 9d 1s +3d To/from
Holyhead and Howth
Extra 1d per sheet/ĵoz is the Menai Bridge charge, see above
1819
(12 Jul)
59 Geo 3 c.108 3d 6d 9d 1s +3d To/from
Holyhead and Dublin
Via Dublin or Howth, charged as if via Dublin
1821
(28 May)
1/2 Geo 4 c.35 3d 6d 9d 1s +3d To/from
Holyhead and Dublin

+1d per sheet/ĵoz if via Chester and Conway
Conway Bridge charge:
1d per sheet/ĵoz on letters to/from Ireland by this route
1827
(5 Jul)
7/8 Geo 4 c.21 3d 6d 9d 1s +3d GB rate for land distance

+1d per sheet/ĵoz if via Chester and Conway
Mileage in English miles on total distance travelled on land in both Britain and Ireland

Port Patrick to Donaghadee 1662-1839


1837: "Money Letter" from Dublin to Edinburgh, prepaid 4s 0½d postage - 3 x 1s 4d single
charges (1s for 230-300 miles by land + the 4d packet rate) + the Scots Additional ½d
Contained at least three enclosures (three negotiable bills of total value over £1200, and
probably a coin also), so must have weighed less than 1oz to only be charged triple rate
(if an internal Irish letter, would have been charged per sheet)

This was the shortest sea crossing between Great Britain and Ireland, but seems to have been little used until about 1720, although a Scottish rate was specified in 1662.

A regular packet charge was introduced by the 1711 Act, to be added to the Scottish rate to Port Patrick and Irish rate to Donaghadee.

Some English mails for destinations in north-east Ireland were sent by this route, even London mails, although no rates were specified until 1765 -- after this, until 1801 there were separate English, Scottish, and Irish charges for land carriage!

Date Auth. Single Double Treble Ounce +ea.
ĵoz
Other rates to be added where relevant Notes
1662
(Sep)
Scots Privy Council 6s (Scots) Rate between Edinburgh and Ireland
1711
(1 Jun)
9 Anne c.10 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d To/from
Port Patrick and Donaghadee
1765
(10 Oct)
5 Geo 3 c.25 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d To/from
Port Patrick and Donaghadee
Rate on English mail = town to border + border to Port Patrick + any Irish charge
1801
(5 Apr)
41 Geo 3 c.7 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d To/from
Port Patrick and Donaghadee
Rate on English mail = town to Port Patrick at GB rate + Irish charge
1820
(24 Jul)
1 Geo 4 c.89 4d 8d 1s 1s 4d +4d To/from
Port Patrick and Donaghadee
Rate on English mail = town to Port Patrick at GB rate + Irish charge
1827
(5 Jul)
7/8 Geo 4 c.21 4d 8d 1s 1s 4d +4d GB rate for land distance Mileage in English miles on total distance travelled on land in both Britain and Ireland

Milford to Waterford 1787-1839

Although a requirement to maintain a weekly packet between these towns in mentioned in the Ordinance of 1654, the route does not appear to have been regularly used until 1787, and even then was often unavailable due to wars and sea conditions. The 6d packet rate introduced in 1787 is obscure, as the London-Waterford rate via Milford was not to exceed the London-Dublin rate via Holyhead, which was itself only 6d; it may have been meant to apply primarily to letters not passing through London. The 2d packet postage of 1801 was applied in the standard way, although occasionally the packet would land at Dunmore and until 1819 rates would then be calculated from there.

The "Welsh Additional Halfpenny": In 1836 ½d was added to the packet charge to help cover the costs of road improvements near Milford. This Welsh "Additional ½d" differed from the Scottish version in two respects -- it was a charge per sheet/ĵoz not a flat rate charge, and (as with the Menai and Conway Bridge charges) it only applied to mail between Britain and Ireland, not internal mail within Great Britain. As the route saw only modest use, examples are scarce.

Date Auth. Single Double Treble Ounce +ea.
ĵoz
Other rates to be added where relevant Notes
1787
(5 Apr)
27 Geo 3 c.9 6d 1s 1s 6d 2s +6d To/from
Milford and Waterford?
Rate from London not to exceed that to Dublin via Holyhead
1801
(5 Apr)
41 Geo 3 c.7 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d To/from Milford and Waterford or Dunmore GB rate + Irish rate
1827
(5 Jul)
7/8 Geo 4 c.21 2d 4d 6d 8d +2d GB rate for land distance Mileage in English miles on total distance travelled on land in both Britain and Ireland
1836
(21 Jun)
6 Will 4 c.25 2½d 5d 7½d 10d +2½d GB rate for land distance "Welsh Additional Halfpenny" charge

Liverpool to Dublin 1826-1839

Mail between Liverpool and Ireland had been sent by sea for many years (merchants often preferring private carriage), but the first Post Office packet service from Liverpool was introduced in 1826. On the face of it, the 8d packet rate was much more expensive than the 4d rate via Conway and Holyhead, but two factors mitigated that.

Firstly, there was a rule that the rate via Liverpool was not to exceed the rate via Holyhead. Secondly, the land distance was some 100 miles shorter, which reduced the internal GB rate. The combined effect was to make the charges for this route the same as those via Holyhead for most places, although cheaper for letters to or from towns within about 20 miles of Liverpool.

Date Auth. Single Double Treble Ounce +ea.
ĵoz
Other rates to be added where relevant Notes
1826
(29 Aug)
6 Geo 4 c.28 8d 1s 4d 2s 2s 8d +8d To/from
Liverpool and Dublin
Maximum charge of rate via Holyhead
1827
(5 Jul)
7/8 Geo 4 c.21 8d 1s 4d 2s 2s 8d +8d GB rate for land distance Mileage in English miles on total distance travelled on land in both Britain and Ireland