What does the BPMA have about…India?

Today is International Archive Day. As part of the celebrations of this event our Archivists will be highlighting some of our records relating to overseas postal services on Twitter as part of #AskArchivists Day.

Staff load mail into large cargo nets at the platform of Calais Station.

Staff load mail into large cargo nets at the platform of Calais Station (POST 118/419).

Among the holdings of the BPMA are various records relating to postal services to India in the nineteenth century. In the 1820s Thomas Waghorn established an overland route between Alexandria and Suez. This resulted in a significant reduction in the time taken for mail to travel between England and India. Mails which had previously taken up to three months to reach India now arrived in just 35 days.

Detail of letter showing 'Carried by Waghorn' cachet, c. 1850 (POST 118/1017)

Detail of letter showing 'Carried by Waghorn' cachet, c. 1850 (POST 118/1017)

There was also a special India Mail Service for diplomatic mail between the countries. This involved specially appointed Post Office staff of higher grades accompanying the mail from London to Marseilles where responsibility was transferred to the P&O purser of a ship bound for India. These staff were known as India Mail Officers. They carried out three trips a year, and were expected to be on stand by for a further three.

Prior to the independence of India in 1947, the British Post Office also played a role in the operation of postal services within India. Mail services in the country were opened to the public in 1774 by Warren Hastings, the Governor General of British India. In 1850 a report was commissioned into the working of the Post Office in India. This report introduced uniform postage rates for letters based on weight, mirroring developments in England. In also recommended a Manual of Instructions to be issued to postmasters to encourage uniformity of practice. The reforms had mixed results with old practices continuing in many areas.

Poster promoting airmail routes to India, c. 1938 (POST 110/1167)

Poster promoting airmail routes to India, c. 1938 (POST 110/1167)

More information on the Postal History of India can be found
on our website: http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/india.
We will also be highlighting details of our international collections on Twitter today – follow us on @postalheritage.

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