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Letter arrives more than 100 years late

Harry Low - BBC News - Thu, Feb 16th 2023

The 1916 letter

The letter is addressed to Katie Marsh, the wife of a stamp magnate

A letter written in February 1916 has arrived at a flat in south London more than 100 years later.

The envelope, which has a Bath postmark and a 1d (1p) stamp bearing George V's head, arrived at Finlay Glen's flat on Hamlet Road, Crystal Palace, in 2021.

He said: "We were obviously pretty surprised and mystified as to how it could have been sat around for more than 100 years."

Royal Mail said it remained "uncertain what happened in this instance".


The letter was sent two years before World War One rationing was introduced and King George V had been on the throne for five years.

Future prime ministers Harold Wilson and Sir Edward Heath were both born later that year.


Finlay Glen has kept the letter in a drawer for two yearsFinlay Glen

Although it can be a crime to open mail not addressed to you, under the Postal Services Act 2000, the theatre director said he felt it was "fair game" to open once he realised it was from 1916, not 2016.

The 27-year-old added: "If I've committed a crime, I can only apologise."

The letter was written to "my dear Katie", the wife of local stamp magnate Oswald Marsh, according to Stephen Oxford, editor of the Norwood Review, a quarterly local history magazine.

Oswald Marsh was a highly regarded stamp dealer who was often called as an expert witness in cases of stamp fraud.

It was penned by family friend Christabel Mennell, the daughter of a wealthy local tea merchant Henry Tuke Mennell, while on holiday in Bath.

In the letter, Ms Mennell stated she felt "quite ashamed of myself after saying what I did", and that she had been feeling "miserable here with a very heavy cold".


Christabel Mennell wrote the letter to Katie Marsh while in Somerset1916 letter

Mr Oxford said: "It's very unusual and actually quite exciting in terms of giving us a lead into local history and people who lived in Norwood, which was a very popular place for the upper middle classes in the late 1800s.

"Crystal Palace generated a huge influx of very wealthy people and so to find out about someone who moved to the area for possibly that very reason is absolutely fascinating."

Joseph Chandler Marsh

Oswald Marsh was the son of Joseph Chandler Marsh

Asked what he would do if the relatives of the sender or recipient got in touch, Mr Glen replied: "It's an amazing piece of their family history that has turned up - if they want to, they can come round."

The story first appeared in the South London Press on Wednesday.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: "Incidents like this happen very occasionally, and we are uncertain what happened in this instance.

"We appreciate that people will be intrigued by the history of this letter from 1916, but we have no further information on what might have happened."


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