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This story is about an experiment to try and relieve some of the pressure on the postal system during the busy Christmas time. One thing to remember in this story is that in the UK, the Post/Mail is delivered to your house. In the early days maybe twice a day!! Along with fresh milk. But that's another story.

This story takes place in the United Kingdom. The service started in the year 1902 and lasted until 1909. Nearly everybody at the time posted their Christmas greetings at the last minute. (nothing changes!) This used put a great strain on the Post Office as it attempted to get all the post sorted and delivered before Christmas. In an attempt to encourage early posting at Christmas, the Post Office offered a new service. The idea was that letters or cards handed in a few days before Christmas would get special treatment. They would be delivered on Christmas Day. A special postmark was applied to these letters. This gave the Post Office time to sort these letters and better orgainse their resources.  

The experiment started in a town called Rochdale in the Midlands in 1902. The first postmark was a semi-circle with the words "posted in advance" curved at the top with "for delivery on Xmas day 1902" in straight text in the middle. The experiment must had some success as the service was extended to other towns in 1903. A new postmark "type II" below was used for this service. In 1906, the postmark used by some towns changed to the "type III." Manchester sometimes used it's own postmarks, including the "Columbia" franking system postmark, hence the "MACHINE" postmark recorded below. It has been recorded that in 1907, the service in Manchester was particularly busy, and some of the older postmarks where used as well that year.  Some towns like Glasgow in Scotland & Reading in Berkshire tried the service for only one year. The town of Sale used the "type II" postmark right through from 1903 till 1909. So as you can see it is not clear cut who used what and when! Or what colours where used for postmarking. Red/Black or Violet. 

The service was abandoned after 1909. Reasons unknown. It may be that the service was too successful! 

The postmarks and the service have been researched and recorded by many philatelist, on numerous occasions. They have recorded the types of postmarks and the colours used in each town.  A new postmark believed to have been used in Cheltenham has been mentioned in the book "Collect British Postmarks". The story never ends!

Many of the postmarks are very scarce. One of the reasons could be that many older postal items can be found used by commercial business'. But this service was aimed at the general public, who tended to discard the envelopes in which a Christmas card arrived. Lost for ever. But the fun is in the searching.

I am indebted to those that have gone before. Especially C.W Meridith F.R.P.S.L & Cyril Kidd A. S. A. A for their excellent book of 1954  "A Christmas Story" Published by R. C. Alcock Ltd.