Anyone who collects Barbados stamps and covers will be aware that there has been available on the island a range of Registered Envelopes since the very first ones went on sale in 1882.
In his book Bayley describes these Registered Envelopes as;
“…bag shaped and made of white wove paper which is linen lined, with crossed lines on the back and front of the envelope, and on the address side, an inscription with three lines along the upper margin.”
Whilst there are a great many different types and sizes they tended to look something like this one from the reign of Edward VII in 1902;
For collectors of these things there are different sizes and postal rates to collect as well as collecting them both mint and used. The used tend to be more interesting as they often contain a range of cancels which can lead to a journey of exploration as you try and establish how the cover travelled from Barbados to somewhere else in the world, how long it took and whether the journey was smooth and uninterrupted or something out of the ordinary.
These Registered envelopes were used extensively throughout the Commonwealth and many other countries have these as well.
The early years of QEII’s reign these continued to be produced and used and early ones looked like this;
As you can see the style, look and feel didn’t change much in almost eighty years.
Whilst on the island recently I thought it would be a good idea to see if it was possible to still send Registered Mail from Barbados and as part of my grand tour of the Post Offices of Barbados I sent two back to myself.
The first Registered Envelope was sent from St Lucy and as you can see, although there are some familiar elements to the envelopes the biggest change is that these are now plastic instead of ‘white wove paper’
What this means in practice therefore is that getting nice clean cancels on Registered Envelopes is almost impossible as the ink goes onto a plastic surface and until it dries it smudges very easily. As you can see from the reverse where the clerk cancelled four times along the seal, the postmarks are virtually illegible.
For future postal historians therefore there are two issues; firstly that the postmarks will be indistinct and secondly that very few of these Registered Envelopes will survive. There is no easy way to open them neatly and most people will just rip them open and discard them or soak the stamps off. This is a great shame as we are losing valuable postal history every day.
The St Lucy Registered Envelope was roughly A5 size so the next one I obtained, from the main Post Office in Bridgetown, was the larger A4 version.
With this cover I wanted to try and include something different so I bought a recent mini sheet, the seven wonders of Barbados and used the Lion at Gun Hill stamp from the middle of the sheet as the first stamp on the cover. Of course there won’t be many of these used anywhere as it is firmly tucked into the mini sheet and being just 65c would be primarily used for internal mail if anyone did bother to use one.
The lovely lady at the counter in Bridgetown, when I explained that I was a mad Barbados stamps collector, went out of her way to find some cardboard to stiffen the cover and then cut it to size to make sure that what we sent through the post stayed intact. You can see that the plan worked and this cover arrived in one piece just a few days later.
On both covers the main make up of stamps is the current ‘Fruits’ definitives and it is genuine usage of the high values which is always nice to see.
So it is still possible to get Registered Mail from Barbados and these Registered Envelopes are available from any of the Post Office counters throughout the island. I suppose the next challenge will be to get one from each Post Office! I do however doubt very much that there will be many of these for future generations to collect and examine as our current throwaway society disposes of plastic wrappers like this every day meaning postal history is lost forever.