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Mail Services

Details on the types of postal services available

The most reliable mail service was one’s own private messenger, if one could afford to employ a personal postman.

The mail coach delivered outside the big cities, while the penny post delivered inside the big cities. Post-boys delivered anywhere but were not always reliable and were notoriously slow. Since mail by coach was only delivered at posting inns, those not living near a posting inn had to travel to receive their mail or rely on post-boys to collect from the inn.

Trips such as London to Bath took post-boys 48 hours but the mail coach only 17 hours.

One benefit of using post-boys was the ability to prepay postage so the recipient wouldn’t be responsible for the delivery cost. The problem was that many post-boys didn’t bother to deliver the letter since the postage had already been paid. The promise of payment upon delivery was motivation to deliver the letter, assuming the recipient could afford to pay the postage.

If a letter sender wanted to ensure the recipient could pay the postage, they could include the necessary coin beneath the seal.

The history of each mail service is rife with drama, such as the inventor of the penny post being fined and ruined for essentially “stealing” the post office’s potential postage revenue by running a successful, reliable, and superior postal service—no good deed goes unpunished, eh?

Be sure to read more from these posts:

Jane Austen's World: The Postal Service in 18th century Britain

Postal Museum: Mail Coaches

Jane Austen's World: Post Roads and Post Boys

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