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Sheffield snuff mill Penny black stamp to be auctioned

It COST only one old penny to post to Sheffield but now, nearly 170 years on, a postal wrapper sent with a Penny Black stamp to a Sharrow snuff firm is set to fetch up to £500 at auction.

The wrapper is addressed simply to 'J&H Wilson, Snuff Manufacturers, Sheffield'.

It was posted in Stroud, Gloucestershire, on April 17, 1841, less than a year after Britain's first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was introduced on May 6, 1840.

It is not known what was originally inside the wrapper - an early envelope - but it is now expected to sell for between 400 and 500 at Spink in Bloomsbury, London, on September 9.

It is particularly unusual and valuable not only because of the Penny Black but due to the Gloucestershire postmarks - for Stroud and Nailsworth - which should have been on the back of the wrapper, rather than the front.

Penny Blacks were not perforated, so had to be individually cut from a sheet by a postal clerk and some were better and more neatly cut than others.

This Sheffield Penny Black is one of the better ones, and has what auctioneers Spink call "very large, even, margins all around" - which is what collectors like to hear.

Spink say the Sheffield wrapper is "an exceptional and delightful cover in very fine condition".

It is among a number of valuable Victorian philatelic gems put up for sale by one of Britain's richest men, the multi-millionaire meat and property baron Lord Vestey, 69, who is affectionately known in gossip columns as "Spam" Vestey because of his links to the meat trade.

He and his family are worth around 750 million, according to the this year's Sunday Times Rich List.

J&H Wilson, the Sheffield firm which originally owned Lord Vestey's wrapper, was based at Westbrook Mills between Ecclesall Road and Sharrow Vale Road and was founded in 1833 by Joseph and Henry Wilson when they parted company with their cousins William and George Wilson who retained the nearby Sharrow Mills.

Joseph and Henry Wilson Ltd, as it became in 1895, remained a family firm until 1953, when its elderly owners sold their business to Imperial Tobacco. Imperial Tobacco still makes snuff under the J&H Wilson brand in Leeds and Nottingham.

Wilsons of Sharrow, who retained the Sharrow Mills, is now named Wilsons & Company (Sharrow) Ltd and is still very much alive and flourishing. It is still based at Sharrow Mills, still owned by the Wilson family, and is now the world's oldest manufacturer of snuff, having been founded in 1737.

Carol Walker, from Wilsons of Sharrow, told The Star: "We definitely won't be bidding, but it's great that things like that are still found.

"Little tins of snuff keep turning up from time to time too. "It's wonderful, a great reminder of times gone past."

The Wilsons' wrapper possibly travelled from Gloucestershire to Sheffield by horse-drawn mail van or wagon, as Sheffield Victoria railway station would not be opened for another four years.

Yet despite its journey it is possible the wrapper arrived in Sheffield the day after it was posted in Gloucestershire. Mail delivery was extremely efficient and reliable in the 1840s - even before the introduction of new technology and inventions such as postcodes.

The year 1841, when Joseph and Henry Wilson received the wrapper, was eventful in other ways too.

Charles Dickens, then 29, published his latest book The Old Curiosity Shop; the first national Census took place and the Prince of Wales - later King Edward VII - was born.

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"It's wonderful, a great reminder of times gone past."

The Wilsons' wrapper possibly travelled from Gloucestershire to Sheffield by horse-drawn mail van or wagon, as Sheffield Victoria railway station would not be opened for another four years.

Yet despite its journey it is possible the wrapper arrived in Sheffield the day after it was posted in Gloucestershire. Mail delivery was extremely efficient and reliable in the 1840s - even before the introduction of new technology and inventions such as postcodes.

The year 1841, when Joseph and Henry Wilson received the wrapper, was eventful in other ways too.

Charles Dickens, then 29, published his latest book The Old Curiosity Shop; the first national Census took place and the Prince of Wales - later King Edward VII - was born.

Sarah Crabtree

Assistant News Editor

Working: Staff packing snuff.

Mill's mail: Wilsons snuff mill and its pond, off Ecclesall Road, Sheffield; and the Penny Black-stamped letter.

 
 
 

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