The Archives Blog

Search all blog posts

The post is late - again!

Written by Judith Curthoys, posted on Monday, October 1, 2018

Document of the month - October 2018

Christ Church Archives, S xxxii.c.1

On 30th October 1891, the Steward received a rather tetchy letter from Oxford’s Postmaster explaining that delays in delivering the post to Christ Church were caused by the late running of the mail train, a matter over which he had no control. Perhaps there were leaves on the line, or the wrong sort of snow?

Archive file S xxxii.c.1Over the course of the next month, letters passed backwards and forwards each time offering excuses or making suggestions.

But the delivery service that the Steward was complaining about was extraordinary when compared with today’s mail service. It was the Sunday delivery – imagine such a thing - that caused the biggest headache.

The North mail arrived at Oxford at 5am, and the Postmaster advised that Christ Church messenger should be able to pick up the post, from our private box, by 7am.

But this was not sufficient for the Senior Common Room. Thomas Vere Bayne thought that letters posted in say, Rochester, at a ‘reasonable’ hour on a Saturday should be able to reach London within 90 minutes and then Oxford in less than two hours in time for delivery on Saturday evening or certainly before 9.30 on Sunday morning. Any other day of the week, he complained, this would be the second post!

There is one example that I have found in the archive of a letter being posted to Cambridge, the reply sent, and a return to that all delivered within twenty-four hours. If only…!