Lundy: the island postal service

Lundy Postbox on Marisco Inn

In Trollope’s day, the Post Office included Lundy within its compass albeit the service to the island, located some 12 miles off the north Devon coast, was less frequent, slower, and more prone to delays due to bad weather than Trollope might have wished when he had responsibility for the area. Certainly the type of deliveries which resulted in the receipt of replies within the day featured in the novels of Trollope and others of his day could not be relied upon.

However by 1927 the Post Office had concluded that Lundy, with its population counted in tens rather than hundreds even, was no longer worth the effort of maintaining a service and deliveries and collections were suspended.

In 1929, Martin Coles Harman who had bought the island in 1924 decided to set up a replacement postal service. He also declared himself king and had Half Puffin and Puffin coins minted which were supposed to be equivalent to an English halfpenny and penny, for which he was fined £5 plus fifteen guineas (£15.75) expenses by the House of Lords. It is not recorded if he paid in Puffins.

The postal service continues to this day. Lundy Stamps can be purchased at the island’s only shop and can be posted at the island’s only post box – painted a rather fetching blue and installed in the wall of the island’s only pub: the Marisco Inn, which takes its name from the family which used to own the island.

From this postbox (pictured above) the mail is taken to Bideford post office on mainland Devon for onward delivery. Naturally I bought a postcard and stamp, which is franked specially on the island, and sent it second class (noting it is 10% cheaper than the normal UK second class price of 55p which pleased the Yorkshireman in me – I like a bargain).

It took only three days to arrive and that’s probably no worse than I might expect from the Royal Mail second class service. But how Trollope would have been pained at such tardiness.

I also took the opportunity to buy a postcard on the M.V. Balmoral, on which I sailed across to Lundy, and sent that card second class, posting it in the special postbox (pictured below) on board the ship. This also receives a special on-board franking before entering the normal Royal Mail service and also took three days to arrive. Fun to do but yet more cause for grief to Mr Trollope, I’m afraid.

Balmoral postbox





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