Home > History of Wine, Image > Anatomy of a Madeira Letter – Rates

Anatomy of a Madeira Letter – Rates


The three letters featured in this post, dated 1808, 1811, and 1817, highlight the different rates charged for sending letters from London to Madeira using the British Post Office. These letters were carried by postal packet thus in addition to the recipient’s address and endorsement, they bear the rates charged for delivery.

The port city of Falmouth, located in the south-west corner of England, was home to the Post Office’s Packet Service for nearly two centuries.[1] In sending a letter from London to Madeira, the rate was calculated by adding up the inland cost of sending the letter from London to Falmouth. and the Falmouth packet rate to Madeira. The letters dated 1808 and 1811 were rated based on the same scale set forth in the Postage Act of 1805[1].

Falmouth is located some 270 miles from London. In 1805, the inland rates for England charged 11d. for a 200-300 mile journey. The Falmouth packet rate for Madeira was 1s. 7d. The total rate then is 11d. + 1s. 7d. – 1d. = 2s. 5d which is marked in red in the upper right-hand corner of the cover. The letter is also marked “40” for the 40 Centimos collection fee in Madeira. I do not have any further information about this fee.

The second letter was rated 4s. 10d. or twice that of the previous letter. This was the charge for a double letter. The reason for which is found in the correspondence itself, where we learn that “Under this cover you will receive Copies of my last letter…”.

The Postage Act of 1812, increased the inland rate for London to Falmouth by 1d. to 12d or 1s. and the packet rate to Madeira was increased by 1d. to 1s. 8d.[2] The total rate then is 1s. + 1s. 8d. – 1d. = 2s. 7d.


[1] Hemmeon, J. C. “The History of the British Post Office”, 1912. URL: http://www.gbps.org.uk/information/downloads/files/historical-studies/The%20History%20of%20the%20British%20Post%20Office%20(1912)%20-%20J.C.Hemmeon.pdf

[2] “Postage Act 1805, (45 Geo 3 c.11, 12th March 1805)”. The Great Britain Philatelic Society. URL: http://www.gbps.org.uk/information/sources/acts/1805-03-12_Act-45-George-III-cap-11.php

[3] “Postage Act 1812,(52 Geo 3 c.88, 9th July 1812)”. The Great Britain Philatelic Society. URL: http://www.gbps.org.uk/information/sources/acts/1812-07-09_Act-52-George-III-cap-88.php

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