The Introduction of Uniform Penny Postage 10th January 1840

The general public were still dissatisfied with with the temporary measure of the General 4d Post, so much so that Uniform Penny Postage came into force on 10th January 1840. The franking system which was the subject of much abuse was also abolished on this date. As there were no adhesive postage stamps during the period 10th January to 6th May 1840, post offices began to use hand-struck marks to show that postage had been prepaid. The use of red ink was to signify prepayment and black unpaid. After the introduction of adhesive postage stamps on 6th May 1840, prepayment in cash could still be made. In some cases these marks were still in use in the 1850's. Marks as illustrated above were in general use in the post towns of Scotland during this period. These marks were also brought into use in some towns in later years and used to indicate postage due on unpaid or underpaid mail, we will cover this use later.

"1" Handstamps

16 January 1840, Douglas to Peebles from the first week of Uniform Penny Postage showing the use of the Douglas "1" in black on a prepaid letter, possibly because the postmaster was unsure of the regulations or he only had black ink available, in those days the postmaster had to supply the ink out of the salary for the office, naturally he would make the cheapest buy.


22 February 1840, Douglas to Edinburgh, a letter now with the "1" struck in red.


"1" handstamps are also known from Biggar, Hamilton, Holytown, Lanark & Lesmahagow.

"2" Handstamps

23 July 1840, Hamilton to Edinburgh showing the use of the "2" handstamp of Hamilton correctly struck in red to signify prepayment.

Prepaid covers appear to be very scarce and rare from many towns. This one is rare and is the only such cover I have seen from Hamilton or the county used in red.


27 October 1854, Lanark to Falkirk with the "2" handstamp of Lanark struck in black.

The use of the "2" struck in black from the county is more common than the red variety.

"2" handstamps are also known from Airdrie, Biggar & Douglas.