Stamp Collecting book reviews: THOMAS MOORE MUSGRAVE, Postmaster of Bath: Secret Agent


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11 September 2012
imports_CCGB_thebiographyofthomasm_20484.jpg The biography of Thomas Moore Musgrave
In our latest stamp Collecting book review we examine the biography of Thomas Moore Musgrave, published by Bath Postal Museum, which describes the life of the Postmaster of Bath – a significant figure in the first days of philately ...

Thomas Moor Musgrave, Postmaster of Bath: Secret Agent
by Audrey Swindells, MBE
(Bath Postal Museum) rrp: £3.95 (+ £2 postage)

On 6 May, 1840, the Penny Black was officially issued. But four days earlier somebody unknown, possibly Elizabeth Weatherley (nee Musgrave), used one on a letter to Peckham. The Postmaster could not have been ignorant of the official date of issue but made sure that the Bath date-stamp placed immediately next to the stamp at its right-hand base, did not actually cancel the stamp. The first stamp on the sheet, lettered ‘A-A’ was used, and when the letter reached Peckham the receiving clerk added two strikes of the red tombstone ‘PAID’ dated 4 May – still two days early. Even though this is not a complete cover, it has naturally attracted much attention, selling for £55,000 in 1990. Not bad for a penny stamp.

But what of the Postmaster, Thomas Musgrave? Before coming to Bath in 1833, he had a chequered career, first as a lawyer in Middle Temple, later in the Aliens’ Department, as Private Secretary to both the Secretary of State for the Home Department and then to the Chief Secretary in Ireland.

In 1817 he became the Mail Agent in Lisbon, but three years later he returned as Mail Agent in Falmouth. In 1824 was appointed Comptroller of the Two-Penny Post in London. He was offered the post of Postmaster General in Jamaica when the Two-Penny Post was placed under the control of the Post Office, but turned it down on the grounds it would be injurious to his health. However, he was made Postmaster in Bath and held that post for twenty years until his death in 1854.

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This fine, interesting and entertaining forty-page booklet tells of his life in more detail, his contacts, his family and affairs, his literacy as a pamphleteer and translator.

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