If you would like to get in touch to let me know of any new finds, extensions to the dates of use or simply with comments about the site, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
My apologies to anyone who emailed me at the previous email address that I offered here (email@example.com) . I believed that I had set this address up correctly to forward any mails to me, but it hasn't worked. I have now abandoned using that address. I suspect that the problem is down to my inexperience in setting this up. Sorry about that!
My name is Dave Foster and I have been collecting Berwick Postal History for a number of years. This is my first attempt at producing a website so please bear with me as I try to improve & develop the site. Whilst this site isn’t yet a complete history of the posts in Berwick I would like it to grow towards that by extending the current scope to include the mails of the last century.
Website update: I have now simplified the Contacts page, hopefully to make it more user-friendly. I’ve also added a couple more illustrations.
Great news! I have at last managed to obtain a cover bearing the very first BARWICK mark. It’s dated 1715 and is addressed to The Earl of London. I’ve been looking for an example of this mark for almost 30 years and at last I have one. To say that I’m pleased is an understatement!
Willcocks and Jay had stated that this mark was only known used 1716-1718. The one I now have is dated 1715, but one has been found as early as 1706, which is the earliest known mark for the whole of Northumberland. I would love to hear from anyone who has either of the first two marks, when the spelling of the town was BARWICK rather than BERWICK. I’m particularly interested in knowing dates of use and destinations.
This cover is something of a mystery. Covers of Berwick (or Barwick as it then was) were handstamped with the name of the town from 1706. However, this one, dated 1716, carries no such mark.
It would appear to have gone through the normal post as the references to charges seem to match those that one would expect on mail carried. There are two references to the charges made. Firstly there is the inscription near the bottom reading “Post Paid to Edin” (Edinburgh) and secondly a manuscript 2, indicating an additional charge of 2d from Edinburgh to Dumfreise (Dumfries). So the question is, why is there no Barwick handstamp on this letter? Carelessness by the staff in the Post Office? Or possibly a temporarily mislaid handstamp? Who knows – but it’s interesting to speculate. If you have any ideas, please get in touch. My details are shown on the Contact page.
I thought that you may be interested to know that I have written a book, which has just been published by the Scottish Postal History Society as one of their series of monographs. You will not be surprised to learn that the title is “The Postal History of Berwick-upon-Tweed.” For details click on "Book and Further Reading" on the menu on the left. Dave Foster.
I have made a few changes to the website this month.
Firstly, I have added the two Penny Post handstamps. These can be found at the end of the newly entitled section ‘Instructional and other Marks.’
Secondly, there is now a section for my book “The Postal History of Berwick-upon-Tweed”. This can be found under the section Book and Further Reading.
The final section, previously ‘Contact’ is now ‘Contact and Newsletter Archive’, where you will find copies of all the monthly newsletters. In some cases I have abbreviated the newsletters where the content has been absorbed into other places on the website.
Please let me know if you think the changes are OK, or if you would like to see other changes made.
Enjoy you collecting! Dave Foster.
I had the pleasure of visiting the York Stamp Show in July. Apart from the usual excellent range of dealers there was, for the first time, a full National Competition organised through the APBS. The competition was for the Postal History class only.
The one entry that appealed to me most was Al Hurst’s gold medal winning exhibit of The Postal History of Northumberland. This was treat to see and I am so pleased that Al decided to send the entry in so that we could all enjoy his collection. The exhibit opened with the earliest known Northumberland handstamp – a 1706 Barwick (Berwick) straight line. My example of this mark, the second oldest known, is a full nine years later, dated 1715.
As I viewed his exhibit I was astounded by how similar many of his items were to items in my own collection. For example, we both have letters sent to Alnwick that had been charged at the triple rate of 1s6d, but which the Postmaster at Alnwick had agreed with the recipient were actually only double rate items. He had then marked the covers “Allowed on this letter 6d” to bring the cost down to the correct double rate. When I thought about it later, I realised that I shouldn’t have been at all surprised by the similarities as our two collections will have been derived from exactly the same archives.
To those of you who say this display I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.Thanks Al.
There was also some good news at the close of the show. As the competition had been soo well received, it is to become an annual event. From next year this will be for all classes and not just Postal History. Dave Foster.
I had the pleasure of showing my Berwick Postal History display at a regional meeting of the Scottish Postal History Society at the end of September. The meeting was held in Billingham and was well attended by enthusiastic members from both sides of the border. There continues to be a real buzz about all aspects of Scottish Postal History. If you would like to know more about the society then visit their website, www.sphs.org.uk. Dave Foster.
Newsletter No. 8
I was pleased to be able to buy this nice example of the first Berwick Additional Half mark recently. The cover bearing this mark that I had previously was poorer than I would have liked so I’ve been on the lookout for a better one for some years. This new one is a nice early example, dated 27 June 1813, and, as you can see it also carries a boxed Berwick mileage mark.
Although this is an early mark it isn’t the earliest known. I should mention that the Act regarding this “Additional halfpenny” came into effect on 9 June 1813, with a manual endorsement of the charge being known from London on that date. The first known example of a handstamp being recorded is a London handstamp of 17th June 1813.
A number of members of the Scottish Postal History Society are currently working on a new book on the Additional Half, which I’m certainly looking forward to.
I’m beginning the process of re-writing my collection of Berwick Postal History following feedback that I got when I entered Stampex some time ago with a one-frame (16 sheet) entry entitled “The Postal History of Berwick-upon-Tweed in the 1700s”.
In the 1700s the postmark was applied to the back of the cover, so on each sheet I would show the back of a cover with the postmark together with a photo-reduced copy of the front, which showed the destination and the postal rate charged. However, the feedback that I got was that I should be showing two covers per page.
The two-covers-per-page works fine for mail from the 1800s and 1900s where the cancellation generally was shown on the front together with the destination and rate, but there are problems in the 1700s when this wasn’t the case. My dilemma is what do I do about mail from the 1700’s? Do I ignore the rates and show the items solely for the handstamps? Personally, I am interested in both the marks and the postal rates.
My eventual aim is to create a three frame (48 sheets) entry entitled“The Postal History of Berwick-upon-Tweed to 1840”, but I’m struggling with the format of the material from the 1700s.
I’d appreciate any thoughts that you may have.
Newsletter – Spring 2017.
There are now signs of Spring in the garden, which gives me the hint that it is time for me to update my websites.
I have spent the winter completely re-writing my collection of Berwick Postal History: a task that’s now almost complete. During Spring I’ll be updating the website by scanning most of the newly-written sheets and inserting the scans on the website.
I’m intending to enter material from my collection into one of the National competitions this year, either in York during the summer, or at Stampex in the Autumn. It’ll go under the title of “The Postal History of Berwick upon Tweed up to 1840”, and will consist of three frames of 16 sheets, total 48 sheets. It will be these 48 sheets that I will be uploading to the website over the next couple of months, so if you can’t make it to whichever event that put the entry into, you’ll be able to see it here.
I hope that you will like the new style of write up, once I get it on-line. If you have any comments, I’d love to hear them.
Enjoy your collecting!
Newsletter - Summer 2017
I’m afraid that I’ll not be entering my three-frame “The Postal History of Berwick-upon-Tweed up to 1840” into Autumn Stampex as I’d previously planned. Half way through my re-write I decided to tweek the page layout and so had to start over again! This time I’m very happy with the result. You’ll be able to judge for yourself once I complete the write-up and load the results onto this site.
I’ve now managed to get a better quality Penny Black on cover used from Berwick than the one I had previously. The new one is shown below.
Newsletter - Autumn 2017
Just a brief note to announce updates to the site. I've now added a few pages from my collection showing the new layout that I've adopted. These can be found at the end of the section on HANDSTAMPS.
If you have any questions, comments, news or anything else of interest regarding the postal History of Berwick, please contact me using the email details shown in the CONTACT section.
Newsletter, Winter 2017-2018.
In this newsletter I’d like to tell you about my latest Berwick purchase. It’s a shipwreck cover from 1869 and is an envelope, still containing the contents, from Berwick to Madras, India, cancelled Berwick 25 Aug 1869. It also bears a London backstamp dated the following day, 26 Aug 1869.
This was just weeks before the Suez Canal was opened, so mail destined for India was transported to Egypt and then put on a ship in the Red Sea for onward transportation. This item was on the SS Carnatic, which sank on 14 Sept 1869 in the Red Sea, during the journey from Suez to Bombay.
On the morning of 12 September 1869, the Carnatic left Suez for Bombay with Captain Philip Buton Jones in command. The ship carried 34 passengers, 176 crew, and a cargo consisting of copper sheeting, cotton, Royal Mail, and £40,000 worth of gold destined for the mint in India.
At 1am on 13 September, the ship hit the reef of Sha’ab Abu Nuhas and was hard aground. Captain Jones then conducted an inspection of the ship and determined that the pumps could handle the water that the ship was taking on. As there was no apparent danger to the passengers or crew he ordered that everyone was to remain onboard. At dawn, Captain Jones ordered some of the cargo be thrown overboard to lighten the ship in an attempt to refloat her on the tide, but this proved unsuccessful. Knowing that the S.S. Sumatra, inbound for Suez, would pass nearby soon, he ordered people to stay aboard for a second night.
As the ship sat on the reef, it had been swinging from side-to-side on the reef, slowly weakening the ship’s keel. In the early hours of 14 September the water level in the engineroom reached the ship’s boilers which resulted in the ship losing all power, including the loss of the pumps. At daybreak, with the ship flooding uncontrollably, Capt. Jones gave the order to abandon ship, women and children first. As the ship was being abandoned it ship suddenly broke in half. The aft section immediately went to the bottom, the forward section of the ship initially rolled over onto its port side before slowly sinking. The survivors managed to make it to Shadwan Island in the remaining lifeboats, arriving on the island at sunset. A signal fire was started atop the island which was later sighted by the passing S.S. Sumatra who rescued the 179 survivors. A total of 31 people (5 passengers and 26 crew) lost their lives in the sinking of the ship.
A Board of Enquiry determined that the grounding of the Carnatic was the result of negligence on the captain’s part. Capt. Jones’ Master ticket was suspended for nine months, but he never went to sea again.
Salvaging took some three weeks. Unsurprisingly, the gold (worth £1,000,000 currently) was salvaged first. It is not known how much mail was salvaged.
Here are scans of the cover. As you can see, it is very fragile with much of the reverse of the envelope missing and one of the stamps washed off, but the Berwick handstamp is clearly visible. Interestingly, there are two versions of the wrapper-like salvage band. This one, the one-line “Recovered from wreck of the Carnatic”, is the rarer of the two types of band known on mail salvaged from this ship. The more common type, again comprising one line, reads “Recovered from wreck of Carnatic”, omitting the word “the” before “Carnatic”.
Newsletter Spring 2018.
At last the long winter seems to be over and spring is here.
Thank you to those people who commented favourably on the wreck cover that I mentioned in the last newsletter. It’s certainly an interesting item.
For the first time for many years I missed attending Spring Stampex due to a death in the family. I hope I didn’t miss any bargains from the dealers! For Autumn Stampex I intend entering the Postal History competitive class with a three-frame “The Postal History of Berwick upon Tweed up to 1840.” It hasn’t been entered before and I have fingers crossed that the judges will like it.
My thanks to one collector who sent me scans of a beautifully clear example of an early MISSENT TO BERWICK mark (see below). Used in April 1809, this predates any previously recorded Missent marks from Berwick. If you have any interesting news of discoveries to share, please drop me a line. My contact details can be found in the last section of the website.
You’ll find a few minor tweeks to the website this time, but I’m currently working on a spreadsheet that will update the earliest and latest known dates for all the cancellations. This will be on-site before my Summer newsletter.
With best wishes to all,
Yes, summer's here! So, apart from the sunshine, what’s new?
Firstly, I’ve uploaded a revised list of earliest and latest known dates of use of the handstamps used up to 1840. You’ll find this listing both below this newsletter and in the appropriate section of the website. I’ve also changed these dates alongside the pictures of the individual handstamps to match the latest information. Secondly I’ve corrected an error in the Skeleton section plus a typo that I’ve somehow missed for the past couple of years!
I’m putting a Berwick entry into in the National Competition at York this month. Fingers crossed.
Next time I‘ll update you on news of my competition entry but if you have the opportunity I’d recommend a visit to York. The event is at York Racecourse on Friday-Saturday 20th-21st July and includes a large stamp and coin fair together with the National Competitions.
Newsletter Autumn 2018
My main news this time round is the award of a GOLD MEDAL for my Three Frame (48 sheet) National entry on the Postal History of Berwick up to 1840.
It wasn’t just Gold – I was actually only one mark off getting a Large Gold! In the feedback from one of the judges I was told that I couldn’t get Large Gold because the town wasn’t important enough. I’ve got to say I couldn’t agree – Berwick may be only a small town but it’s importance at the time was way above its size. It was one of the five Forwarding Offices for goodness sake. But I didn’t argue – what would have been the point?
The other thing that disappointed me a bit was that I was awarded only 18 out of 20 for research. I simply don’t know what other research I could have done. If anyone does know, please let me know.
Having said all that, I’m still happy to have a Gold.
I was originally intending to develop this into a five frame Berwick PH to 1900, but there’s no point really if I can never get more than I’ve already achieved, so I think I’ll settle for what I’ve got.
I also entered a one frame (16 sheet) entry on The Railway at Berwick, which was awarded a Large Vermeil. (For those who haven’t come across Vermeil before it’s an award mid-way between a Silver and a Gold. It used to be called Silver-Gilt, which, to my mind, was fine. The Large indicates that it was in the top 5 marks of the Vermeil category.)
I hope that you enjoy viewing the site. If you have any questions, comments etc, do let me know. You’ll find my details on the Contacts page of this site.