I wrote this today in my current work in progress. But was I right? I thought I had it right, but really, what do I know about sending a letter in Regency England.
After hitting the my own files and some of the sites, I discovered more than I ever wanted to know. Here are a few things I thought you might find of interest.
First of all, I was right about the receiver of the letter having to pay the cost of mailing. In this case from St Ives in Cornwall to somewhere near Old Sarum in Wiltshire.
All letters went via London. So in this case, the letter would pass Old Sarum, then be sent back there. Letters were charged according to distance and and the number of sheets of paper:
|Within Great Britain:-|
|Not exceeding 15 miles||4d|
|Above 15 but not more than 20 miles||5d|
|Above 20 but not more than 30 miles||6d|
|Above 30 but not more than 50 miles||7d|
|Above 50 but not more than 80 miles||8d|
|Above 80 but not more than 120 miles||9d|
|Above 120 but not more than 170 miles||10d|
|Above 170 but not more than 230 miles||11d|
|Above 230 but not more than 300 miles||12d|
|Above 300 but not more than 400 miles||13d|
|Above 400 but not more than 500 miles||14d|
|Above 500 but not more than 600 miles||15d|
|Above 600 but not more than 700 miles||16d|
|Above 700 miles||17d|
For example, a typical single page letter from Dublin to London would cost 1s 3d - a lot of money in those days, when you consider that a Dairy maid 6 pence per day, less than half this amount. Can you imagine sending a letter at the cost of a whole days pay? Two sheets of paper doubled the cost, three tripled it. And paper was not a cheap commodity either.
This high cost is partly because you paid twice. Once to get the letter to London, and again to get it to its destination. And sometimes cities added their own charges for delivery also, usually a penny. And this is why, out of respect, the sender would keep their information to a single page and only write if needed. To save paper they would "cross their lines" turn the paper at right angles and write in that direction as shown in the picture. In most places one had to go the the post office to collect one's mail rather than it being delivered to the door. Which is apparently something we are returning to these days.
By the way, there were no envelopes in the Regency. The sheet of paper would contain the address on the outside, and be sealed with wax or a wafer. Additional sheets would be folded inside.
If you want to dig deeper than I do at present, I would recommend starting with http://postalheritage.org.uk
No doubt there will be a new question on my mind requiring information in the not too distant future and until then, Happy Rambles