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.