Stanley Gibbons Investments

William Dockwra

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William Dockwra was a London merchant and customs official who pioneered his own Penny Postal service. The post provided for the collection and delivery within the London districts, and began around 1680. This sort of service was not provided by the General Post Office of the time.

The urban areas were divided into postal districts, each with a conveniently situated office, where mail could be received, sorted and dispatched. The head office was listed as being at Dockwraís home residence in Lime Street, London. In addition to the main sorting offices there were several hundred receiving houses scattered around the area. An operation of this size before had never been seen in a city.

The service was remarkably efficient. Letters were sent out every hour, and delivered within an hour of their arrival at the offices. Outgoing letters were processed and stamped not just with the date but with the specific hour they were processed.

Dockwra used two main postmarks for each letter. One was a triangular stamp with ďPenny Post PaidĒ on the three sides and the initials of the sorting office in the centre. This indicated that the rate had been paid and there was no further charges necessary on receipt. The second postmark was a heart shaped stamp indicating the date and time of dispatch.

There was a great deal of opposition to Dockwraís post from porters and messengers whose livelihood was affected by the service. The church, a powerful force at the time, also had strong opposition!

The most serious opposition to Dockwraís system came from the General Post Office, which heavily resented the competition. As such, in 1682 legal action was taken against William Dockwra in the name of the Duke Of York (Later King James II.) who was responsible for overseeing the Post Office at the time.

Dockwra was found guilty of infringing the Duke Of Yorkís monopoly and Dockwraís Penny Post was officially closed down in November 1862.

Four days after judgement was given, the London Gazette announced that the Penny Post would shortly be reopened as part of the official postal services as part of the General Post Office.

This clearly showed it success, and Dockwra petitioned the government for compensation, but it was not until 1689, following the downfall of James II, that he received a pension of £500 a year, to be paid out of the revenue of the Penny Post, for recognition of his services.

Dockwra was actually appointed controller of the Penny Post in 1696 and held the post for 4 years.

The Penny Post operated for many years after Dockwraís death, but was renamed to the London District Post sometime in the 18th Century.

Many of the early postmarks of the London District Post were similar to the triangular device used by Dockwra and these are known to collectors of that period as Government Dockwraís.

Mark Steele



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