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At that time there were mails to Kent and the Downs daily; over the whole of England and Scotland three times weekly; and to the Continent from twice to thrice weekly. In 1680 a “Penny Post” was established in London by Robert Murray, a clerk in the Excise, and William Dockwra, a sub-searcher in the Customs. Murray and Dockwra quarrelled and set up rival offices, but the name of the former is soon lost sight of. When the penny post was found to be profitable the Duke of York wished to take possession of it, and after a time the Post Office succeeded in their object. Dockwra was appointed Comptroller of the Penny Post, but was dismissed by the Lords of the Treasury for mismanagement in 1698. (See Penny Post.] In 1708 an attempt was made by a Mr. Povey to establish a half-penny post in opposition to the official penny post, but this enterprise, like Dockwra's, was suppressed by a lawsuit. The London penny post continued until 1801, when it was made a twopenny post.
Ralph Allen of Bath, the friend of Pope and Fielding, established a system of cross roads by which he obtained a large fortune. At his death in 1764 the “bye-posts” were transferred to the care of the Post Office authorities. John Palmer in 1784 succeeded in introducing special mail coaches for the conveyance of letters, thus materially accelerating the speed of conveyance over the older plan of transmission on horseback and in carts. But the rapid growth of the postal system dates from the introduction, by Sir Rowland Hill in 1840, of the uniform penny rate of postage. Before that time the rate had been so heavy as virtually to preclude the use of the post by the mass of the population. At the same time "franking," a privilege which had been very much abused, was abolished. The opposition to the introduction of penny postage and the abolition of franks was very great, and some idea of the abuse of the latter may be gained from the statements of one or two contemporaries.
I was thereby deprived of the privilege of franking as a member of the House of Commons and I now lose the privilege of franking as a peer ; but I rejoice in the sacrifice for the general good, although the loss of consequence from ceasing to be able to frank a letter for a lady in travelling, or the waiter at an inn, gave great disgust to many members of both houses, Whig as well as Tory, and made some of them openly declare that there was no longer any use in being in Parliament. — Lord Campbell, Autobiography, vol. ii. p. 117.
Mr. Roebuck stated in the House of Commons, June 22, 1857, that “The Ambassadors' bag in past times had been sadly weighted. Coats, lace, boots and other articles were sent by it, even a pianoforte ; and not only a pianoforte but a horse."
It was also stated before a House of Commons Committee that one man had in the course of five months counterfeited 1200 dozen of franks of Members of Parliament, and that a regular trade of buying and selling franks had been actually established with several persons in the country.”
The combination of the different nations of the world to form the International Postal Union, with a uniform postage rate of 2}d. (except for very distant places, when 5d. is sometimes charged), has also done much to stimulate the growth of correspondence and the use of the Post Office. Since the introduction of penny postage in 1840 the number of letters passing through the Post Office has increased to so great an extent that in the year ending March 31, 1889, the estimated total of letters, post-cards, book packets, newspapers and parcels was 2,362,990,000, made up as follows: 1,558,100,000 letters (or an average of 41.5 letters to each person in the United Kingdom); 201,400,000 post-cards ; 412,000,000 book packets and circulars; 151,900,000 newspapers; 39,590,000 parcels. The total number of money orders during the year was 9,563,725, representing an aggregate amount of £23,869,495. The number of postal orders was 40,282,321, of the total value of £16,112,079. There are now (1889) 37,783 receptacles of all sorts for letters, of which number 17,829 are Post Offices.
The deposits in the Savings Bank Department, a branch added to the Post Office in 1860, numbered 7,540,625, and amounted to £19,052,226; the withdrawals were 2,633,808 in number, amounting to £15,802,735. The accounts remaining open on December 31, 1888, were 4,2 20,297 ;. the amount standing to their credit being £58,556,394 (including interest). During the year 580 Life Insurances, amounting to £34,819, were granted, as well as 995 Immediate Annuities and 138 Deferred Annuities, of the annual values of £23,404 and £2719 respectively. The total number of Life Insurances in existence on December 31, 1888, was 6210, together with 10,358 Immediate and 1015 Deferred Annuities. The taking over the telegraphs in 1870, with the simultaneous adoption of a uniform shilling rate for the United Kingdom, largely increased the business of the Post Office; and the reduction to sixpence in 1885 still further increased it. Excluding foreign, press and free telegrams, the returns show a total of 46,816,711 inland telegrams for the year 1888-1889, the average value of which was 7.92d.
The total number of officers on the permanent establishment of the department is about 58,396 ; of this number 4054 are women.
With its large increase of business the Post Office has necessarily had to increase its accommodation. Originally in Cloak Lane, Dowgate Hill, the General Post Office was moved to the Black Swan, Bishopgsgate, which suffered destruction in the Fire of London in 1666. The office was then transferred to Brydges Street, Covent Garden, and thence in 1690 to Lombard Street. The work to be done still increasing beyond the capacity of the building, it was decided early in this century to erect one expressly suited for a General Post Office. The site chosen was that formerly covered by the ancient monastery of St. Martin's-le-Grand. The edifice, completed after the designs of Sir Robert Smirke, is in the Ionic style, with a lofty central portico, surmounted by a pediment. This building still retains its position as the Central Office, but the large increase of business has necessitated the erection of several large auxiliary ones. The New Post Office, designed by Mr. J. Williams, is opposite and equal in extent to the older General Post Office. Its two fronts in St. Martin's-le-Grand and Bath Street are 286 feet long, its two ends in Newgate Street and Angel Street 146 feet, and its height from the pavement 84 feet. The building is of Portland stone on a granite basement; the two lower storeys are rusticated, with engaged shafts of the Tuscan order, the two upper Roman Corinthian.
A large clearance of the whole of the west side of St. Martin's-le-Grand has been made, and new buildings for the accommodation of the Post Office are now in course of erection (1890) on this site.
Potters' Hithe. [See Queenhithe.]
Poulters' Company. This Company, incorporated in the reign of Henry VII., January 23, 1504, has a Master, an Upper and a Renter Warden, a Court of Assistants and a Livery. The hall of this Company is said to have been in Leadenhall Market, but was destroyed in the Fire of London, and their business is now transacted at the Guildhall. The Poulters' Company ranks thirty-fourth amongst the City Livery Companies.
Poultry. A Street connecting CHEAPSIDE and CORNHILL, and long famous for its compter. [See Poultry Compter.]
West from this church have ye Scalding Alley, of old time called Scalding House, or Scalding Wike, because that ground for the most part was then employed by Poulterers, that dwelt in the high street from the Stocks Market to the great Conduit. Their poultry, which they sold at their stalls, were scalded there. The street doth yet bear the name of the Poultry, and the poulterers are but lately departed from thence into other streets, as into Grasse (Gracechurch] Street, and the ends of St. Nicholas flesh shambles [Newgate Market]. --Stow, p. 71. In the 16th and first half of the 17th century the Poultry was famous for its taverns. The Rose Tavern was noted for its wines, and down to the days of Ned Ward and the London Spy maintained its reputation. The Three Cranes is often referred to as a well-known house in the pamphlets and light literature of the day. The King's Head Tavern, No. 25, was kept in Charles II.'s time by William King. His wife, happening to be in labour on the day of the King's restoration, was anxious to see the returning monarch, and Charles, in passing through the Poultry, was told of her inclination, and stopped at the tavern to salute her.1 The letter which in 1619 “made a stir in Lancashire," respecting an apparition at Newmarket, “which the King went to see and has kept his bed ever since," was written by one Matt. Mason from “the Falchion, in Poultry." Mr. Cowden Clarke relates that in 1817, when Keats was about to publish his first little volume he lodged on “the second floor of a house in the Poultry, at the corner of the court leading to the Queen's Arms Tavern, that corner nearest to Bow Church;'
" but this must have been the Queen's Head in Cheapside. Few of the old taverns appear to have been rebuilt after the Great Fire. There are now none in the Poultry.
1 Nichols's Lit. Anec., vol. i. p. 3.
No. 22 Poultry was Dilly the bookseller's. Here, May 15, 1776, Dr. Johnson met Wilkes at dinner, by a manoeuvre of Boswell's, of which Burke declared "that there was nothing equal to it in the whole history of the Corps Diplomatique.” Here Boswell's Life of Johnson was first published. Dilly sold his business to Mawman, a name well remembered in the book-trade. Dr. Parr took Landor to see him. In after days, however, Mawman declined to publish the Imaginary Conversations. No. 31 was the shop of Vernor and Hood, booksellers. Hood of this firm was father of Thomas Hood (“Comic Annual,” “Song of the Shirt") who was born here in 1798. The church of St. Mildred's-in-the-Poultry stood on the north side, where is now the Gresham Life Assurance Office. By the removal of St. Mildred's Church, the clearing away of most of the old houses on both sides of the way, and the erection in their places of large blocks of offices and shops of considerable architectural pretensions, and the general widening of the thoroughfare, the Poultry has since 1850 been entirely changed in character and aspect.
On a portion of the site of the Poultry Compter was built in 1819 the Poultry Chapel, for Congregationalists, which under the pastoral care of Dr. Clayton long flourished. In 1872, when the “Poultry Improvements” were in full progress, it was decided to remove to another locality, and a larger chapel—the City Temple—was built for the congregation on the Holborn Viaduct. The site of the Poultry Chapel (7440 square feet) was sold by auction for £50,200.
Poultry Compter, WOOD STREET, a sheriff's prison, which stood a little to the east of Grocers' Hall Court; Chapel Place led directly to it. [See Giltspur Street Compter and Compter in Southwark.] It was the only prison in London with a ward set apart for Jews (probably due to its proximity to the Jewry), and was the only prison left unattacked in the riots of 1780. It was a brick building of fifteen wards—the king's, the prince's, the upper, middle and women's wards, and the Jews' ward. There was a chapel, and the leads were used for exercise grounds.
John Bradford, one of the most illustrious of the Marian martyrs, was imprisoned here from January 30 to June 30, 1550. Here he was persecuted with “conferences,” but as nothing could stir his fortitude, “ he was suddenly conveyed out of the Compter, in the night season to Newgate ; and from thence he was carried to Smithfield.” 2 Dekker and Boyse, two unfortunate sons of song, were long inhabitants of the Poultry Compter. Here died Lamb, the conjuror (commonly called Dr. Lamb), of the injuries he had received from the mob, who pelted him (June 13, 1628) from Moorgate to the Windmill in the Old Jewry, where he was felled to the ground with a stone, and was thence carried to the Poultry Compter, where he died the same night. The rabble believed that the doctor dealt with the devil, and assisted the Duke of Buckingham in misleading the King. The City had to pay heavily for their negligence in not protecting the unfortunate man. The last slave imprisoned in England was confined (1772) in the Poultry Compter. This was Somerset, a negro, the particulars of whose case excited Sharpe and Clarkson in their useful and successful labour in the cause of negro emancipation.
1 The site is carefully marked in Strype's Map 2 All the Examinacions of the Constante of Cheap Ward,
Martir of God, M. John Bradfourde, 1561.
Some four houses west from this parish of St. Mildred is a prison house pertaining to one of the sheriffs of London, and is called the Compter in the Poultry. This hath been there kept and continued time out of mind, for I have not read of the original thereof. --Stow, p. 99.
First Officer. Nay, we have been scholars, I can tell you,—we could not have been knaves so soon else; for as in that notable city called London, stand two most famous universities, Poultry and Wood Street, where some are of twenty years' standing, and have took all their degrees, from the Master's side, down to the Mistress's side, the Hole, so in like manner, etc.— The Phænix, by T. Middleton, 4to, 1607.
Prisoners committed by the Lord Mayor were sent to the Poultry; prisoners committed by the sitting aldermen to Giltspur Street prison. The prisoners were removed from the Poultry Compter to White Cross Street prison shortly after the latter was completed.
Powis House, KNIGHTSBRIDGE, the residence of Amelia Sophia de Walmoden, the mistress of George II., who was created Countess of Yarmouth for life. She died 1765.
Powis House, at the north-west angle of Lincoln's Inn Fields and the corner of Great Queen Street; the town house of the noble family of Herbert. It was built in 1686 by William Herbert, Viscount Montgomery and Marquis of Powis, on the site of a former house burnt to the ground, October 26, 1684, “the family hardly saving themselves from being burnt.” Among the Private Acts is, i James II., c. 3, “ An Act for rebuilding the Earl of Powis' House in Lincoln's Inn Fields, lately demolished by fire.” The new house (now No. 67) was designed by Captain William Winde, architect.
Then they went to the Lord Powis' great house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, wherein was a guard, and a bill upon the door — This house is appointed for the Lord Delamere's quarters, and some of the company crying “ Let it alone, the Lord Powis was against the Bishops going to the Tower," they offered no violence to it.—English Courant, December 1688. Lord Powis forfeited his house to the Crown for his adherence to James II. It was inhabited for a time by the great Lord Somers; and, in February 1696-1697, was ordered to remain in the possession of the Lord Chancellor during his custody of the Great Seal. It was subsequently sold to Holles, Duke of Newcastle (d. 1711), when it received the name of Newcastle House. [See Newcastle House.]
Powis House, at the north-west end of Great Ormond Street, stood back from the street, on the site of the present Powis Place. It was built in the latter part of the reign of William III. by William Herbert, Marquis of Powis, son of the first Marquis of Powis, who was