Going Postal

Fifty years ago Great Britain had its first national postal strike. The strike by Postal Workers in support of a pay rise took place between 20th January and 7th March 1971. Although deliveries did take place in some areas, the majority of deliveries came to a complete halt. During the period of the strike the Government suspended the Royal Mail’s monopoly on the carriage of letters. As a result several hundred private mail services were set up. Not to be outdone, the Rutland Postal Service was set up.

The service was not the quickest off the mark, commencing on Monday 1st March. Collections were everyday, except Sunday, from the Uppingham Bookshop and Illsley’s in Oakham from where stamps were available. Deliveries were only within the boundaries of Rutland and cost 15p for letters and 30p for parcels.

Rutland Postal Service – franking stamp.

As the strike ended on Sunday 7th March the Rutland Postal Service only effectively operated for just one glorious week. Somewhere between 400 and 600 letters were delivered. Letters for Oakham and Uppingham were delivered by the boys of Oakham and Uppingham Schools. Postmen and women travelled some 300 miles delivering to the villages during the week, and, as far as is known, no letters were lost.

Rutland Postal Service -sheet of 15p stamps

The 15p stamp, showing a Rutland horseshoe and acorn surrounded by a post horn, was designed by Robin Johnson. There was an initial impression of 600 ungummed stamps, 250 of which were destroyed as being substandard. These were printed and perforated at the Thring Centre, Uppingham School. A second impression of 1500 gummed stamps was subsequently printed. After the closure of the service these continued on sale for a further fortnight, until 20th March, at Uppingham Bookshop and Illsley’s. Profits from the running of the service, which amounted to something over £65, were donated to the Rutland Memorial Hospital.

Background information on the strike courtesy of The Great Britain Philatelic Society