Monday 1 February 2021


I've had a number of emails about unusual postmarks, ones that are not often seen especially on mail.

JF writes about Contingency Branch 10 which is in Wells, Somerset.

“It has only been open since 13th January.  Prior to this, central Wells has not had a PO for very many months since the semi-Crown office closed.  Efforts had been made for another outlet to be found but nobody wanted it.  Not even WH Smith.  The original owner of the business wanted to retire but could not find a buyer and the property was nearing the end of the lease. 

With no one coming forward the business owner agreed along with the owner of the premises (City council I believe) kept the lease on for a long time.  However Peacocks opened a shop over on the High Street and agreed to take over the PO as well.  All this was prior to the first lockdown.  A public consultation was started but in the interim the owner of Peacocks, as you know, went bust.  Hence the PO was back to square one! 

The City council agreed to free the bus station enquiry/waiting room up on a temporary basis until such time as the regular PO is agreed and set up.  These premises are small and cramped with room for two staff and two distanced customers.  With only one cluttered counter it is a bit difficult to transact business comfortably but at least it is a better option than no PO!

Later I had the opportunity of asking the counter clerk about the designation.  Apparently there are otherwise known as POW 'Post Office on Wheels'!    Perhaps it means it can be set up in temporary fixed premises anywhere as in this case.

Datestamp from Contingency Branch 10, Wells, Somerset 2021.

Wells (Somerset) Bus Station Post Office

I believe this is the type of unit on wheels, and this has now been confirmed. (Thanks PA)


Coincidentally the subject has been covered in the latest Journal of the BritishPostmark Society, which lists 24 branches and provides illustrations of self-inking datestamps (SID) numbers 6, 9, 18, 25, 27, 37, 38, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 55 62, 64, 65, 67, 76 and five for which no number is identified, and one which continues to use the SID from when it was in the newsagents.

In the same journal John Enfield has started a series of articles on Outreach branches, starting in North West England.

And even more coincidentally, I received an eBay lot posted at Contingency Branch 46 in Westwood Avenue, Lowestoft, Suffolk. 

Datestamp from Contingency Branch 46, Westwood Avenue, Lowestoft, Suffolk.

The sharp-eyed will notice that the elliptical perforations are 'wrong' with parallel sides - yes these are forgeries!  The seller was rather disappointed to find that out when I contacted him and explained all the things that could identify it - like, no year code, straight rather than wavy lines of ROYAL MAIL text, and only 9 of them instead of 13, as well as the perforation. 

If you have any examples of Contingency branch datestamps please send scans and they will be added.

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