Uniform 1d. Postage

Brewer Street Receiving House


On 10th January 1840 one of the reforms proposed by Rowland Hill came into effect, that of uniform 1d. postage. From that date any inland letter was charged 1d. per 1/2 ounce of weight, regardless of the destination. Prior to this, for a very short period of but 36 days the rate had been 4d. per 1/2 ounce, itself a reduction from the varying sheet count and mileage charges previously used.

This letter addressed to a solicitor in Warwick was posted on the 13th January, the fourth day of the 1d. rate. It was sent by a Mr. Beaumont representing the County Fire Office in London. Rather than have the letter taken to a post office, it was handed in at a Receiving House, obtaining a typical cancel of such operation.

This is where it gets interesting. According to Feldman's "Receiving Houses Of London", the Brewer Street operation was not on the 1834 'Cash Books' list maintained by the GPO, it is thus presumed to have closed sometime between its appearance on the 21st Report's map published in 1830 and the date of the later list.

There are five cancels known for the Brewer St. house, two oval unframed [paid and unpaid], two dual line unframed [2py and 3py] and a framed small "T.P / BrewerSt". This latter cancel is known used in 1838 and is presumed to have been applied by another "one of the receivers who took over the tenure, but was located in an adjacent street."

If such is correct, why then, when the Uniform Penny Postage came into being did this 'other receiver' not have a cancel made with the corrected name of the Receiving House? Here on this letter we find a two line type L506: "Brewer St / 1 Py P.Paid" applied three days into the new rate period. The cancel here is of similar layout to the 2 line unframed, but with a clearly different typeface.

One of the nearest Receiving Houses was at 189 Regent St., however this house had a properly named 1py 1840 cancel. The nearby Coventry St. house had been relocated to Princes St. in 1838 and there was a 1d. cancel from 1842. Unfortunately for us, the transition period kept the Coventry St. naming and there was also a 1 py cancel with that name for the 1840 period.

Now turning to the letter's contents. As with most business correspondance, the letter often was used for notations and calculations. In this case it is about arrears of land rent for the Upper Assembly Rooms on Regent Street, Leamington Spa. Multiple calculations were done on the outer portion to get [verify?] the amount mentioned in the text:

County Fire Office
London January 13th, 1840
Assembly Rooms Leamington
In consequence of your letter to us of Dec'r 21st Ult'o we put our solicitors, Blake & Beaumont in communication with you to know for what term of ground rent & ending when the arrear of 163,15- was claimed. Your reply which they have shown to us does not answer our question which we are anxious for, that all arrear of ground rent may be cleared. The ground rent we observe is 70 a year.
I am Sir
Your obedient Servant
J. A. Beaumont, Jr.
G.C. Greenway, Esq.

Leamington - The Upper Assembly Rooms
Image produced from the Windows on Warwickshire service
with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey

In the Warwick Advertiser of February 9, 1811 appeared this notice:

To Architects, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. A Premium of Twenty Guineas will be paid for the most approved ground plan and elevation for erecting Public Rooms at this much admired watering-place. The plot on which the rooms are proposed to be built is a Corner Situation, and contains 50 feet on the East -- 189 feet on the North (fronting Two principal streets) [The southwest corner of Union Parade and Regent Street. - Ed.] -- 50 feet on the West, facing a back street, and 189 on the South - adjoining land already built upon - such Part only of the above Land to be used for the buildings as may be deemed necessary."
Application to be made to the office of Messrs. Tomes and Heydon, Warwick; plans to be sent before the First Day of March next.

The Upper Assembly Rooms in Leamington Spa were opened on September 24, 1812 as a fashionable place for balls, concerts and parties. They were designed by a local architect, Mr. C. S. Smith who also designed the Regent Hotel and the Royal Pump Room and Baths. Among the many performers who appeared here were: Madame Catalani in 1821, two concerts by Paganini in 1833, Jenny Lind in 1848 and 1856.

In addition to a Ballroom of "Eighty-two feet long, Thirty-six feet wide and Twenty-six feet high decorated with three superb chandeliers of cut glass, illuminated with gas" there was a Billiard Room, Card Room and Hewitt's Library in two projecting wings off the Ballroom. Balls were held weekly on Thursdays from June to November, musical promenades and concerts during the 'season'.

Costing about 10,000 in 1812, in 1878 they were sold at auction for 5,700 and sometime before 1900 the Upper Assembly Rooms were transformed into large business establishments.

An interesting side note: "The Reverend Rowland Hill preached in the Leamington Spa Chapel on July 30, and August 6 and 13, 1820." from "Chaos To The Charter" by Thomas Dudley. The instigator of penny postage, Rowland Hill, is said to have been christened 'Rowland' after him. And so our travel comes full circle.

The Upper Assembly Rooms, Leamington
Image produced from the Windows on Warwickshire service
with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey


8th September 2014