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Letter Rates 1839-1840 ("Uniform Fourpenny Post")

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. This five-week period is usually referred to as the "Uniform Fourpenny Post", although (as outlined below) the rates were something of a hybrid of the old and the new, and so not truly "uniform". It introduced the "British scale" of rates where up to ½oz = 1 rate, 1oz = 2 rates, each additional 1oz = 2 rates, used extensively later.

The rates were detailed in this Treasury Warrant of 22nd November 1839. The general principle was a uniform basic rate of 4d to anywhere in the country, but previous rates lower than 4d still applied.

All the following rates applied between 5th December 1839 and 9th January 1840. In most cases the maximum weight was 1lb.

By General Post within Great Britain, or between Great Britain and Ireland

For (pre)paid letters, 4d was the base rate on the "British scale" (as described above) between most places in the UK. However, the 2d per sheet rate for journeys up to 8 miles was translated under the Treasury Warrant to a base rate of 2d. In addition, while rates up to 1oz were the same paid or unpaid, the principle of charging double for unpaid letters was introduced for higher weights.

All the additional special fees were abolished at this time – the Scottish and Welsh Additional ½d, the Menai and Conway Bridge charges, the packet charges to Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and other offshore islands, and the special rate for internal Ship Letters.

Up to 8 miles Above 8 miles
Paid Unpaid Paid Unpaid
2d ½oz
4d 1oz
8d 2oz
1s 3oz
1s 4d 4oz
1s 8d 5oz
2s 6oz
2s 4d 7oz
2s 8d 8oz
3s 9oz
3s 4d 10oz
3s 8d 11oz
4s 12oz
4s 4d 13oz
4s 8d 14oz
5s 15oz
5s 4d 1lb
2d ½oz
4d 1oz
1s 4d 2oz
2s 3oz
2s 8d 4oz
3s 4d 5oz
4s 6oz
4s 8d 7oz
5s 4d 8oz
6s 9oz
6s 8d 10oz
7s 4d 11oz
8s 12oz
8s 8d 13oz
9s 4d 14oz
10s 15oz
10s 8d 1lb
4d ½oz
8d 1oz
1s 4d 2oz
2s 3oz
2s 8d 4oz
3s 4d 5oz
4s 6oz
4s 8d 7oz
5s 4d 8oz
6s 9oz
6s 8d 10oz
7s 4d 11oz
8s 12oz
8s 8d 13oz
9s 4d 14oz
10s 15oz
10s 8d 1lb
4d ½oz
8d 1oz
2s 8d 2oz
4s 3oz
5s 4d 4oz
6s 8d 5oz
8s 6oz
9s 4d 7oz
10s 8d 8oz
12s 9oz
13s 4d 10oz
14s 8d 11oz
16s 12oz
17s 4d 13oz
18s 8d 14oz
£1 15oz
£1 1s 4d 1lb

By General Post within Ireland

For (pre)paid letters between most places in Ireland, the same rules applied as within Great Britain – a 4d base rate on the "British scale" (as described above) with unpaid letters of higher weights charged double. However, the 2d and 3d per sheet rates for journeys of up to 7 and 7-15 Irish miles were translated under the Treasury Warrant to base rates of 2d and 3d.

Up to 7 Irish miles 7-15 Irish miles Above 15 Irish miles
Paid Unpaid Paid Unpaid Paid Unpaid
2d ½oz
4d 1oz
8d 2oz
1s 3oz
1s 4d 4oz
1s 8d 5oz
2s 6oz
2s 4d 7oz
2s 8d 8oz
3s 9oz
3s 4d 10oz
3s 8d 11oz
4s 12oz
4s 4d 13oz
4s 8d 14oz
5s 15oz
5s 4d 1lb
2d ½oz
4d 1oz
1s 4d 2oz
2s 3oz
2s 8d 4oz
3s 4d 5oz
4s 6oz
4s 8d 7oz
5s 4d 8oz
6s 9oz
6s 8d 10oz
7s 4d 11oz
8s 12oz
8s 8d 13oz
9s 4d 14oz
10s 15oz
10s 8d 1lb
3d ½oz
6d 1oz
1s 2oz
1s 6d 3oz
2s 4oz
2s 6d 5oz
3s 6oz
3s 6d 7oz
4s 8oz
4s 6d 9oz
5s 10oz
5s 6d 11oz
6s 12oz
6s 6d 13oz
7s 14oz
7s 6d 15oz
8s 1lb
3d ½oz
6d 1oz
2s 2oz
3s 3oz
4s 4oz
5s 5oz
6s 6oz
7s 7oz
8s 8oz
9s 9oz
10s 10oz
11s 11oz
12s 12oz
13s 13oz
14s 14oz
15s 15oz
16s 1lb
4d ½oz
8d 1oz
1s 4d 2oz
2s 3oz
2s 8d 4oz
3s 4d 5oz
4s 6oz
4s 8d 7oz
5s 4d 8oz
6s 9oz
6s 8d 10oz
7s 4d 11oz
8s 12oz
8s 8d 13oz
9s 4d 14oz
10s 15oz
10s 8d 1lb
4d ½oz
8d 1oz
2s 8d 2oz
4s 3oz
5s 4d 4oz
6s 8d 5oz
8s 6oz
9s 4d 7oz
10s 8d 8oz
12s 9oz
13s 4d 10oz
14s 8d 11oz
16s 12oz
17s 4d 13oz
18s 8d 14oz
£1 15oz
£1 1s 4d 1lb

Within a Town Penny Post or the London Twopenny Post

All charges were less than 4d originally and hence remained so, but rates on prepaid letters up to ½oz were reduced to 1d if higher. Previously, if a General Post letter originated in or was delivered by a Penny or Twopenny Post, the charges for that post were (in most cases) added to the General Post rate, but this now no longer applied (except in the case of franked letters). The weight limit of 4oz remained for letters sent within a Penny or Twopenny Post.

Both the London Twopenny Post and the Dublin Penny Post had inner and outer areas, and rates differed depending on whether a letter was carried wholly within the inner area, or to and/or from the outer area. In 1839-40 the London inner "town" area was a radius of 3 miles from the Chief Office, and the outer "country" area 12⅓ miles (with some ad hoc elements). The correponding city and outer areas for Dublin were defined as "the Limits of the Circular Road about the City of Dublin" and "any place within the Circuit of the Penny Post Office"(!).

For further detail and previous charges see the local posts listing.

London Twopenny Post Dublin Penny Post Other Penny Posts
Town Country City Outer Any
Paid Unpaid Paid Unpaid Paid Unpaid Paid Unpaid Paid Unpaid
1d ½oz
2d 4oz

2d 4oz
1d ½oz
3d 4oz

3d 4oz

1d 4oz

1d 4oz
1d ½oz
2d 4oz

2d 4oz

1d 4oz

1d 4oz