Some Philatelists know their stuff.
This is in acknowledgement of P.J Bathe
what a storyteller!
The result of noticing a tiny little CDS shard, I had back of book
Everything has a story, but this one took the cake!
My original find:
All I knew at the time...
The Story of Shooters Hill
The Postal History of Shooters Hill
Author : P.J Bathe
SHOOTERS HILL stands two miles south of the river Thames, eight miles east of London Bridge. It is a
gravel-capped outlier of London Clay which reaches a height of 432 feet above sea level at its summit.
The Dover road runs over the Hill. This road is part of Watling Street, the principal Roman Road in Britain —
the one that did indeed lead to Rome, via the channel crossings of East Kent — and it links Dover, Canterbury
and Rochester with London.
Despite the spread of suburbia, much of Shooters Hill is still undeveloped Green Belt, and until the 1920s, the
Hill was sparsely populated. The census of 1881 showed just 649 people living on Shooters Hill.
However, there has been a post office on the Hill since 1794, and for nine years — from 1835 to 1844—this
office was the centre of one of the London Cross Posts, linking the outer suburbs directly with the mail coaches
to the provinces.
The mail coach to Dover started running on 31st October, 1785; the year following the successive trial of
Palmer's idea on the Bath road. Initially, these coaches only carried bags of letters for the various post towns
outside London, but in 1794, as part of the reforms of the London Penny Post, the mail coaches were also used
to carry, Penny Post mail from central London to the outer suburbs for delivery the next morning.
The Woolwich ride of the Penny Post coincided with the route of the Dover Mail as far as Blackheath, at which
point the Dover Mail kept straight on and over Shooters Hill, while the Woolwich ride diverged to the north
through Charlton to Woolwich. The Dover Mail appears to have dropped bags at two, and maybe more, places
along its route to link with the Woolwich ride. One was at George Green-way's office in Greenwich Road—now
Greenwich High Road —at the bottom of Blackheath Hill, near Deptford Bridge. The bags for Deptford,
Greenwich and Blackheath were left here.
Another drop was at Shooters Hill, where the Woolwich and Eltham bags were left. It seems likely that there
was also a drop at New Cross for Peckham.
The need for a safe place for the mail coach to drop the bags and for them to be kept overnight was one reason
for setting up a receiving house on Shooters Hill. In addition, the Post Office would have considered the
number of letters likely to be handled by the new office, a figure which was not necessarily related to the size of
the population. Thus a few, relatively important people generating a large amount of correspondence would be
more likely to be served by a receiving house than a larger number of less influential people who wrote—and
received—only a few letters.
Much of Shooters Hill was in the ancient parish of Plumstead, a sprawling rural parish of 3,388 acres with a
population in 1801 of 1,166, most of whom lived in the main village about two miles north of Shooters Hill.
This compares with the neighbouring town of Woolwich, which had a population of just under 11,000 in 1801
living on about 1,000 acres.
Plumstead village did not get its own receiving house until 1804, while Shooters Hill, with its tiny population,
had one from 1794. What the population of Shooters Hill lacked in numbers, it made up for in quality, with
several important military and civilian inhabitants, including for a short time from 1799, the infant Princess
Charlotte and her household.
Besides the homes of the gentry and a very few labourers' cottages, the only buildings of any substance on the
Hill were three inns. At the foot, on the Blackheath side, was the Fox under the Hill, although this appears to
have been little more than an alehouse. At the summit was the Bull, a splendid establishment much noted at the
time for the quality of food and drink supplied there. Between these two was the Red Lion, and it was here that
the receiving house was established.
In April 1814, James Ward, the landlord of the Red Lion, petitioned the Post Master General for a pay rise, in
which he specifically mentioned that part of his duties was "taking in the Woolwich and Eltham Bags from the
Mail Coach at Night and finding sorting room for the Letter Carriers."
His salary was increased from £4.10s. Od. a year to £7.
Normally, the Eltham bags were brought by the local London post rider to Blackheath, from where the Eltham
letter carrier would collect them. The journey to Shooters Hill each morning added an extra five miles a day to
the walk of the Eltham letter carrier, giving him a total walk of 25 miles daily. In 1827, it was agreed that he
should be "permitted to employ a competant and responsible assistant . . . for the duty of fetching the Mail-bag
from Shooters Hill for the early morning delivery at Eltham." The assistant was to be allowed 6/- a week.
In 1830, following some reorganisation of letter carriers' duties, it was found that the Shooters Hill letter carrier,
who had to wait at the Red Lion for the 8 a.m. collection, was not getting to Woolwich with the overnight bag
until nearly 9 a.m. thus losing any advantage in dropping the bag the evening before. It was then arranged that a
messenger would go to Shooters Hill and collect the bag at night after the mail coach had passed—which was at
about 9.20 p.m. — so that delivery could start in Woolwich at 7.30 a.m. the next morning. Again, this
additional messenger was allowed 6/- a week.
However, over the next two years, the Shooters Hill letter carrier's walk was extended and an auxiliary letter
carrier appointed, following complaints about the local service from some of the influential people living on the
Hill. At the same time there was a reversion to an early morning collection of the overnight bag.
to be continued...