Seapost -> Holyhead & Kingstown Packets

Holyhead & Kingstown Packets

By Mike Dovey.

Following the building of new roads and the Menai Bridge by Thomas Telford in 1801, Holyhead became the port for mail to be carried to Dublin, Ireland, and after 1818, to the new harbour at Howth, the harbour at Dublin being inaccessible at low tides. Completion of a new deep water jetty at Kingstown in 1827 saw the closure of Howth. In 1839, with the opening of the London & Birmingham Railway, Liverpool became the main port for mail to be sent over the Irish Sea to Kingstown. (Kingstown was originally called Dunleary until changed in honour of King George IV in 1827). It was always the intention of the Post Office to return services to Holyhead. With the building of the Chester to Holyhead Railway in 1848 the service was transferred from Liverpool.

H&K Pact cancel type HKP 4
HKP 4 Dated August 4th 1882, index 1.

The Holyhead & Kingstown Packet service commenced in 1860 when a new contract was agreed and four vessels were put into service, all named after the four Irish provinces - Connaught, Leinster, Munster, & Ulster.

Examples of H&K packet cancel types
H&K Pact cancel type HKP 1 H&K Pact cancel type HKP 2 H&K Pact cancel type HKP 3 H&K Pact cancel type HKP 4
HKP 1 (1860 - 1863) HKP 2 (1861 - 1862) HKP 3 (1860-1894) HKP 4 (1865-1894)
H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 5 H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 6 H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 7 H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 8
HKP 5 (1885-1895) HKP 6 (1884-1895) HKP 7 (1886-1895) HKP 8 (1895-1906)
H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 9 H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 10 H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 11 H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 12
HKP  9 (1901-1906) HKP 10 (1897-1903) HKP 11 (1901-1915) HKP 12 (1902-1919)
H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 13 H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 14 H&K PACT cancel type HKP 15 H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 16
HKP 13 (1922) HKP 14 (1919-1925) HKP 15 (1870) HKP 16 (1862)

During the 65 years of the service a variety of marks were used. Shown above is an example of each one of them. However, there are a number of variables with many of the marks and the usages of each of the index numbers. Therefore, should anyone wish to expand their knowledge of the subject then Lovelock's book is a must as it really goes into great depth on the subject of H&K handstamps.

H&K PACKET cancel type HKP 11
HKP 11, Dated June 14th 1902, index U2.

With the introduction of HKP 11 datestamp in 1901 each vessel in use at the time was defined. Thus "L", as shown above, was carried on board the R.M.S. Leinster. There were four handstamps for each of the four vessels in service numbered 1 - 4, depending which service the ship was working on.

In or around 1906 the practice of backstamping all mail carried on the four vessels ceased. After this date only mail actually posted on board the ship was cancelled over the postage stamps. Mail posted in this manner is scarce.

The First World War saw the loss of the Connaught on active service, and on October 10th 1918, the Leinster was torpedoed by German submarine U-123 whilst crossing with the mails from Kingstown to Holyhead.

Unstamped US sailor's mail closed by censor 6581 label
salvaged from the "Leinster". [ex Woolfe]

In 1920 a new contract was awarded to the LNWR who had undercut the tender offered by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Co., who had serviced the contract without a break since 1850. The Steam Packet company went into liquidation with immediate effect, the last sailing being on the 27th November 1920.

Picture postcard of  'RMS Munster' PPC corner cachet of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Co. with H&K PACKET cancel type 12
HKP 12 Dated May 21st 1905, Index M1, used on R.M.S.MUNSTER

In 1922, following the setting up of the Irish Free State (Irish Republic), Kingstown reverted back to its original name Dunleary although it is now spelt in Erse as Dun Laoghaire. The last Day Mail ceased on the 10th March 1923 while the last Night Mail was run on the 21st February, 1925 bringing to an end 65 years of service between the two ports.



Robertson Revisited by Colin Tabeart. Published in 1997
Postal Markings of the Holyhead & Kingstown Packet 1860-1925 by A.D.Lovelock. Published in 2006 by the TPO & Seapost Society, and available via our Publications page.
The Irish Mail by Cyril Kidd, TPO & Seapost Society, 1996. Also available from the Society.

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