"£50 — Gone for a Burton"
Cape Town to Daventry, 1829.
This letter was written on 26th March 1829 by Charles Burton in Cape Town to his brother Edmund Singer Burton, Daventry, Northamptonshire, England. The postman would have had no problem delivering the letter, even though it was addressed so simply. During the 1800's the three generations of Edmund Singer Burton, his father, John, and his son, Edmund Charles, all held the position of Town Clerk of Daventry, so they would have been well known. In 1829 he and his wife Anna Maria, and their children lived at "The Lodge" in Daventry.
Postal markings (Fig. 1)Front of letter
1) Crowned Circle date stamp General Post Office Cape Town Mr 27 1829
2) postal charge — the '3' was levied in Capetown. It was an internal fee to receive the letter, handle and place on board next ship and HAD to be prepaid, usually, but not always written in red signifying prepaid. This looks like a pretty faded red ink.
3) INDIA LETTER GRAVESEND. Alan W. Robertson's booklet on the "Ship Letter" Ports of the Thames Estuary has a full entry, with illustrations of the postmarks, and information about Gravesend. It is 22 miles east of London and is the first port on the Thames within the jurisdiction of the corporation of London. From the early 17th century Gravesend was the chief station for East Indiamen. At the time this letter was written most of the East and West India ships docked here for their supplies, for Customs clearance, and probably more importantly to wait the tide. So the mail was taken off here, and transported by road to the Ship Letter Office at the Post Office in London. There are 16 different Gravesend Ship Letter stamps known to postal historians. This particular example — a two-line boxed INDIA LETTER GRAVESEND was in use from 1823 to 1832, and can be identified by the size of the letters which were 4mm high.
I understand that this stamp was applied to mail arriving at Gravesend by private ship from the east, that is Cape Town, Ceylon, India, Mauritius and the East Indies. This goes back to the days of the East India Company and its merchant ships. Mail arriving from any other places in the world would receive the stamp SHIP LETTER GRAVESEND.
4) London double circle morning duty date stamp 22 June 1829 showing that it took more than 3 months to arrive. (filing note is Rec'd 23rd)
5)1/4 (one shilling and fourpence), which has been struck over the original 3d. 8d being the standard rate from British ports of arrival to London, made up of 6d to GPO and 2d Ship Master's gratuity, plus the cost of London to Daventry another 8d, 2 x 8d making the 1shilling 4d, the correct rate to be collected from the addressee.
6) what looks like 1/10 (one shilling and 10 pence). This is inexplicable, as despite the fact that the letter mentions an enclosure, the letter did not attract double postage, If it had it would have been charged twice 1shilling and 4d, making it 2shillings and 8 pence, not 1/10.
The writer added the note "pr Anna Maria". I find it interesting that the timetables of the ships were known, and that the writers of the letters could nominate the ship. So now to the letter.
"Cape Town 26 March 1829[Note: Hankey was an established banking firm, and the Old Bailey Criminal Court record Ref: t17670115-8 of 1756 shows that a William Collinson was tried for forging a certain inland bill of exchange, purporting to have been drawn by John Dun, directed to Sir Joseph Hankey , banker, requiring him to pay £16 &c. with a forged acceptance on it. He was found guilty of publishing the acceptance, knowing it to have been forged and sentenced to death. This seems a harsh sentence for such a small amount, but that was the penalty, and this would have been well known at that time.]
He then continues with general chat, and sounds somewhat peevish in the last sentence.
"I am very well — never was better.
Lady Charles Knightley, was the wife of the second baronet Sir Charles and they lived at Fawsley Hall, not far from Daventry, so they would have been neighbours to the Burtons. I wonder if she appreciated the artificial flower made of shells. I would also like to know what Charles Burton was doing in Cape Town in 1829, whether he was with the Army, or carrying out a business, or just a settler in a new land.
This article was first published in Stamp News the Australian monthly magazine.
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