Colleges’ outlawed postage system may have been legal

Colleges’ outlawed postage system may have been legal

Prof Simon Catling, left, and Bill Jackson, president of Oxford Philatelic Society, examine the Cambridge College Messenger Stamps

The stamps

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering North Oxford, Jericho and Summertown. Call me on 01865 425498

OXFORD University colleges are known for doing things their own way.

And at one time they had their own postal system too, before it was outlawed in 1886.

Now a retired professor says his grandfather may have found ‘proof’ that they should have been allowed to keep it.

Former Oxford Brookes University lecturer Simon Catling, of Wheatley, was clearing his mother’s Norfolk home after she died in 2010 when he found an old trunk.

Inside was a manuscript and rare stamp collection owned by his grandfather, Harry Catling.

His grandfather was convinced he had found legal evidence which showed the stamps should not have been banned, but didn’t manage to publish it between 1939, when he completed his research, and when he died in 1947.

Prof Catling, 66, said: “He did try to publish it, but the Second World War got in the way.

“He had sent it to his son, but his son went to war and when he returned there was more pressing business to attend to, so it was put away and completely forgotten.

“It seems to make a very strong case to me and I have spoken to expert stamp collectors who agree.

“Even though it has been in an attic for 75 years, the arguments it makes have never been made before.”

The colleges in Oxford had been using their own messengers for years for an internal mail system, but after Keble College was opened in 1870, cash-strapped staff members decided to start charging students and staff for the service. To do that, they created their own stamps.

The practice spread to seven other colleges in the next decade and even across to Cambridge University in 1882.

But in 1886 the Postmaster General of the UK, Henry Carteret, launched a legal challenge, claiming it infringed on the government-owned General Post Office’s monopoly of the market.

As a result the stamps were outlawed and, over time, intact versions became very difficult for collectors to obtain.

Harry Catling had become interested in them in the 1880s and began to research them when he lived in Cambridge in the 1920s and 1930s.

In his manuscript, he wrote: “I turned to the authorities and carefully investigated the Post Office Acts from their first appearance.

And he made reference to “the Act of Charles II in 1660, which confirmed in 1661... the privileges of the two Universities of the Land were reserved to them ‘in manner as heretofore hath been used’.”

After discovering the manuscript, Prof Catling showed it to friend and Oxford Philatelic Society president Bill Jackson.

Mr Jackson said: “This essay has been completely unknown until now and the stamps are the best collection from Cambridge ever found.

“I doubt it will prompt the colleges to resume their old system, but it is very interesting.”

An Oxford University spokesperson said: “The essay makes for interesting reading, but at present we have no plans to revive the University’s postal service.”

  • Our top stories:

Lorry driver failed to brake in time to avoid fatal crash, jury told

Oxford Mail: Oxford Crown Court

6:30am Tuesday 21st October 2014

A LORRY driver had 12 seconds in which he failed to brake before fatally crashing into a broken-down car on the M40 in Oxfordshire, a jury was told.

County council revises budget cuts to lessen burden on services for homeless

Oxford Mail:

6:30am Tuesday 21st October 2014

CUTS to help for homeless people are to be changed after concerns were raised about their impact.

Update: Murder investigation after man "stabbed on a boat" in Abingdon

Oxford Mail:

7:09am Monday 20th October 2014

A MAN was stabbed to death in Abingdon last night.

Severe weather warning for Oxfordshire following Hurricane Gonzalo

Oxford Mail: After the heatwave comes the thunderstorms: 'Yellow Alert' as heavy rain forecast

2:40pm Monday 20th October 2014

SEVERE weather warnings are in place for Oxford tomorrow.

On-target Alfie Potter hails dream day as Oxford United regain winning habit + VIDEO

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Monday 20th October 2014

ALFIE Potter hailed a “perfect day” as he came off the bench to score and give Oxford United a much-needed victory over Tranmere Rovers.

Man who scared off burglars with a sword from his Witney home is left feeling 'a bag of nerves'

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Monday 20th October 2014

A BURGLARY victim who scared off his intruders while holding a sword said the incident had left him emotionally scarred.

Britain's Got Talent star Fabia and her feathered friends go burlesque for breast cancer funds in Cowley

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Monday 20th October 2014

OXFORD’S own burlesque star Fabia Cerra hosted a special dancing class over the weekend to raise money for charity.

DIDCOT POWER STATION FIRE: 'It was a bit of an inferno' + Video

Oxford Mail:

8:00am Monday 20th October 2014

A HUGE fire ripped through a cooling tower at Didcot Power Station last night.

Taking the sugar out of diet is film’s sweet plan for Oxfordshire residents' health

Oxford Mail:

7:30am Monday 20th October 2014

YOUNGSTERS from Rose Hill have taken to the silver screen to encourage families across Oxfordshire to make healthier food choices.

Cheers! Thousands hail the ale

Oxford Mail:

7:00am Monday 20th October 2014

THOUSANDS of beer-lovers flocked to Oxford Town Hall to raise a toast to real ale at the annual Oxford Beer Festival.

‘Save trees from chop to shield us from eyesore'

Oxford Mail:

7:00am Monday 20th October 2014

CONCERNS have been raised that felling trees near the Port Meadow student flats could worsen their impact on neighbouring people.

Network Bicester makes second attempt for planning permission to create business site

Oxford Mail: Cherwell district council logo

6:40am Monday 20th October 2014

PLANS for a new multi-million-pound business site on the edge of a Bicester housing estate have been re-submitted to Cherwell District Council.

Rising social care demands following child exploitation cases lead to council cash warning

Oxford Mail: Ian Hudspeth

6:30am Monday 20th October 2014

RISING demand in social care will make it even harder for the county council to balance the books next year, its leader has warned Ian Hudspeth revealed there was an overspend on adult and children’s social care this year.

Didcot steam enthusiast chuffed by Combe Mill show’s popularity

Oxford Mail:

6:30am Monday 20th October 2014

TRADITIONAL industries of wood and steam came together at the original sawmill and workshop of the Blenheim Palace estate, Combe Mill.

Comments (2)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

3:41pm Fri 23 May 14

Simon33 says...

The Oxford Philatelic Society has 60 members and meets regularly at the Methodist Church, Rose Hill, OX4 4HS. New members are always welcome.
The next meeting is a bring and buy/AGM on Monday 16th June at 7.30pm.

All the details of the society are at:
http://www.communiga
te.co.uk/oxford/oxfo
rdphilatelicsociety/
The Oxford Philatelic Society has 60 members and meets regularly at the Methodist Church, Rose Hill, OX4 4HS. New members are always welcome. The next meeting is a bring and buy/AGM on Monday 16th June at 7.30pm. All the details of the society are at: http://www.communiga te.co.uk/oxford/oxfo rdphilatelicsociety/ Simon33
  • Score: 2

8:56pm Fri 23 May 14

bart-on simpson says...

Stamp collecting makes you so knowledgeable about geography and the world. I hope there are children in Oxford who are being taught about the value of such hobbies, not just electronic games.
Stamp collecting makes you so knowledgeable about geography and the world. I hope there are children in Oxford who are being taught about the value of such hobbies, not just electronic games. bart-on simpson
  • Score: 2

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree