Smith Elder & Co Precancel

Precancels of Great Britain

This part of the web site is to consolidate information on GB precancels.

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Henry S. King & Co Precancel
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Smith Elder & Co Precancel Henry S. King & Co Precancel William Dawson & Sons 1st Precancel W. H. Smith & Son 1st Precancel Public-Precancel Frank-Precancel Times-Precancel Railway-Precancel Army-Precancel
Smith Elder & Co H. S. King & Co W.Dawson & Sons W. H. Smith & Son 'Public Precancels' Precancel Franking Newspapers Railway Precancels Army Telegraphs
Private Telegraphs Booklets T.O.6 obliteration ENT.O.1 Cancel Calendar Embossed Perfin Sloper Contributions
Private Telegraphs Booklets T.O.1 to T.O.6 Anomalies Time frame Embossed Perfins Sloper punch Contributions


Railway Precancels

From February 1st. 1891, Railways were allowed to carry single letters from one station to another,
where it was either kept for collection or put in a mailbox depending on instructions on the letter.

There were of course conditions. The letter could not exceed one ounce in weight, had to carry a normal 1d postage stamp
and also the railway was to charge an additional fee fixed at twice the postage rate.
Payment of the additional fee was indicated by a Post Office approved Railway Letter Stamp. Among the conditions for approval of the stamp
was the wording, displaying the fee (initially 2d) and the colour green.

There were changes over the years, the weight limit was increased, prices changed, colours could be varied and later, parcel stamps could be used.


Below are some examples of normal (non-precancel) usage:

Railway cover
Cover courtesy of John A. McCulloch, © 2010 ARR. Note the 'Post at Manchester' instruction at top left.

Railway example 1
Note serial number and lack of railway cancel.

Railway example 2   Railway example 2
Earlier telegraphic cancel on the left courtesy of John A. McCulloch, © 2010 ARR. On the right is the later dual-function type (issued 1892).

Railway example 3
G.W.R. Cancel on both, 1d stamp perfinned 'CBG'.

NOTE: The 1d stamp above could also be considered to have been pre-cancelled by GWR before entering the GPO system.
Jeff Turnbull, formerly Publications Officer of the The Perfin Society, tells me that the 'CBG' perfin belongs to:
"Chester, Broome & Griffithes" Solicitors and Parliamentary Agents, 36 Bedford Row, London WC.
it was in use from 1895 to 1923. Their catalogue number is C 0750.01


Below are some postmark examples:

Railway example 5

Railway example 4
The last might be a precancel with additional postal cancel.


Finally we get to the point of this, in busy stations, it sometimes happened that blocks or sheets of the railway stamps were precancelled with a station canceller or by pen.
The only real way to identify them is if the gum is still on the back.

Railway example 6a N-Staff Railway example  Railway example 6b  LB & SC Railway example
The green stamp on the left has no gum so it may or may not have been pre-cancelled.
The image of the next stamp (with gum and station master or clerk's initials) is courtesy of John A. McCulloch, © 2010 ARR.
The two stamps on the right also still have the gum.


My thanks to Roger De Lacy-Spencer for bringing these precancels to my attention and for permission to use the red Metropolitan Railway image on the bottom right.

For the background information I used The Encyclopaedia of British Empire Postage Stamps,  Volume 1, Robson Lowe 1948.



Comments, criticisms, information or suggestions are always welcome.


Please include the word 'Precancels' in the subject.


Last updated 18th May 2019

©Copyright Steve Panting 2010-19 except where stated.
Permission is hereby granted to copy material for which the copyright is owned by myself, on condition that any data is not altered and this website is given credit.


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