Letter Rates 1839-1840

Pre-paid 4d cover, first day - one of approx. 15 recorded

The story of the Uniform Postage reforms promoted by Rowland Hill and the Mercantile Committee on Postage has been told in many different works (see the GBPS library or the downloads section, for example). They transformed the method of charging for inland letters from one based on distance to the one familiar in modern times, based on weight.

Uniform Penny Postage was introduced on 10th January 1840 after a short test of the principle of charging by weight at a 4d rate (the 'Uniform Fourpenny Post'). During this five-week period the rates were something of a hybrid of the old and the new, and are listed separately below.

The general principle was a uniform basic rate of 4d to anywhere in the country, but previous rates that were lower than 4d still applied. This affected local Penny Post rates and the concessionary General Post rates for short distances. The basic rates were generally the same (pre)paid or unpaid, but the principle of charging double for unpaid letters was introduced for higher weights.

Dates General Post Local Posts
(5 Dec)


(9 Jan)
Standard rate

Applied for distances above 8 miles, or in Ireland above 15 Irish miles

4d – ½oz (paid or unpaid)
8d – 1oz (paid or unpaid)

Each additional oz or part thereof – 8d paid or 1s 4d unpaid

‘Holdover’ short distance rates

Up to 8 miles (7 Irish miles in Ireland):

2d – ½oz (paid or unpaid)
4d – 1oz (paid or unpaid)

Each additional oz or part thereof – 4d paid or 8d unpaid

7-15 Irish miles (in Ireland):

3d – ½oz (paid or unpaid)
6d – 1oz (paid or unpaid)

Each additional oz or part thereof – 6d paid or 1s unpaid

Internal Ship Letters

Now at same rates as if carried by the General Post between the places concerned
London Twopenny Post

Central area

½oz – 1d (paid), 2d (unpaid)
4oz – 2d (paid or unpaid)

Outer area

½oz – 1d (paid), 3d (unpaid)
4oz – 3d (paid or unpaid)

(i.e. reduced 1d rate made available for prepaid letters up to ½oz in either area, other rates as before)

Dublin Penny Post

Central area

4oz – 1d (paid or unpaid)

Outer area

½oz – 1d (paid), 2d (unpaid)
4oz – 2d (paid or unpaid)

Other Penny Posts

4oz – 1d (paid or unpaid)

Franked letters

Local post rates payable (free within General Post)