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The Postal History of the Smaller Channel Islands: Herm by David Gurney

A range of handstamps and datestamps were used by the Herm postal service                                                 

This article appeared in the Gibbons Stamp Magazine in May 1994.  It was based on a longer account which made up part of David Gurney’s book “The Post Office in the Smaller Channel Islands” first published by the Channel Islands Specialist Society in 1993 (now out of print).  It is reproduced with the permission of the Author.  

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The Island of Herm is one of the smaller Channel Islands , being only 1½ miles in length by a ½ mile wide at the broadest point.  It lies some three miles due east of Guernsey and is separated from the smaller island of Jethou by the narrow Percee passage.

Herm has a long history stretching back to the Neolithic period, but little is recorded until the latter part of the 18th century.  Early letters and entires to or from Herm Island are extremely rare.  A small private correspondence dating between 1815 and 1826 is held at the County Record Office in Maidstone and an entire written by a clergyman visiting Herm in 1836 is recorded with a Southampton Ship Letter stamp, having been carried by a ship then in Herm harbour to Southampton .

Letters addressed to the Island in the latter part of the last century were held at the Head Post Office in Guernsey to await collection.  Letters for despatch were handed into the Post Office at Guernsey in the usual way.  

Two examples are known of an unframed ‘HERM’ handstamp (Figure 1), one on the picture side of a postcard sent from Guernsey in 1903 and the other struck on both sides of an unused postcard of Herm.  It is believed to be a private mark rather than a Post Office mark.

It was not until 1920 when Compton MacKenzie, the author, took over the lease of Herm and subsequently Jethou, that the mail increased and a special locked bag facility was agreed with the Post Office in Guernsey .  By 1923 Sir Percival Perry, Chairman of the Ford Motor Company, had taken over the Herm lease only from Compton MacKenzie and a second locked bag facility was put into operation. 

With an increasing number of residents and visitors, the GPO agreed in 1925 to open a non-Telegraph and non-Money Order Sub-Post Office on Herm with effect from 1 May.  The Sub-Post Office was open for only a ½ hour each morning.  A double circle datestamp without a code letter was used and examples are difficult to find (Figure 2).

Sir Percival Wanted it Blue!

A wall posting (letter) box was installed and it is recorded that Sir Percival required it to be painted in the blue of his racing colours like other installations on the Island .  Special sanction had to be obtained from the Postmaster General but it is not known whether this was agreed to!

Although the Herm office was restricted to the sale of stamps and postal orders, the registration of letters took place as evidenced by the only known early registered cover sent on 26 August 1930 to Cape Town using a Small Sheet Label (Figure 3).

The second type of registration label used in Herm was a Perforated Coil type (Figure 4) which was, in fact, used in Sark as a temporary remedy in May 1944 when the supply of Sark labels ran out.  Usually the name of Herm was erased and ‘ Sark ’ written in ink.

Closed Through Lack of Demand

The Sub-Post Office was closed on 30 November 1938 due to a decline in business and a private bag facility was again put into use by the Post Office in Guernsey .  Following the ending of World War II continuous attempts were made to re-establish a Sub-Post Office on Herm Island but these were to remain unsuccessful until 1969. 

During 1948 a Neopost Franking machine with the meter value die No 13 was used in Herm.  Applied in red, it was at first used on manila envelopes despatching notices publicising the intended issue of local stamps, but it was also used to frank letters and postcards.  The word ‘tranquillity’ is misspelt with only one ‘l’ in the slogan.  It is known used with the 1d and 2½d values inserted and is very rare (Figure 5).  

Local carriage labels were issued by the Tenants of Herm between 1949 and 1969 in order to defray the cost of carrying mails to and from Guernsey .  The GPO refused to re-establish postal services and was also insistent that the local stamps, which were not authorised for normal postal use, did not have the word ‘Postage’ in their design.

The Independent Era

On 1 October 1969 the newly established Guernsey Post Office Board re-opened a Sub-Post Office on Herm and the local carriage labels were suppressed.  

A standard pattern 23½ mm single-circle datestamp was issued for use from 1 October 1969 as a general purpose datestamp (Figure 6), a 30 mm rubber single-circle datestamp followed on 16 June 1970, intended for the cancellation of small packets (Figure 7) and a 26½ mm single circle datestamp was issued on 6 January 1971 replacing the first 23½ mm datestamp (Figure 8).  

A rectangular boxed rubber parcel datestamp was issued for use on 20 July 1970 (Figure 9) and this was followed by a special 23½ mm datestamp on 11 November 1970 to mark the issue of the first Christmas stamps by the Guernsey Post Office Board (Figure 10).  

A special boxed cancellation was applied to letters posted in Guernsey on 1 May 1975 to mark the 5oth anniversary of the original opening of the first Herm Sub-Post Office on 1 May 1925 (Figure 11).  This cancellation was not used at Herm.  

On 30 November 1984 a replacement rectangular parcel datestamp was issued for use (Figure 12).

 

When the Sub-Post Office re-opened on 1 October 1969 the first registration labels to be used were taken from a Guernsey Head Post Office roll ‘GUERNSEY N’ commencing with the ‘No 1001’ (Figure 13).

It was not until 21 April 1970 that standard printed ‘HERM ISLAND GUERNSEY’ labels of the perforated coil type were put into use (Figure 14).

Today the Sub-Post Office is located in the Gift Shop close to the harbour and is busy during the summer season with visitors buying stamps and sending postcards.  Registered and recorded delivery letters are handled as well as parcels.  It is the only Sub-Office in the Bailiwick of Guernsey that opens seven days weekly and sometimes also in the evenings when there are large numbers of visitors arriving on the boats.

Appointments of Herm Sub-Postmaster

1 May 1925 - Capt G D Attewell
1927 - Mr Ashmead
1927 - Mr A E Brightwell
1929 – Miss H M Opie
1935 – Mrs A White
? – Mrs Wilson
1 October 1969 – Major A G Wood

Illustrations reproduced from a copy of the original article

Scanning and editing by Peter Hewitt

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