Christmas Postcards: Shepton Mallet, England – “Contrary to Regulations”, 1909

Postmark: Shepton Mallet / 7:45 PM / DE 22 / 1909; Auxiliary Markings: “Contrary to regulations 53”, Charged 1d due to fabric on obverse of card

This is an interesting card bearing a ½p green Great Britain KEVII stamp which I recently bid for and won in an eBay auction for just £1.50 (plus another £2.30 shipping to Phuket). What makes this unusual — and potentially worth somewhat more than I paid for it — are the auxiliary markings: “Contrary to Regulations – 53” and a To Pay 1p handstamp. It doesn’t appear too often on Christmas postcards; Stanley Gibbons currently has a batch of three such cards for sale on their website with a total price of £125.

What caused the postage due and what regulation did the card break? At the time, the postage rate for postcards sent within the United Kingdom was ½p and letters to any part of the UK not exceeding four ounces was 1p. But this card was charged an additional 1p (a “Liable to Letter Rate” endorsement is also seen in these instances). The explanation comes when examining the other side of the card. It has material — most likely felt — attached to appear as rose petals. The stamp (either Scott #127 or 143) paid ½p in postage so there was a deficiency of ½p. The postage due was charged at twice the deficiency (½p x 2 = 1p).

The red felt material on this 113-year old postcard, made in West Germany, is still vibrant enough that it discolored the envelope that it was shipped to Phuket in.

I have to admit that I didn’t know the reason for the markings when I bid on the card; I bid as I liked the design and thought it would be a nice addition to my collection of vintage Christmas cards. The Shepton Mallet postmark drew my eye as I remembered this was the site of the Peter Gabriel-organized WOMAD Festival in the summer of 1982. Gabriel lost so much money on the event that his friends in the group Genesis agreed to perform with him for a single concert that October in Milton Keynes — to date, the only full live show reuniting Gabriel with the band he had founded in 1967 and left in 1975.

The historic marketplace and floral decorations of Shepton Mallet. The market cross is a fine example of its type; nearby are preserved butcher’s market stalls known as the Shambles. Market crosses marked a market square where the right to hold a regular market or fair was granted by the monarch, a bishop or a baron. The market cross in the center of Shepton Mallet was built by 1500, funded at a cost of £20 by Walter Buckland and his wife Agnes according to a plaque. The 50 ft (15 m) tall hexagonal structure is built of Doulting stone with a central pier surrounded by six arches forming an arcade. The roof has a central spirelet. and there is a parapet with crocketed finials above the arches. Following the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685, twelve of the followers of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth were hanged, drawn and quartered at the market cross. It was rebuilt by George Phillips Manners in 1841. The lead on the roof and surrounding stonework was restored in 2012.

Shepton Mallet is a market town and civil parish in the Mendip District of Somerset, England, some 16 miles (26 km) south-west of Bath, 18 miles (29 km) south of Bristol and 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Wells. The area has a long history with the town mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. It had an estimated population of 10,810 in 2019. The Mendip Hills lie to the north and the River Sheppey runs through the town, as does the route of the Fosse Way, the main Roman road between north-east and south-west England. There is evidence of Roman settlement. Its listed buildings include a medieval parish church. Shepton Mallet Prison was England’s oldest but closed in March 2013. The medieval wool trade gave way to trades such as brewing in the 18th century and remains noted for cider production. It is the closest town to the Glastonbury Festival and nearby the Royal Bath and West of England Society showground.


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