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British Postal Museum and Archive: The Royal Mail Archive

Post Office: Overseas Mails: Organisation and Services: Packet Boats and Shipping


Reference code(s): GB 0813 POST 43 Series

Held at: British Postal Museum and Archive: The Royal Mail Archive

Title: Post Office: Overseas Mails: Organisation and Services: Packet Boats and Shipping

Date(s): 1683-2003

Level of description: Series

Extent: 10 boxes, 85 files, 274 volumes and 4 pamphlets

Name of creator(s):

No further information available


Administrative/Biographical history:

The earliest established packet stations were Dover to Calais 1633, Harwich to Holland 1660, Falmouth to Spain and Portugal 1689 and Falmouth to the West Indies in 1702.

Mail was carried in sailing packets up to 1815, but after this date these gradually gave way to steam-driven vessels. By 1840 the carrying of mail had been put into the hands of the commercial shipping lines, Cunard, Peninsular and Oriental Shipping Company, the West Indian Royal Mail, Union Castle etc., who found the postal subsidies valuable as they extended their routes further to keep pace with the expansion of the British Colonies.

After 1840 the General Post Office introduced domestic and Imperial 'penny postage' (in 1898), and before the Second World War, 1939-1945, pioneered a comprehensive airmail service, carrying letters at a standard rate without air surcharges. During the war it also introduced the airgraph and, later the airletter which was prefranked with the standard postage.


Scope and content/abstract:

This class primarily relates to the establishment and organisation of the packet boat and shipping services between the United Kingdom and overseas. There are a small number of records relating to operational procedures between the Post Office and HM Customs and Excise Office. The records mainly consist of Post Office Daily Lists of ship's departure and arrival times, and mail carried. It also contains Packet boat log books, voyage record books and Packet station correspondence relating to personnel, stores held, and armed conflict.

It also includes some later records concerning the general organisation of overseas mail including by air.

Some records have been re-classified from POST 12 and POST 45.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The class is divided into three sub-series: Organisation and Services, Packet Boats and Voyage Records. These are in turn sub-divided into sub-sub-series based on area of operation or type of record.

Conditions governing access:

Public Record

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Please contact the Archive for further information.


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Please contact the Archive for further information.


Related material:

Please also see POST 4 Financial, for Accounts, Packet stations and Agents; POST 14/238-334 for information on revised rates of postage for overseas mails, steam packet boat sailings etc.; POST 48 for overseas mails letter books; and POST 51 for contracts with shipping companies.


Archivist's note: Entry checked by Barbara Ball

Rules or conventions:

Compiled in compliance with General Internation Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G) second edition 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997

Date(s) of descriptions: Entry checked June 2011

Packet boats | Boats | Vessels | Vehicles | Transport
Shipping | Maritime transport | Transport
Water transport

Personal names

Corporate names
Customs and Excise Office
Post Office