A Leamington Postal Scandal
Leamington’s first Postmaster in 1783 was Benjamin Satchwell, who oversaw a postal service very different from that of today. A recognised postal system had been operating throughout most of the country since the 1630’s, whereby the recipient, not the sender, paid the postage, summoned outdoors by the ringing of the postman’s bell. When post boxes were introduced in Great Britain in 1852 in the form that we would recognise today, in addition to those placed in hotels and inns, boxes began appearing on street corners.
You may wonder where this is leading to in relation to Leamington, but it was here that postal history was made on the night of 13th August 1824, when an unknown individual posted a firecracker into a letter box owned by ‘The Crown’ (not the Crown Inn!) in Leamington Priors.
This appears to be the earliest recorded offence involving a letter box, and although the reward notice (published by Leamington printers Rose & Lapworth) reproduced here* was widely published, there is no evidence to suggest that the perpetrator was ever caught. The Leamington Postal Scandal was the first recorded offence, and it was not until some 8 years later that a similar offence was reported in Cambridge.
A further glimpse into the early postal history of Leamington is revealed in a description of how in 1833, after the Post Office had been relocated to 39 Bath Street, – a boot and shoe shop! – alterations were made to allow for posting letters: a small window pane was removed and a small black door complete with knocker installed. The Leamington News reported that ‘By agitating this communicator you secured the opening of the door and handed in your letter’, – an innovation quoted in the 1894 copy of ‘St.Martin le Grand’, the Post Office Newsletter, and also included in ‘The Letter Box’ by J Y Farrugia, Centaur Press Ltd. 1969.
*published by kind permission of the British Postal Museum and Archive is ©Royal Mail Group Ltd. 2013. Other items of postal history can be found at www.postalheritage.org.uk