Letters and Packets
Other Classes of Mail
Parcel Rates 1883-1966
Parcels have been carried from time immemorial by carriers, whose business in this respect was not affected by the setting up of a state letter service in 1635. London's first organised parcel service was part of the private Penny Post of Dockwra and partners in 1680 -- two years later this was taken over by the Post Office, but under a review of 1794 the service was restricted to the carriage of letters.
11d George VI stamp issued for this second weight step rate, 1947
In 1837 a highly organised parcel service was introduced by the London Parcels Delivery Company. Two years later, postal reformer Henry Cole proposed the introduction of a government Uniform Parcel Post; but this was not pursued because of vigorous objections by railway companies and other parcel carriers. Rowland Hill also urged the establishment of a state parcel service, partly met by the introduction of a Book Post in 1848.
In 1880, the countries of the Universal Postal Union agreed to set up an International Parcel Post. This meant that the British Post Office had to operate a parcels service, too; and, by 1882, plans were under way for its introduction in the following year.
The new inland Parcels Post (as it was called at first) was introduced on 1st August 1883. It was to serve every place in the kingdom, and planning for this was a major task. Every post office had to be enlarged or fitted out for sorting parcels, and every counter provided with scales to weigh them. As the railway companies took 55% of the postage on postal parcels they carried, the Post Office had to set up many new road services by van and cart. Every Letter Carrier's walk had to be altered, so he did not have to carry too heavy a load. The men were given a new name -- in future, as they would no longer just be carrying letters, they were to be called 'Postmen'.
Registration of parcels was introduced on 1st June 1891.
Summary and rates reproduced by courtesy of Post Office Archives.
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