Lundy. The Alternative Collection. Postal History to 1897

Lundy is an important island fortress in the Bristol Channel and was the epicentre of the then British Empire.

In past times it was a tourist attraction for Vikings, Goths, Visigoths, Vandals (still with us), Angles, Triangles, Square Roots and Logarithms. It is now a bird sanctuary and Cinderella Collectors’ emporium.

The postal history of Lundy begins in 1819 with a letter from a Captain “X” of M.I. 5 1/2 to the Duke of Wellington informing him of a possible attempt to rescue Napoleon Boneparte from his exile in St Helena

Captain X

Two years later, in 1821, we know of a letter from Brigadier Gerard to Bonaparte at St Helena, informing him of a plan to effect an escape by means of a tunnel dug from Lundy by sympathetic puffins.  The cover bears a SHIP LETTER LUNDY mark, a CAPE TOWN transit and ST HELENA arrival mark.  On the reverse there is an UNDELIVERED cachet with the reason “There is no more oil in the lamp” (Napoleon’s last words to his aide before expiry).

Napoleon Ob-1 Napoleon Rev-2

From 1840 we have examples of the William Mulready envelope, one penny and two pence, with added adhesives to make the 3d rate.  They are both addressed to the designer at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.  The adhesives are cancelled by the “PUFFIN HEAD IN CROSS” and posted one day before the official date of issue.

Mulready1 Mulready2a Mulready2b

In 1847 the “LUNDY McLEOD” label was used on cover to Sir Robert Peel, then Prime Minister of Great Britain.  The labels were sold at 1d each and letters were conveyed by the vessel from Lundy Osland to the Channel ports.  From 24 April 1847, the vessel was transferred to Trinidad W.I. and renamed the “Lady McLeod”


From 1853 there is an Ocean Penny Postage cover bearing imperforate Penny Brown and Twopenny Blue stamps and addressed to Messrs Scrooge, Marley and Cratchit, Cornhill, London.  Subsequent to the personaity change of Ebeneezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit had been given a partnership in the company.


In 1853 an Ocean Penny Postage Pictorial Propaganda Envelope (prepaid 1d) with an additional 2d adhesive was sent to Messrs Wrack and Roohan (financial advisors) of Carey Street, London.


Another 1853 Ocean Penny Postage cover, prepaid 1d,and also bearing a Penny Brown, was sent to Messrs Cummings and Gowings, forwarding agents, in Bristol. It is cancelled with a barred oval with LI cancel and has a Bristol arrival mark.  It was followed a day later by a further Ocean penny Postage design, again bearing a 1d Brown.

Cummings 1


1855.  Lundy Steamship Company advertising envelope to Messrs Hall and Sundry, forwarding agents at Capetown.  Sent on 19 August and with a Cape of Good Hope backstamp dated September 14.


In 1859 we have a cover from Mr Jaggers (Solicitor) at his Lundy Island branch to Philip (Pip) Pirrip, c/o Joe Gargery, Blacksmith.  It possibly contained news of his “Great Expectations”.  Backstamped with a Gravesend arrival mark.


There were no such “great expectations” for the ill-fated Miss Havisham, Pip’s supposed patron and here is another letter from Mr Jaggers which is in rather charred condition due to fire at Statis House.


“Gone with the Wind” was, of course, based on a true story of the lives of everyday folk in Georgia during the American Civil war.  Two covers fro Lundy are known.  The first is an illustrated anti-slavery cover from 1860 (with text from Acts 17:26 “God hath made of one blood all nations of men”) addressed to Ashley Wilkes and postmarked Lundy on 15 June 1860.  The reverse has a Savannah arrival mark of 2 July – note the reversed date slug.  The cover must be “right” as it is authenticated on the reverse by Gerald King, the globally acknowledged Lundy expert.

WilkesO WilkesR

Another rather fire damaged cover is to Miss Scarlett O’Hara in Atlanta, Georgia.  Postmarked Lundy on 2 August 1864 it has a Charleston transit stamp of 26 August and is backstamped with an Atlanta arrival stamp of 4 September.  Marked on the reverse as undelivered – “Gone with the wind”!

OHara OHaraR

A year later, in 1865, we see a cover addressed to President Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, Washington.  It arrived on 15 April 1865 and has TOO LATE and DEAD LETTER OFFICE marks on the reverse.

Lincoln LincolnR

The next year, 1866, sees a pictorial envelope from Alice Liddell to the Rev Charles Dodgson (lewis Carroll) at Christ Church college Oxford.  It was posted about a year after the first publication of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.


Here is a “Lundy Coaches” illustrated envelope to Charles Dickens at his home in Chatham two years before his death.


Also from 1868 was Valentine’s Anti-drink illustrated envelope addressed to Alcoholics Anonymous, Hangover Square, London.  On the reverse is “Undelivered for Reason stated”……Postman inebriated!


In 1871 there is a cover to Dr David Livingstone at Ujiji, East Africa.  The flap bears a likeness of H. M. Stanley and it is assumed that it was his personal stationery.  There are Zanzibar and Mombasa transit marks but the cover was undelivered due to a lack of postal services west of Mombassa.


Here is an 1876 cover to General Custer at Little Big Horn, Dakota.  It has a St Paul, Montana (nearest township) receiving mark and a Fort Abraham 7th Cavalry arrival mark.  The item was undelivered (recipient scalped!) and bears damage by Sioux arrow.

CusterO CusterR

From 1880 there is an illustrated envelope to Ned Kelly, the notorious outlaw, incarcerated in Melbourne gaol.  There are ship and train transit marks.  The letter was undelivered for the reason stated – “Too Late – Executed” (Kelly was hanged on November 11 1880).

Kelly O Kelly R

From 1881 we have a halfpenny post card, with additional postage, sent to Rudyard Kipling whilst a student at United Services College, Westward Ho!, from 1878 to 1882.  The message on the reverse states “One for your collection” and is signed “Stalky” – later Major-General L. L. Dunsterville – the subject of Kipling’s later work “Stalky and Co”.

Kipling1 O Kipling1 R

Another cover to Kipling exists from the time he was on the staff of the “Civil and Military Gazette”, Lahore in 1885.  It has Aden transit and Lahore receiving marks.  Native inscription on the reverse translates as “You are a better man that I Gunga Din!“.

Kipling2 O Kipling2 R

There is another cover to Kipling from 1888.  He was, by then, with the newspaper “The Pioneer” in Allahabad.  There are Aden and Allahabad marks and, this time, the native inscription on the reverse translates as “On the road to Mandalay – where the flying fishes play” etc etc.

Kipling3 O Kipling3 R

Next we have two illustrated envelopes commemorating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.  They are addressed to William S Lincoln, stamp dealer.  Each bears two se-tenant pairs from the Jubilee set tied to the cover by special jubilee VR cancels.  London arrival mark of 24 June 1887.

WSLincoln1 WSLincoln2

From 1889 we have a cover to the painter Vincent van Gogh at his studio in Arles.  There are Marseilles transit and Arles arrival marks and is marked on the reverse LIVRER IMPOSSIBLE PARCE QUE… and a manuscript “Oreille aujord-hui; partir domain”.  This translates are UNABLE TO DELIVER BECAUSE…”ear today – gone tomorrow”.  A Dead Letter Office cachet has also been applied.

VGough O VGough R

Next we have an 1891 Great Lundy Railways envelope bearing railway letter stamps and additional adhesive.  It is addressed to Professor Moriarty in Switzerland and bears an Express Letter cancel and c.d.s. of the same da, together with Newhaven and Geneva transit marks.  On the reverse is “Undelivered For Reason Stated” cachet – intercepted by the master sleuth.

MoriartyO MoriartyR

From 1892 there is an illustrated envelope for the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ alleged discovery of Lundy (Actually Columbus read his chart upside down; did a right turn shortly after passing Cape St Vincent; missed Cornwall and Devon in the fog and thought that Lundy was part of the East Indies.  The cover bears a set of three Columbus stamps and a special Columbian Exposition cancel and is addressed to Horace Zontahl of the Flat Earth Society.


1896.  Cover to Oscar Wilde posted whilst he was serving a two-year prison sentence for being gay.  Reading Prison receiving mark; Opened by Examiner and Passed By the Marquis of Queensbury.  On the reverse is what appears to be Wilde’s manuscript notes and corrections for the last stanza of “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”.

WildeO WildeR

1897.  Registered cover the Sherlock Holmes (resurrected by Conan Doyle by public request) at his room in Baker Street.  It was undelivered because of interception by master criminal Professor Moriarty (resurrected by private request) getting some of his own back on Holmes for tampering with his mail!

HolmesO HolmesR

1897  A cover to Queen Victoria at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, bearing various Diamond Jubilee commemoratives, special first day “Flag” cancel 20/JNE/1897; Southampton and Newport IOW transit marks and a REFUSED cachet with a handwritten “We are not amused“.  This was probably because Her Majesty was under the impression she was being hoaxed.  This adds fuel to the belief that, during her later years, the queen had become somewhat out of touch with her empire.

VictoriaO VictoriaR

1897  A pictorial envelope to Beatrix Potter at her studio home in West Brompton bearing Prince of Wales Charity labels overprinted for postal use.  The flap shows a mouse and puffin.


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