First class mail to fetch big bids

PUBLISHED: 12:50 20 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:57 16 September 2010

IT cost only two old pennies to send to Great Yarmouth in 1841, but now, nearly 170 years later, a Victorian postal wrapper is set to fetch up to £240 at an auction.

IT cost only two old pennies to send to Great Yarmouth in 1841, but now, nearly 170 years later, a Victorian postal wrapper is set to fetch up to £240 at an auction.

The wrapper is simply addressed to Mrs Simpson, The Quay, Gt Yarmouth, and marked for the attention of a Miss Woodward, who may have been a guest or a relative staying with Mrs Simpson. It was posted in London on July 3, 1841 and was delivered to Mrs Simpson in Great Yarmouth the following day.

This was an exciting and innovative time in postal history. For Britain's first adhesive postage stamp - the Penny Black - was introduced on May 6,1840.

Then, in February 1841, just five months before Mrs Simpson and Miss Woodward received their mystery package from London, the Penny Black was replaced with Britain's longest running stamp, the Penny Red. The colour was changed from black to red because of the difficulty seeing a cancellation mark on the Penny Black.

The Yarmouth wrapper features two Penny Red stamps, which suggests it was a small package rather than a letter, as an ordinary letter then cost only one old penny to post.

But what was inside the wrapper, which would have been folded over and sealed with wax, is a mystery. And the name of the sender is not known, because if there was a note or letter with the package it is now missing.

Yarmouth railway station did not open until 1844, so the package is likely to have made the 135-mile journey from London by horse-drawn mail coach.

There were four Mrs Simpsons living in Yarmouth at the time of the 1841 Census, but none listing The Quay as an address. So all the postman had to do was find the right Mrs Simpson.

There was Frances Simpson who lived at Row 97; Mary Simpson of Church Plain; Emma Simpson of Row 129;and then, perhaps the most likely candidate, another Mary Simpson, living at the Beach. She was then in her 50s and in the 1841 Census she described herself as someone of “independent means.” She shared her home with 15-year-old Sarah Simpson, who may have been her daughter. But in the Census there is no mention of a Miss Woodward.

Auctioneers Spink describe the Yarmouth wrapper as “appealing” and Spink stamps expert Neill Granger says it is unusual to see the Great Yarmouth postmark on the front of the wrapper as they were usually found on the back.

It is one of the oldest surviving pieces of mail sent to Yarmouth and it will now be auctioned at Spink in Bloomsbury, London, on September 9, when it is expected to sell for between £200 and £240.

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