There are Australian covers available each year on the market with re-directions including multiple manuscript instructions, and postmarks of multiple post offices. This cover however is somewhat unique in that the address was given fully (albeit incorrectly), plus there are three fine boxed instructions which spread over an area from South Yarra, to Melbourne and finally to Victoria, plus the surprising finding that the cover never finished up at the Dead Letter Office.
This cover from Great Britain was postmarked with two copies of the duplex ILKESTON/ 8.30 PM/ NO 22/ 97 with the numeral ‘585′ on a single copy of the ‘One Half Penny’ orange-vermillion QV stamp of 1887-92 (S.G. 197e) plus a pair of the One Penny lilac ‘Postage And Inland Revenue’ QV stamps of 1881 (S.G. 170). It was addressed to H. Garfield Parker Esqre, Florence Terrace, Warren Road, Oswest(–), near “Melbourne”, AUSTRALIA.
Starting at the top of the cover there is a pencilled notation: ‘(Mar 1/98)’, and immediately below a fine black oval handstamp ‘NOT KNOWN BY/ LETTER CARRIERS/ MELBOURNE’, as well as a black rectangular boxed ‘POST TOWN/ NOT/ KNOWN IN VICTORIA’, vertically placed at the lower left hand border.
There are two town postmarks that are both most legible when the cover is rotated 90 degrees anticlockwise. The postmark closest to the originating postmarks is an unframed CAULFIELD/ JA 5/ 98/ VICTORIA, which has been classified by Watson, Webster & Wood (Volume 2, 1992) as being Type 20, and this is the latest recorded date by 8 years. This post office is described as 9 km SE of the present day Melbourne G.P.O.
The other unframed postmark is BRIGHTON EAST/ (– ) 12/ 98/ VICTORIA, and the earliest recorded date for this postmark is March 17/98 in Volume 1 of the same publication, in 1989. This post office is described as 3½ km SW of present day Oakleigh (and this should place it reasonably close to Caulfield, both being suburbs of Melbourne).
Almost all of the manuscripts and extensive crossings out are in vivid red ink, and the one that I can confidently decipher is ‘Try Caulfield’, half-way down the right hand side, written horizontally. Another horizontal manuscript, immediately below the 3 stamps, looks like ‘Try Wujual’ and there was no town of this name (or anything similar to it) in Australia. At the bottom of the cover written horizontally in black-red is ‘Mordialloc’, a coastal town on Port Phillip Bay, some 20+ km SE of Melbourne GPO (Figure 1).
The reverse is as much an enigma, and there is a red manuscript across the top of the cover ‘Not Known at Brighton East/ 12 (–) 90′ with initials below ‘WW’, as well as another red manuscript along the bottom of the cover which needs to be turned through 180 degrees to be legible even partially as ‘Not Known at (——-), initials and a date (—)/ 1/ 98′.
With the cover still viewed inverted there are 5 overlapping postmarks, at least 4 of which are framed, and the one at the top must be MEL(BOURNE)/ JA 12 / 98, particularly so because of its configuration. Immediately below that there is an even earlier MELBOURNE/ (–)/ JA 3/ 98, and overlapping that to its left is SOU(TH) YARRA/ JA 7/ 98/ VICTORIA. In addition there are at least two more unframed cancels (both VICTORIA), dated: JA 10 and JA 12/98.
With the cover upright again, there is a repeat of the unframed BRIGHTON EAST/ JA 12/ 98, originally seen on the front, at the left of the cover. The most striking of all the postal markings on the reverse was the black rectangular boxed ‘NOT KNOWN BY/ LETTER CARRIERS/ SOUTH YARRA’ (Figure 2).
The letter was in sent from Ilkeston, Derbyshire to Melbourne on November 22, 1897 and then circled around in, what is now, the greater Melbourne area from at least January 3 to January 12, 1898, causing grief to many letter carriers, who apparently never had much joy in finding H. Garfield Parker Esquire of ‘near Melbourne’. The surprising omission on the cover is the fact that there is no postmarking apparent that the cover was delivered to the Dead Letter Office, G.P.O. Melbourne.
The South Derbyshire town of Ilkeston is situated approximately 22 km east of the City of Derby and 17 km west of the City of Nottingham. Ilkeston is bordered to the east by the River Erewash and the Erewash Canal, and to the west by the River Nutbrook. A small number of prehistoric and Roman archeological finds have been found in the area, but no finds of settlement prior to the Norman conquest has yet been discovered. The Domesday Book of 1086 records the name of the village as ‘Tilchestune’, the ‘T’ being mistakenly added by a Norman scribe. The population of the town in the 1890’s was around 19,000.
As an after-thought, perhaps I should not have ignored the importance of the pencilled manuscript on the front of the cover, namely ‘Mar 1/98′ , for could this have meant that the addressee had finally been found, and that he had added the date of his reception of the letter? I sincerely hope so.