Market Basket Stamps. [133]

In the days before the automobile, electricity, and refrigeration, shopping was a daily task.  In cities or large villages, retail stores had stocks of the many items needed for “civilized” life.  Outside of the built-up areas, however, the large country manor houses were, by necessity, to a great extent self-sufficient.  Even so, certain items were not available and had to be purchased.  Salt, sugar, spices, ironware, clothing, and tools, are typical of items not available, not grown locally, nor practical to make.  

The estate manager would place an order for required items with a wholesaler in Galway or Dublin, for example.   The wholesaler would obtain the items and ship them to the estate by the railway.  Items were required to be shipped in lock-able baskets to protect them in-transit.  The railways offered the estates special rates. Instead of the normal parcel stamps, the Midland Great Western Rwy issued discount booklets of 13 stamps of “Market Basket” stamps for the price of 12. The Midland Rwy connected the western central region of Ireland with Dublin – the counties Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Galway,. The Midland was the only railway to use such stamps since most of the large estates were located in their operating area.   

There are four stamps known in this series, approximately 75 x 75 mm (3 inches x 3 inches).  They were contemporaneous with parcel stamps which were smaller and existed in a number of different rates, weight limits, and distance limits. The stamps were perforated on 12½ on one side, the others being imperforate.

The lowest value, 1 shilling, had a weight limit of 56 pounds and a distance limit of 50 miles (Figure 1).  The 1 shilling, 3 pence, was of a different design and had a 112 pound weight limit and the distance limit of 50 miles.  It too was printed in black on lilac paper. (Figure 2).  The remaining two stamps used the same designs but the distance limit was increased to cover the entire railway.  They were printed in black on blue paper (1/9) and orange papers (2/6) respectively.  Note: Scan of 1 shilling stamp in Figure 1 is from Ewen’s book of 1906.  The diagonal line is in red.

These stamps were withdrawn in 1895 when the Midland rearranged its rate structure.14/3/2019

Railway and Parcel Stamps of the United Kingdom, Ewen, H. L’Estrange, London, 1906.