Although Royal Mail had a monopoly on the delivery of mail for most of the year, from 1981 charities - principally Scouts, Guides and Church Groups - have been permitted to arrange the collection and distribution of greetings cards each year for a limited period before Christmas. While some rely simply on a rubber stamp to denote payment, many produce one or more stamps. The bigger the operation, the more 'professional' the stamp design and production of the stamps. While some places use the same (unvalued) design over a period of years, the most advanced produce a set of 5 or more multicoloured stamps in different thematic designs each year.
Following the change in the law in 1981 members of the Woodseats Venture Unit (WVU), at the time without a meeting place, decided that a Christmas Postal Service would be a good way of raising some money. They advertised to deliver in just the 'South Sheffield' area and set up all the relevant collection points. Through sheer determination and will power 11,000 cards were sorted in one leader's house before being delivered at an average rate of two cards per street.
In the following years more and more Sheffield groups joined the scheme meaning a wider area for delivery and more cards in the system. In 1985 the scheme took in such areas as Stocksbridge and Chapeltown, while in 1991, an agreement with the Chesterfield scheme enabled the area involved to extend further. The numbers of cards increased year on year until it reached a peak in 1989, the year of the threatened postal strike. Since then there has been a gradual decline in the number of cards passing through the system.
Sheffield has by far the largest and most sophisticated scheme in Britain. Many of the other Scout Post services, operating in areas such as Derby, Sutton Coldfield and the Wirrall, have based their system on Sheffield. Even Scout groups in other countries have contacted Sheffield for advice.
paragraphs have been condensed from 'Scout Post - Sorted' by Matt
Richards on http://www.btinternet.com/~the.hedgehog/articles/sorted.htm
from whom I would have sought permission if I had found a way to
contact him directly - so if you read this, Matt, please get in touch!
That website has now withered away from the BT servers; another one with good information on these and other Scout Posts is John Crabbe's.
This press release was produced by the Sheffield Scout Post for 2000:
Scout Post will function from the 29th November 2000, for the 20th
An area 35 miles long by 10 miles wide (55 x 16km), serving an estimated 1,000,000 population, has seen the delivery of over 750,000 cards per annum in recent years.
Charitable Donations (outside the Scout Movement which it helps finance), exceed £150,000 to-date.
Five stamps, Se-tenant, representing The Three Kings, The Shepherds, The Stable, The Star of Bethlehem, and The Angel Gabriel have been produced for Christmas 2000. Printed in five colours, predominantly in blue and yellow, they are 15p each and First Day Covers are £1.50p. When ordering please add a donation to cover postage and packing.
To obtain these stamps and covers and further information please email Greg Spring.
I have nothing from 1981, the first year of operations, and I have found no information about any stamps or markings used in that year.
First Day Cover produced for the second year of operation, 1982, with 10p stamps showing five views of Sheffield City Centre: The Crucible Theatre, The Town Hall, The Cathedral, The City Hall, and Fargate.
From 1984 (or possibly 1983) Scout Groups used circular numbered handstamps inscribed SHEFFIELD SCOUTS at the top, with the year at the foot. The Year was included until 1990 (the 10th year), but was not included on the postmarks in later years. Some Scout Groups also apply an additional rubber stamp to the front (or occasionally the reverse) of the envelope showing the identity of the group or unit (see 1986 picture below).
|The Chief Scouts pictured on 1984 stamps|
| Lord Maclean
| Sir William Gladstone
| Maj-Gen Michael Walsh
1985 - Fox Typical
Christmas card envelope cancelled with #35 postmark, & Rabbit
cancelled with #38
The Press release quoted above
indicates just how big the Sheffield Scout Post has become in 20 years,
but as early as 1985 so many cards with Scout stamps were being placed
in the Royal Mail postal system that the Sheffield Post Office found it
necessary to obtain a rubber stamp to redirect them back to the Scout
The letter was addressed to no.142
Club Garden Road, but this was wrong. The resident of no.142 did not
know the correct address - and we must assume that they did not know
how to contact the Scout Post system - so they returned the letter to
the only system they new, the Royal Mail system.
The handstamp reads:
Few examples of this mark appear on the philatelic market.
The 1 9 8 6 stamps depict garden birds, this mint corner block showing part of the printer's imprint:
|House Sparrows / Blue tits / Robins||Bullfinches||Chaffinches|
|This mark is from one of the many Scout Groups & Venture Scout Units which marked the items that they processed. Most are ordinary straight-line or two-line unboxed marks, but a few are circular or illustrated; most are in black or blue-black, but occasional marks are seen in blue or red.|
9 8 7
stamps depict butterflies, four of the stamps are shown here:
the Peacock, a pair of Tortoiseshells, a Red Admiral and a Copper.
For the 1
9 8 8
'Mitchell', the designer, moved away from nature to more traditional
Traditional Christmas Carols
were used for the 1 9 8 9
designs, and a change from the framed design to one which incorporated
the opening lines of the carols, and the opening bars of the music -
though not always the matching full opening words:
|I saw three ships come sailing in ...||Good King Wenceslas looked out||While shepherds watched their flocks...||We three kings of orient are...||Away in a manger, no crib for a bed...|
1 9 9 0
was the 10th year of Sheffield
Scout Post operations, and a single commemorative stamp was produced
showing the hedgehog symbol of the
Woodseats Venture Unit .
This was the first stamp to have the inscription Sheffield Scout Christmas Post, and the price was increased for the first time, to 13p. The Royal Mail price for 2nd class post was by now 17p, having been increased from 15p in 1989. 1990 appears to be the last year in which new postmarks were made showing the year, all subsequent ones being blank at the foot (see 1991 below).
space mission was the subject
of the 1 9 9 1
13p stamps, which showed the
Mission Badge, British Astronaut
a Soyuz Rocket, the Mir Space
Station, and the Return
For 1 9 9 2
there was a reversion to
traditional Christmas subjects, this time traditional toys, with the
growing obsession in Britain and around the world with teddy-bears
resulting in one of these furry creatures being shown on every stamp,
along with all the other toys.
Any questions? please e-mail me.
Return to H O M E page
This page created 19 February
2001 & updated 23.10.2005;
updated 24.1.2008 with new Sheffield contact details.
updated 1.1.2011 with links to John Crabbe's website with details of many Scout Posts.