This undated stampless entire is interesting particularly because of a rare postmark, and its early date in the colony of Van Diemen’s Land. It is addressed to Reverend William Bedford, Hobart Town, with the signature of E. Abbott, who the vendor stated was E. Abbott, Tasmanian M.L.C. The only cancellation is the rare oval undated LAUNCESTON handstamp (Figure 1).
H.M. Campbell et al’s book “Tasmania: The Postal History and Postal Markings” (1962) describes this marking as follows: Fig. 5. Launceston. In single-lined oval 24 x 20 mm, with a double-lined oval inside the inscription . Struck in black. Earliest known example on an undated entire with a London arrival mark dated 9 October 1829. Latest example sighted on letter dated 25 February 1836. Good strikes of this hand-stamp are exceedingly rare. Found on internal letters as well as outwards ship letters, and may be struck as a transit marking. The above dates are confirmed by the revised book (1975), by different authors (Figure 2).
Rev. William Bedford was interested in prison work by Mrs. Elizabeth Fry, the Quaker prison reformer. He was a Church of England clergyman who was made an ordinary at Newgate prison, and he also assisted at several parishes in the East End of London. In August 1821 he was ordained a priest and in June 1822 he was appointed assistant military chaplain for V.D.L. He, his wife Eleanor Pickett, 2 sons and 1 daughter sailed in the Caledonia and arrived in Hobart Town in January 1823. He became the minister at St. David’s, Hobart and as senior chaplain his duties required much travel. For nearly 30 years he conducted services at St. David’s, the gaol and the prisoners’ barracks and maintained a lively interest in prisoners and particularly the condemned men. This earned him Lt.-Governor George Arthur’s praises for sincerity and devotion.
He had additional duties as superintendent of schools, he had a seat on the Legislative Council (in his capacity as colonial chaplain) and he was appointed a justice of the peace. In June 1833 Bedford lost his position as colonial head of the church when Rev. Phillip Palmer was appointed, the rural Dean. Bedford’s pride was hurt and the 2 clergymen had a succession of acrimonious disagreements. In 1843 the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred the degree of doctor of divinity on Bedford, and in 1848 Bedford was granted 6 months’ sick leave. On his return, he continued his duties at St. David’s until eight weeks before his death on 2 December 1852. A drawing of Rev. William Bedford is shown in Figure 3.
Bedford’s 2 sons settled in Tasmania, the elder William was superintendent of schools in 1825, then he left to study at Cambridge University, and on his return in 1832 he was ordained as a minister, and took a living at Campbell Town. The sender of the letter was identified by the vendor as Edward Abbott M.L.C. (1801-1863) and hence the free post (although Bedford’s position may also have warranted the same). Abbott was a M.H.A. in 1856-64 for Clarence, and M.L.C. for Cambridge 1864-67, prior to his resignation to becoming the Usher of the Black Rod. These dates are all much later than the sending of the letter (1829-36), so E. Abbott, the letter sender, may have been Edward Abbott, but well prior to his parliamentary career.
The Australian Dictionary of Biography was the source of most of Rev. Bedford’s information.