Market Lavington Museum

A penny post cover

Today, we are delighted to have received a new donation to Market Lavington Museum. It is this rather careworn scrap of paper!

With some help from the knowledgeable donor, we have been able to piece together what it is and its significance to Market Lavington.

In the centre we can see a name and address.

Folded like this, the paper looks more purposeful. It is a rudimentary envelope, known as a cover, which was being sent to Anthony Gay (or Guy) Esquire at Coopers Hotel on Bouverie Street in London. Unfortunately, Mr Gay (or Guy) did not leave the enclosed letter with the cover, so we do not know who sent it or what the message was.

However, we do know where it was sent from, as it is stamped Devizes Penny Post.

What’s more, our donor was able to supply evidence that the No. 1 means that it was ‘posted’ in Market Lavington, the first of the village areas served by the Devizes Penny Post hub. This number one area was established in 1818. (The other villages, which were established in later years, were Poulshot, Seend, Bromham, Rowde, West Lavington, Potterne, Tilshead, Shrewton, Marden and Cannings.)

Local Penny Posts had been authorised by parliament in 1765 and there were many of these established in the UK in the early 19th century. By the middle to end of the 1830s a UK wide Uniform Penny Post was set up and the penny black postage stamp was introduced.

Our letter was sent before these reforms. We can see from its date stamp that it was sent in 1829. Our donor told us that this is a London double rim date stamp so, presumably, the letter had arrived in London on 14th July 1829.

A previous blog entry, Three Post Office locations, reminds us that the post office had other locations before its present site at the crossroads. However, this penny post cover predates all of our post office sites. This letter would have been taken to a local receiving house, before being taken to Devizes for sorting and sending on to London. The Green Dragon was later known as The Green Dragon Hotel, Commercial and Posting House, so we imagine that our letter was taken there to start on its journey to London.

This postcard picture of The Green Dragon dates from 1904, well after our letter was posted there.

The letter cover was only a piece of folded paper, which did not have the adhesive edged flap of a modern envelope. We imagine it may have been secured with a wax seal. The circular torn hole could have been where a seal was removed to open the cover.

So, that’s the story of our scruffy bit of paper, later used for some back of the envelope calculations and, amazingly, surviving for almost two hundred years and providing us with evidence of the precursor to our modern postal system.