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The Reforms of 1839Time-Line
Early History

The delivery of letters was not only costly but also slow, inconvenient and very uncertain. The expensive postage was payable by the adressee on delivery, the payment was often evaded (causing a considerable loss of revenue to the Post Office) or the delivery frequently refused by poorer addressees.

The introduction of mail coaches (the first of which ran between London and Bath in 1784) improved the postal service greatly.

A letter sent from London to Brighton cost eight pence.  

"Franking", whereby Members of Parliament wrote their own names on the covers of their own letters or those of their friends, ensuring free delivery, was much abused and a great drain on the revenue of the postal service.

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The Reforms of 1839

despite great opposition, the Bill for the reform of the postal service on the lines suggested by Rowland Hill in his pamphlet on Post Office Reform (1837) was carried through Parliament in 1939.

It rpovided that letters should be carried at a uniform rate of four pence per half ounce (reduced to one penny, the "Penny Post", on January 10, 1840). The right of "Franking" was abolished and adhesive postage stamps were introduced.

Results of the 1839 Reform

Trade benefitted greatly from cheap postage and letter communications, both national and international, burgeoned during the 19th century.

The reduction in postage costs led to a huge increase in the number communications and a corresponding increase in Post Office revenue. 124,000 letters and papers were delivered in 1839 - seventy years later, in the year ending March 31st, 1909, this figure had increased (including parcels) to 5,000-million.

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1663Revenues of the Post Office go to the Crown revenue
1784Britain\'s first mail coach service runs between London and Bath (along what is now the A4)
1837Rowland Hills pamphlet on reform of Postal Services published
1839Reform of Postal Services along the lines suggested in Rowland Hill\'s pamphlet on Post Office reform published in 1837
... introduction of pre-paid postage
1840.Jan.10The Penny Post introduced by the Post Office
1861The Post Office Savings Banks established (later undertaking insurance and annuities)
1869The telegraph became a government monopoly and was put under the control of the Post Office
1870.Jan.10Post cards were first introduced by the Post Office
1881Postal Orders were first issued by the Post Office
1883Parcel Post introduced by the Post Office
1885The sixpenny telegram introduced by the Post Office
2004.Jan.09The Post Office announced that it was scrapping sorting carriages and phasing out the carriage of mail by trains in favour of road transport

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The British government offered a prize of £200 for the best method of collecting postage on prepaid letters in about 1840. The competition was won by Sir Isaac Pitman (1813-97), the inventor of the postage stamp.

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