Hobson's Bay

The mails to international destinations were of great importance to the citizens of Victoria, and every opportunity was provided to insure that all of the mails would get on board the mail ships before they departed. As part of that effort, a mail drop-off box was provided at the end of the pier at Hobson’s Bay where the mail ships anchored, and letters were accepted at that mailbox until the last sailor left to board the ship, taking the mail bag with him as the final bit of cargo. Once aboard, these mails were sorted by agents of the post office and postmarked with a unique duplex postmark and placed into sealed bags for delivery in England.

The left half of the postmark had a circular date stamp with the letters RMSS on the top half and Hobson’s Bay on the bottom half with the right portion of the postmark being a barred oval with the word VICTORIA in the middle, similar to other duplex postmarks in use at that time. Within the circular date stamp there were three lines – the top had a single letter code, the middle line showed the month and date and the third line had a two-digit code for the year. The letter code was initially V, but was altered to T at a later date.

The earliest noted date is Mar 26, 1862 and the service continued until early 1887. Considering that the Hobson’s Bay postmark lasted for 25 years, examples are very scarce. Only two covers are reported (does anyone know the whereabouts of these covers?), and my best guesstimate is that 100 (+/-) stamps might exist with this postmark.

Two different postmarks are known. The first type was used from 1862 until about 1875. The replacement had the same wording, but had larger, taller lettering that is more closely spaced than the first type. The earliest date I have been able to locate for this second type is Mar 19, 1880, with the last known date I have recorded being Jan 1887

Purves suggests that a two shilling late fee was imposed for this service from July 1864 until Sept 1865, however, I have encountered more than one example of a two shilling stamp with this postmark dated earlier than July 1864, which leads me to believe the late fee may have been imposed sooner than originally thought? Following Sept 1865, the late fee was reduced to one shilling and a number of examples can be found in this denomination. I have also acquired 2 examples of Five Shilling stamps with Hobson’s Bay postmarks, suggesting the service may have been used for some last minute parcels?

The Hobson’s Bay postmark stands out as a unique example in the postal history of Victoria, as there was never a post office at Hobson’s Bay, nor was there any settlement there. It was merely a postmark of convenience to indicate the special treatment provided at the pier for receiving late-posted letters.

When the railway connections between Melbourne and Adelaide were completed in the mid 1880’s the late fee system that created the Hobson’s Bay postmark disappeared. The English Mail TPO system started in early 1887 and the Hobson’ Bay postmark entered the history books at about the same time.

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