The Returned Letter Offices of Great Britain to 1912 and Beyond
by J. Kenneth Snelson and Robert B. Galland FRPSL

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The book, arranged in 3 parts, provides postal historians and collectors of UK postal history with a comprehensive reference on the handling of undeliverable mail, the history of the Returned Letter Offices (RLOs), the stationery of the RLOs, and the rules and procedures used in the RLOs.


Bob Galland FRPSL and Kenneth Snelson

To provide postal historians and collectors of UK postal history with a comprehensive reference on the handling of undeliverable mail, the history of the returned letter offices, the stationery of the RLOs and the rules and procedures used in the RLOs

Part A is the history of the RLOs based on extensive research in PO archives, including information on some of the PO officials who were influential.
Part B lists the stationery of the RLOs including wrappers and envelopes used to enclose returned mail and forms and labels used. This is the first comprehensive listing since Dendy Marshall’s listing of wrappers and envelopes in 1940.
Part C is a collection of documents, rules and procedures relating to the treatment of undeliverable mail including complete transcripts of the rules as they were in 1897 and again in 1917.

Time Frame
The development of Dead Letter Offices in the 18th century is covered. In the 19th century returning undeliverable mail became standard practice. There was an enormous increase in the volume of mail and a corresponding increase in undeliverable mail. By the 1890s Returned Letter Branches had been set up in several provincial offices. The wide range of stationery used is listed.
In 1912 most returned letter work was moved to Head Post Offices and several RLBs were closed. The book shows the effects of these changes.

J. Kenneth Snelson
Ken was born in 1942 in Leicestershire, earned a “double first” in Mechanical and Electrical Sciences at Cambridge before embarking on a career in electricity supply. After emigrating to Canada in 1969 he spent 35 years in research, planning and consulting.
From the 1980s his philatelic interests focussed on international postage due mail. His 2007 book UK Taxe Marks for International Mail 1875-2000; Usage and Listing is the only thorough study of these marks. For more than 20 years he has been a frequent contributor to the Postage Due Mail Study Group Journal and has also written for other journals including The British Postmark Society Quarterly Bulletin, GB Journal, Cross Post and The London Philatelist.
Since 2006 he has been the Secretary of the Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada. He has exhibited nationally and internationally but more of his energy has gone into philatelic research and writing than exhibiting.
About 2000 he started collecting and studying the UK Returned Letter Offices. Many hours have been spent in the Post Office archives uncovering the historical background to the growing collection.

Robert B. Galland
Bob was formerly a Consultant Surgeon at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading. He trained at Manchester University, University of Louisville, Kentucky and Hammersmith Hospital, London.
He is immediate Past President of the Great Britain Philatelic Society and current President of the Postal History Society.
His main philatelic interests are Undeliverable mail, Free and Official mail and Surface Printed Postage stamps.
He has written more than 60 philatelic articles and is co-author of two philatelic books; Great Britain Surface Printed Postage Stamps 1855-1883 (2009) and Great Britain; Failed Free Handstamps of the Franking System (2014).
Exhibiting awards include Large Gold Medals at both national and international exhibitions.

Part A The History of the RLOs
A1 The Dead Letter Office & Undeliverable Mail Prior to Post Office Reform
A2 The Dead Letter Office 1837-1864: Post Office Reform and the Rowland Hill Years 23
A3 Returned Mail 1864-1891: George Smith in Charge
A4 Returned Letter Offices and Branches 1892 to 1912 and Beyond:
Devolution and Efficiency
Part B The Stationery of the RLOs;
Wrappers, Envelopes, Forms and Labels
B1 The Returned Letter Wrappers of the Dead Letter Offices
B2 Watermarks and Counter Marks Found on Returned Letter Wrappers: Makers and Mills
B3 The Detained for Postage Notices of the British Post Office 1788 - cl 875
B4 The Returned Letter Envelopes of the Returned Letter Offices and Branches
B5 The Form Letters and Labels of the Returned Letter Offices and Branches
Part C Appendices
C1 PO Secretaries & Heads of the RLOs
C2 Opening and Closing Dates of Provincial RLBs
C3 cl 811 Extracts from the Establishment Book -Establishment of the Dead Letter Office 
C4 1829 Extract Commissioners of Inquiry Report on Ireland
C5 1833 Dead Letter Instructions to Postmasters
C6 1834 Summary of the Duties of the Clerks in the Dead Letter Office (Edinburgh)
C7 1863 Appendix L of the Ninth Report of the Postmaster General -Treatment of Obscurely and Imperfectly Directed Letters and of Such as Cannot be Delivered
C8 1840s Dead Letter Work - Extracts from G.R. Smith Autobiography
C9 1850 Report on Dead Letter Office Procedure by F. Tillyard
CIO 1876 Instructions to RLOs & RLBs on Re-issuing Letters
Cl 1 1878 Instructions on Which Postcards Should be Returned to Senders
C12 1879 Instructions to Head Post Offices on Returning Mail.
C13 1879 Instructions on Which Items Need Not be Registered When Returned
C14 1897 Rules for the Treatment of Undelivered Postal Packets
C15 1917 Rules for the Treatment of Undelivered Postal Packets and of Applications Respecting them in Returned Letter Branches
C16 1917 Rules for Postmasters Who are Empowered to Open, if necessary, and to Return, Undelivered Inland Letters and Parcels

Sample pages (click one to enlarge)