Postmarks of the Crystal Palace area.

Part 1. 1898 to 1918.


Fred Peskett


            In his book ‘The Postal History of the Crystal Palace’ Maurice H. Bristow describes the various cancellations of mail from 1854 to 1936, however, there is one area he did not fully cover, that being the role of the Norwood Chief Office and the various cancellation stamps/dies used on Crystal Palace outgoing mail. I have made an attempt to research this area by examining many hundreds of postcards featuring views of the Crystal Palace sent to family and friends listing the types of cancels from 1898 to 1936.

            As stated by Maurice Bristow, Registered letters and Express letters were handed in at one of the two counters in the Palace, either the Western Entrance or the New Book Court. A hand stamp was applied before the mail was sent to the Norwood Chief Office for registration and cancellation of the adhesive stamp or prepaid fee. The general mail including postcards were posted in the letter boxes around the building and grounds, these were also taken to the Norwood Chief Office for cancellation and onward routing.

            From 1858 the Norwood Office had in use The London District Post and Suburban Office DUPLEX datestamp with ‘54’ in the upright oval, (figure 1) Just one postcard has been seen with this cancel dated 22nd November 1898, The Norwood SQUARED CIRCLE (Whitney Type 2) (figure 2) is noted from December 22nd 1898 and is in use until at least May 11th 1904. At the same time, from 1st July 1900 a DOUBLE CIRCLE NORWOOD WITH 1 BETWEEN THE RADIAL BARS is noted, (figure 3) this cancel is seen until July 21st 1912 with the majority of cancels between 1905 and 1909. There is one anomaly, with a cancel of this type being dated to July 6th 1921. This may well be a setting error to the date/time/year slug with the 2 and 1 reversed, (no recorded use of this cancel has been recorded after 1912.

            During this period one example found is a DOUBLE CIRCLE NORWOOD S.E. WITH A + BETWEEN THE RADIAL BARS (figure 4) this is post dated December 23rd 1906, Also current with the above two cancels is a NORWOOD DOUBLE CIRCLE WITH S.E. BETWEEN THE RADIAL BARS,




(figure 5) These are recorded between 9th August 1908 to 9th July 1914, with the majority of postcards being cancelled with this mark during May to October 1911 at the Festival of Empire Exhibition.

            During 1913 a further NORWOOD DOUBLE CIRCLE S.E. WITH 2 BETWEEN THE RADIAL BARS, (figure 6) occurs. These date between 12th May and 2nd July 1913, and are most likely to be the reserve die from the 1 between the radial bars period.

            During the Admiralty occupation of the Crystal Palace, the postal arrangements were similar to those in peacetime, with members of the Y.M.C.A. now collecting letters/postcards from the boxes and taking them to the Norwood Chief Office. With such vast increase in the demand for outgoing mail, the Norwood Office it would seem to have installed a COLUMBIA CONTINUOUS CANCELLING MACHINE. The office slug is NORWOOD S.E. (figure 7} with examples seen from

7th April 1915 to 3rd September 1917, then for a short time NORWOOD S.E.19. (figure 8). The 19 being the London District Code to assist the lady sorters in the Mail Offices.

            From some time between September 1917 and February 1918 the machine changes to a KRAG (figure 9) machine with cancels from this machine seen from 3rd March 1918 to the middle of 1919. Cancels from the KRAG machine can be identified by a -*- under the last line of the Time/Date/Year slug, the difference between the COLUMBIA and the early KRAG machine cancels are very minor.

These dates can be plotted year against type to show how and when the cancels were used:-



In Part 2 the period between 1920 and 1936 will be described as well as some of the other Post Offices in the Crystal Palace area however, these will have been used to post cards and letters probably on the way to catch buses or trains home after a day at the Palace.

It is appreciated that the dates of the cancels shown may well vary either side of those given according to "used" postcards in other collections. Please forward any additional information to Fred Peskett, 124 Havant Road, North End, Portsmouth P02 OBP. or telephone 02392 665630 so that a more complete picture can be built up.


© Exhibition Study Group 2009