British North America and the Channel Islands
Last updated: 05 May 2008 17:44, Jersey local time


letter sheet from Quebec to Guernsey, dated 29 May 1815. Sporting a double-oval ‘Ship Letter (crown) Quebec’ hand stamp and scarce single oval ‘SHIP LETTER (crown) PORTSMOUTH’ hand stamp, red F / 17JY17 / 1815 London morning receiver on reverse. Carried by the private vessel Brig "Benson". Significantly, the ship-letter fee increased on 11 July 1815 from 6d. to 8d. (55 Geo. III, Cap 153). However, the ship-letter rate was charged according to the date it was posted from an overseas port, not when it arrived, therefore 6d. was levied. From London, it then travelled overland by mail coach to Weymouth to catch the domestic packet vessel to Guernsey. It is docketed inside, received on "20 July" and answered on "25 July", the name "Borchard" was noted, perhaps indicating this was the correspondent at Quebec.

Portsmouth crown - Robertson type S11, cover illustrated on page E.246 of A History Of The Ship Letters Of The British Isles, 1956. Alan Robertson wrote "A small oval handstamp of rather limited distribution. Its actual significance is not precisely known present. It was issued to ports already employing other ship-letter handstamps. The fact that it is usually found on letters carried by a naval vessel suggests its issue for a purpose of identification with such vessels."

British Postage

The UK inland rate to Guernsey can be split into the following charges:


Rate Comment
6d. Ship-letter rate, a fee charged by the Post Office on letters landed at GB ports by private vessels.
8d. Inland rate from Portsmouth to London, 73 miles
Rate band: 50-80 miles - 8d.
1/2 Sterling postage due

The rate was cancelled and then reassessed as '1/8' postage due.
Rate Comment
6d. Ship-letter rate, a fee charged by the Post Office  on letters landed at GB ports by private vessels.
11d. Inland distance to London and then onward to Weymouth, 73 miles plus 127 miles = 200 miles
Rate band: 170-230 miles - 11d.
3d. Packet post from Weymouth to Guernsey
1/8 Sterling postage due

Many thanks to Malcolm Montgomery for working out the two rates presented on the letter.

























December 7, 1830.  Montreal to Jersey, Great Britain, via New York.  Enormous single letter sheet to Messrs Lempriere, La Motte, Jersey, Great Britain endorsed ‘Via New York’.  Letter was prepaid ‘6’ pence Canadian currency to the lines (border) and ‘18¾’ cents U.S. Postage to New York.  ‘PAID’ (faintly visible) is hand-stamped adjacent to each rate, removing any doubt the letter was prepaid.  The advantage of routing letters through New York instead of Halifax was speed.  The overland route from Montreal to Halifax was underdeveloped, especially through New Brunswick, resulting in winter journeys taking up to 12 days from Montreal.  In winter Halifax only offered a monthly sailing whereas New York enjoyed weekly sailings, resulting in further delay if routed through Halifax.  That said, whereas letters could be sent via Halifax to Britain collect (unpaid), the New York route required pre-payment to New York.  Furthermore, since a postal convention between the US and GB did not exist, letters from the US to GB could not be prepaid.  The letter was carried by a private vessel from New York and landed at Liverpool ( SHIP LETTER / LIVERPOOL on reverse), it was rated and then cross posted to Weymouth (bypassing London) probably through Birmingham and Bristol.  From Weymouth it travelled on to Jersey on a Post Office packet.


The rates


Canadian Postage


Rate Description
6d. Montreal to the lines (the border or “frontier”), a rate ONLY specific to letters from Montreal to the exchange office at Swanton, Vermont, prepaid.  A distance less than 60 miles would normally cost 4½ pence Canadian currency, however one theory explaining the higher rate is the Montreal postmaster, without official approval, took an extra 1½ pence as a ‘ferriage’ or ‘border transfer fee’.[3]


U.S. Postage
Rate Comment
18¾¢ U.S. postage from the border to New York City (distance travelled between 150 and 400 miles), prepaid.


British Postage


The UK inland rate to Jersey can be split into the following charges:


Rate Comment
8d. Ship-letter rate, a fee charged by the Post Office  on letters landed at GB ports by private vessels.
1/- Inland rate for a distance between 230 and 300 miles; Liverpool to Weymouth, cross-posted via Birmingham and Bristol.
3d. Packet post from Weymouth to Jersey
1/11 Sterling postage due


Many thanks to Brian Cropp and Alan Moorcroft of the Channel Islands Specialists' Society for working out inland distance and rates to Jersey.

1834 Guernsey to Arichat, Isle Madame, Cape Breton via Halifax. Date lined December 27 and posted from Guernsey on the 30th, the letter was rated prepaid 'P 2/3' to Halifax. Landed at Halifax and transited through Antigonish. Both the Halifax and Antigonish star handstamps are scarce, but the Antigonish star is the rarest of the two.
Contemporary records show the Falmouth Packet Plover (a 10 gun Cherokee class Brig warship provided by the Admiralty*) departed Falmouth Station on January 10 and arrived at Halifax on February 13**; thus, I cannot reconcile the landing on the 13th with the Halifax handstamp on the 18th. Perhaps the 18th corresponds to the date it was despatched from Halifax to Antigonish. If you can share any insight, please write me. Alternatively, lot 1341 of the 2005 Steinhart sale offered a 1806 Guernsey folded letter to Annapolis, NS cover with a Halifax date stamp that didn't match the date reported by Arnell. I quote "The Halifax datestamp of Aug 25 suggests the packet arrived on Aug 24 or Aug 25 and not Aug 16 as reported in Arnell".
Charged collect 11d Cy Halifax to Antigonish and 2d Cy Antogonish to Arichat resulting in 1N1 postage due (upper right).

s d. Comments
1/ 3 Packet rate. Falmouth to Halifax, 1/3 + UK inland abated by 1d. (1817, January. GPO Notice to all Postmasters)
  9 Inland rate. Cross-posted from Weymouth to Falmouth, 120 to 170 miles, 10d. (52.GEO III c 88 - July 1812) less 1d abatement.
  3 Domestic packet rate. Guernsey to Weymouth, 1805, packet postage to Guernsey, 3d.
2/ 3 Stg Postage prepaid

* Robertson, Ship-Letters, 1956, pg B.7
** Arnell, Atlantic Mails, 1980, pg 281

1856 Plaister Cove, Nova Scotia to Guernsey. The correspondent endorsed the letter ‘Via Liverpool, R.M. Steamer’.  Postage was ‘paid’ from Nova Scotia to Guernsey at 6d. Stg. per ½ oz, direct via British Packet.[1] Weighing over ½ oz, it was double-rated, 1/-. The postage was expressed in Halifax Currency equivalent, which used a £125 Cy. conversion rate, thus 1/- Stg = 1/3 Cy[2]. The 10 is an accounting mark meaning 10d. stg was claimed by the NS post office out the 1/ stg double rate to Guernsey. Carried by the Cunarder Canada, landed at Liverpool on July 26, 1856 (PKT LETTER PAID / JY 26 / A56C) and forwarded to London on the 27th (mostly indistinct red London transit handstamp adjacent, however a trailing and faint '7' can be seen, where one would expect 27 to appear.) Bagged at London, it was carried by Royal Mail coach to Weymouth to pick up the domestic packet to Guernsey. The date on the Guernsey receiver is unreadable, that said, the average time taken to travel from London to the Channel Islands (London -> Weymouth; Weymouth -> Guernsey on steam packet) was three days. Therefore, the letter probably arrived on 30th or 31st.
  PLAISTER-COVE / JY 11 / 1856 / C. B
Plaister Cove is on the Cape Breton Island side of the Strait of Canso, was renamed Port Hastings in 1869.

H / JY 15 / 1856 / NS
Oval Halifax transit mark

GUERNSEY / JY ?? / 1856 / A
Small double-arc receiver, most likely Mayr type Gd 4B[4], based on the near vertical down-stroke of the 'R' in GUERNSEY. In 1856, only black and green are recorded in use.

1200 dpi image of the Guernsey receiver.

Many thanks to David Handelman for explaining the purpose of the '10' handstamp.
[1] Tabeart, Colin. United Kingdom Letter Rates Inland and Overseas, 2nd Edition, 2003. pg 51, rate effective Aug 1, ‘54

[2] Arnell, JC. Handbook on Transatlantic Mail. BNAPS, 1987, pg 14
[3] Arnell, J.C. The Transatlantic Mail To and From British North America From the Early Days To U.P.U, Canada: British North America Philatelic Society, 1996, pg37

[4] Mayr, Leopold. 615 Stempel des GUERNSEY Hauptpostames, Wien, Austria, 1990. pg 29


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