The Maltese Cross obliterators served for almost four years before they were superseded, in 1844, with “barred numeral” obliterators, so called as they comprised a series of horizontal lines with a number in the centre to signify the Post Town that had cancelled the stamp. Due to the high number of Post Towns requiring a unique obliterator, five different designs were adopted.
The format for Irish Post Towns was that of a diamond with the number in the centre.
Initially, numbers in the range 1 to 450 were allocated with twelve being omitted so as not to cause confusion if viewed inverted. The earliest recorded usage is from Dublin (186) on 20 June 1844.
The purpose of this project is :
1. To establish and publish a relative scarcity scale for the 1844 Barred Numeral cancellations allocated to Irish Post Towns used on the 1d red-brown imperforate stamp of Great Britain [SG 8-12], and
2. to provide an update to the lists of coloured numeral cancellations contained in The Cancellations of the 1841 Penny Red
(Danzig and Goldsmith, 1991)
A logical extension to the project would be to collate the earliest recorded usage of each obliterator and this may be incorporated at a later date.
Assessment of Scarcity
It is acknowledged that any method of assessing the scarcity of cancellations will encounter difficulties, but it is hoped that by having a transparent process any reservations individuals may have can be minimised.
The initial phase of the project has been to collate information for each Post Town allocated a numeral from a wide variety of contemporary sources (see below). The data includes :
1. The population of each town/village in each of the census years from 1821 to 1871
2. Whether the office is a Post Town, a sub office or has been upgraded/downgraded
3. The presence of professional and civic services / amenities, including:
- Legal (solicitors, magistrates, courts, prisons)
Clergy and churches
Military and Constabulary
Poor Law Union and Register offices
Medical (Doctors, Hospitals and Asylums)
Proximity to a country seat
It is noted that the population figures are not those of the area served by the Post Town; just that of the town’s immediate area but as a consistent approach has been taken this is believed to be a satisfactory starting point.
The first stage has been to group towns of similar size (by population) and based upon this allocate one of the scarcity ratings A to H.
Dublin, being the capital of Ireland, quite naturally has the largest population and the largest concentration of civil institutions so has been allocated a rating of “A” and is the only city/town to have been so-classified.
The scale runs from A (the most commonly encountered) to H (the scarcest)
- A – Abundant – reserved for Dublin (number 186)
B – Very Common – main towns/cities
C – Common – mainly larger market towns
D – Less Common
E – Scarce
F – Very Scarce
G – Rare
H – Very Rare
The second stage has been to re-assign a small proportion of places to an alternate rating (either upwards or downwards) due to them having a disproportionate number of services/amenities compared to other places of a similar size.
An example would be Cavan (number 126) which from the population alone would receive a rating of “D” but unlike many other places of a similar size, it
- is the head of a Poor Law Union with a workhouse and hospital
has a courthouse, assizes and prison
is the seat of a diocese with multiple clergy residing in the area
has a bank and newspaper
which should be indicators that more post would originate from here, suggesting that an upgrade to a “C” rating would be appropriate.
Without going into specific detail for anywhere else, this is the type of consideration that has been undertaken for each place.
Many of the places rated as “H”, following this stage, appear to have no special requirement for a Post Office over other villages/hamlets throughout the rest of the Country. The fact that a Post Office (usually a sub office) exists at all would appear to be mainly due to the presence of one or more country seats of the gentry/nobility or its geographical location to facilitate the operation of the postal system.
At this stage of the project, the scarcity ratings were only provisional and it was not considered appropriate to publish them. Therefore, an appeal for additional information was made to members of the Mulready Group (October 2013) and also to the wider GBPS membership (November 2013).
The responses received have resulted in a few, but minor, re-assignments of some ratings, and we are now ready to publish the first version.
From the project’s inception, it was decided to make the results available to download, in PDF format, from the GBPS Website so that subsequent revisions, as more data becomes available, could easily be distributed.
The latest version, including this overview, is available at https://www.gbps.org.uk/irishnumerals
The Cancellations of the 1841 Penny Red
contains four lists detailing those numerals recorded using blue, green, red and brown inks. Permission has been granted by Robert Danzig to update these lists and include the revised data within the project. Our thanks to him too for providing updated information which has been incorporated within our listing in addition to information from other sources.
We have not however attempted to categorise the enhanced range of coloured numerals according to their relative scarcity at this stage and reference should be made to The Cancellations of the 1841 Penny Red
for this in so far as it relates to those recorded at the time of publication of that work.
Sources of Data
The following publications have been used to collate the data.
The Gentleman’s and Citizen’s Almanack, John Watson Stewart, 1783, 1812, 1814, 1818, 1822, 1829
The Post Chaise Companion, 1786
A List of Post Towns and Principal Places, Joseph Hartnell, 1830
The Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland, Pettigrew and Oulton, 1835, 1836 and 1845
Returns to the House of Commons, 1836 and 1837
A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, Samuel Lewis, 1837
The Post Office Annual Directory and Calendar, John S Folds, 1843; Alexander Thom, 1858
The Parliamentary Gazetteer, A. Fullarton & Co, 1846
Thom’s Irish Almanac and Official Directory, Alexander Thom, 1850, 1852, 1857, 1868, 1877
British Postal Guide, Eyre and Spottiswoode, No. 1, May 1856, No. 3 Jan 1857
The Cancellations of the 1841 Penny Red, Robert Danzig and David Goldsmith, 1991
Spelling of Place Names
The spelling of Irish place names in this period is not consistent even in the same publication in consecutive years, nor even within different editions of the official Post Office lists. The convention adopted is to use the official spelling supported where necessary by The Parliamentary Gazetteer, published in 1846.
We are continually seeking to refine this listing and add as much data as possible to it and would welcome dialogue with any collector upon the subject. The authors may be contacted by email as follows: Andrew Chappell (qvp [at] btinternet.com) or Chris Jones (chris [at] gbimperf.org).