Francis Worrell Stevens
WORRELL STEVENS AND HIS CLAIM TO HAVE BEEN THE INVENTOR OF THE POSTAGE
In 1877 Francis Worrell Stevens first made known his
claim, in the New Zealand press, to have been the inventor of the
postage stamp. There is no evidence to back up his claim, very little
detail is given about his actual proposal; on investigating Stevens and
his claim it becomes clear that his claim was a fabrication.
The place and date
of Stevens’ birth are not known. In the
Old Bailey proceedings of 1858 his age was given as 51, which would
make the year of his birth 1806 or 1807. The age when he died is
recorded as 85, which would put his year of birth as 1804 or 1805. In
his June 1877 booklet Stevens says he is nearly 72 which would make his
date of birth the second half of 1805.
His father, William Seaman Stevens, had established a school known as
Albion House in Loughton.
In 1827 William Stevens sold the school to his son Francis.
On 18 December 1830 Francis Stevens was married to Barbara Vickers
(born c1807) in St John Hackney, Middlesex.
In the records of the Sun
Fire Office, Francis Worrell Stevens is shown as having an
insurance for Albion House Academy in 1832.
Stevens claimed, in his leaflet, that in 1833 or thereabouts he wrote
to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Althorp, with a proposal
for a penny adhesive stamp for postage.
Stevens also claimed that about this time he had advertised for an
assistant schoolmaster, that one of the people who responded and whom
he appointed was Rowland Hill. His claim continues that Rowland Hill
worked for him for a period of some five months and that during this
period Stevens allowed Hill to borrow his papers (Stevens') on the
subject of the “universal adhesive Penny Postage Stamp”.
In Chigwell: Schools, A History of the County
of Essex: Volume 4: Ongar Hundred there is a record
which reads as follows
About 1824 F C L
Klingender opened a school at Buckhurst Hill House, held on lease. By
1831 he had raised mortgages totalling £1,000 on the
property and in 1833 he offered the premises for sale at
asking nothing for any goodwill attached to the school. He was adjudged
bankrupt in 1834. Francis Worral Stevens, who had been a master at
Bruce Grove, Tottenham (Mdx.), under Rowland Hill, took over the school
and continued it until 1848.
A record of the Sun
Fire Office in 1837 shows Francis Worrall Stevens as a school
master at Woodford House Academy, Chigwell.
On 19 November 1839 Stevens is listed has having a patent (No 8363) and
is described as a schoolmaster at Chigwell, Essex. (page 134 of book "A
sketch of the origin and progress of steam navigation from authentic
On 29 October 1849 Stevens was a witness at the Old
Bailey where he stated he was a stockbroker, carrying on business
at 3 Royal Exchange.
On 23 December 1857 a report in The
Times newspaper mentions Stevens and reads as follows
"Mr. Kilby, the
brother of Mr F. Kilby, who was on the 17th inst. charged by Mr.
Francis Worrell Stevens, Stockbroker, of 3, Royal Exchange, with having
attempted to rob him of several hundreds of pounds, appeared before the
Lord mayor in very deep affliction.
It will be recollected that the Lord mayor, after having
questioned the accuser very closely on the day of examination,
dismissed the case, assuring Mr Kilby that he would leave the court
without the slightest taint upon his character.
The applicant of yesterday said that his unhappy brother
became dreadfully prostrated on returning home at the idea of having
been locked up in a station upon such a charge, and notwithstanding
every effort to cheer him up, grew worse and worse, and on Sunday
morning put an end to his existence by cutting his throat.
The Lord Mayor said he greatly regretted so deplorable an
event. He had supposed that the result of the examination as
published in the newspapers would have had the effect of at least
alleviating the pain of having been charged with the offence.
Mr Kilby intimated that he would in all probability
petition the Court of Aldermen on the subject, and left the
justice-room in great agitation, and much compassionated by all who
On 16 August 1858 Francis Worrell Stevens appeared in the Old
Bailey accused of “Fraudulently and feloniously converting to
his own use a sum of £4,700, entrusted to him as bailee.” The
prosecution offered no evidence and he was found not guilty. The reason
for the no evidence was because some money had been recovered before
the trial and the balance was handed into the court on the day of the
According to a report in The Times
newspaper of 1 March 1859, on 28 February 1859 Stevens appeared in the
Court of Queen's Bench, Guildhall, as a witness. It was stated that
Stevens was no longer a "sworn broker". Judge Lord Campbell stated,
referring to Stevens, that "it was
impossible the jury could place the
least reliance upon the evidence of a person who had so disgraced
himself". No details were given in the newspaper what this disgrace was.
On 16 April 1859 a notice appeared in The Times newspaper that
Francis Worrall Stevens, a share dealer at Royal Exchange, was a
In 1861 he arrived in New Zealand
with his wife and children.
On 17 April 1876 the Grey
River Argus, in New Zealand, reported the following:
“A Mr Francis W
Stevens, of Dunedin, writes to the Otago Guardian asserting that the
circular ironclads, the invention and improvement of which are
attributed to Mr Reed, M.P. (formerly Naval Constructor to the
Admiralty), and Admiral Popoff of the Russian Navy, were first invented
by himself. He says ‘I beg leave to state, in the most emphatic manner,
that the invention is not his, nor is it the invention of the said Mr
Reed, M.P, but that it is my invention. I know not how the said Mr
Reed, M.P., became acquainted with my invention, and description of the
same, which were sent in a despatch from the Auckland Post Office on
the 30th March, 1874, and addressed to Marshall MacMahon, President of
France. Drawings, &c, have been sent to the Lord of the Admiralty,
England, with copies of all letters
relative to this affair, which has
become known in some most extraordinary way to the Russian Government.
It was invented by me to protect France and England against Russian
encroachment, and the way in which it has got into the hands of the
Russian Government is now under inquiry.’”
On 3 February 1877 The
West Coast Time, in New Zealand reported as follows:
“Sir Rowland Hill’s
claim to be regarded as the author of the penny postage system of Great
Britain is,” says the Otago Daily Times, “contested very strongly by a
gentleman at present residing in Dunedin, and who formerly lived in
Essex, England. In a memorial to Sir Stafford Northcote, the present
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Francis Worrell Stevens sets forth
that, about the year 1834, or during the time Lord Althorp was
Chancellor of the Exchequer, he submitted to that nobleman a
proposition for the establishment of a universal penny postage system,
and also a penny stamp for parcels. At that time, Sir Rowland Hill, who
was private secretary to Lord Althorp, in the name of his lordship,
forwarded a letter of thanks to Mr Stevens. As everyone knows, the
penny postage system was afterwards successfully established, and Mr
Stevens asserts that the only difference between the penny stamp in use
and the one proposed by him is the substitution of Her Majesty’s head
for the Royal Arms. Mr Stevens says that, as he has recently learned
that Sir Rowland Hill, as the supposed original proposer of the system,
received a reward of £40,000 from the British House of Commons,
he thinks he is fairly entitled to claim some recognition of his
efforts as the real suggestor of a system which has proved so
beneficial in every respect.”
An almost identical report, to the above, appeared in the Grey
River Argus on 23 January 1877.
On 20 February 1877 Stevens and his wife wrote letters to the Rev T
Rowsell, Chaplain to the Queen, enclosing his petition for Rowsell to
present to the Queen. In this petition, to Queen
Victoria, he asked that
records be searched and that he be recognized as the originator of the
Penny Postage Stamp. This Petition was worded as follows:
Her Most Excellent Majesty the Queen.
The humble petition of FRANCIS WORRELL STEVENS of
Dunedin, New Zealand, formerly of Loughton, Essex, England
That in the reign of William the
Fourth your petitioner,
submitted to Lord Althorp, then Chancellor
of the Exchequer, the
important measure of a universal penny postage stamp.
That a correspondence between his
Lordship and your
petitioner took place relative to the said Penny Postage Stamp, and
your petitioner received his Lordship's thanks in letters signed by his
Lord Althorp's stay in office
being short, the correspondence can be referred to, which is in Downing
Some years after this Rowland
Hill published a pamphlet, and
in 1840 carried out the plan which your petitioner had suggested; but
your petitioner was not aware that Rowland Hill applied for or received
Rowland Hill has the credit of
carrying out the plan, but
that is all. Your petitioner is the originator of the system that has
been found so beneficial socially and commercially.
Your petitioner thinks Rowland
Hill should not have withheld
the source from whence he derived his information, but have allowed
your petitioner to have at least shared the honour with him, and your
petitioner thinks he has been greatly wronged.
Your petitioner humbly prays that
the correspondence in
Downing street may be referred to between himself and Lord Althorp on
the subject of the Penny Postage Stamp in the reign of William the
Fourth which was before Rowland Hill came into notice.
Your petitioner sent drawings in
the letters referred to thus-
Your petitioner thought the Royal Arms
preferable to the portrait of William the Fourth, as he was aged.
After your Majesty ascended the
throne, Rowland Hill brought
out your petitioner's plan, putting a likeness of your Majesty instead
of the Royal Arm, but this change should not deprive your petitioner of
the honour of having been the originator; for either way it was still
the Penny Postage Stamp, and your petitioners' invention, and not
Your petitioner humbly prays that
the records may be searched and that some acknowledgement may be
And your petitioner, as in duty
bound, will ever pray,
Dunedin, New Zealand.
The letter written by Stevens' wife Barbara Stevens was as
The Letter written by Francis Stevens was as follows:
Dunedin, New Zealand,
MY DEAR MR. ROWSELL
February 17, 1877
It is now so very many years since I had the
pleasure of seeing you, that I presume you have entirely forgotten me -
indeed I have become quite an old lady. You may, however, recall to
your recollection Barbara Vickers, but Barbara Stevens now, and for the
last 46 years married to my dear husband (and I may say without one
day's regret), whose likeness and my own I enclose. The many happy days
I spent with your dear mother, brothers and sisters, at Hornsey and
Newington I cannot but look back to with pleasure.
You recollect my brother, Charles Vickers, the Stock
Broker, I dare say; he is now dead, having left a large fortune.
I and my brother Samuel, now in New Zealand, are all
that are left of a family of ten.
Your sister Jane was my most intimate friend, as we
were about the same ages; if you mention my maiden name, Barbara
Vickers, to your sister, Lady Charles Barry, she will recollect our
family well, as she and her sister, Mrs. Frederick Barry, were
frequently staying at our house, and I think I was then a little
My husband is the real inventor and proposer of the
Penny Postage Stamp, and not Sir Rowland Hill, as is generally
supposed; and we think it very hard that Sir Rowland Hill should
receive a reward, whilst Mr. Stevens gets neither the honour nor reward.
I was married in 1830, and a year or so afterwards
my husband submitted his plan to Lord Althorp, in the reign of William
the Fourth, long before Rowland Hill.
I saw my husband's letters to Lord Althorp,
Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his Lordship's replies, signed by his
secretary - and Rowland Hill brought out Mr. Stevens's plan some time
afterwards; no doubt he obtained his information from my husband's
My husband wishes to lay this statement before Her
Most Gracious Majesty the Queen, in the enclosed petition.
Will you, my dear Mr. Rowsell, be so good and so
kind as to resent to our dear and beloved Queen the petition for Her
I feel assured you will be interested in its perusal also.
Trusting you will enjoy long life and happiness,
believe me to remain, my dear Mr. Rowsell,
Dunedin, New Zealand,
The Rev. T. Rowsell,
February 20, 1877.
DEAR SIR,- May I be permitted to add a few words to
those of my wife, in aid of the favour she has asked. I think in
justice to me, Rowland Hill should not have withheld the source from
whence he derived his information, so that I might at least have shared
the honour with him.
I am told he published a pamphlet on the Penny
Postage System in 1837, hut he was careful not to send me one, and it
happened that I never heard of it till quite lately.
My plan of an adhesive universal Penny Postage Stamp
was the subject of a considerable correspondence between myself' and
Lord Althorp, Chancellor of the Exchequer, during William the Fourth's
I would disdain to wear the laurels due to others,
but some men are not so scrupulous.
I have always been an Inventor, and about a year
before Her Majesty ascended the throne, I submitted to his Royal
Highness the Duke of Sussex a model of a piece of ordnance at
Kensington Palace. His Royal Highness’ kindness I shall never forget.
I was introduced by his secretary, old Mr. White,
and it so happened that Her Majesty, then Princess Victoria sent in her
card two or three times, and His Royal Hihgness, when I desired to
withdraw, said in a good humoured manner, “0! Her Royal Highness can
wait a bit.” My name is in the Visitor's Book.
In or about 1855, when Sir Cornwall Lewis was about
to issue Exchequer Bills, I at once suggested to him Exchequer Bonds
with coupons, as more convenient for merchants, &c, and my plan was
adopted, and I received the thanks of Sir Cornwall Lewis; I also had
his request to furnish him with my ideas on financial matters from time
to time which correspondence can be seen in Downing street.
In 1857 or ‘58, I wrote and published a plan or
scheme for A NEW CIRCULATING MEDIUM, for which I received the thanks of
the excellent and lamented Prince Consort.
In April, 1861, I submitted at the Horse Guards a
plan for conveying troops across lakes or rivers, which I called
Amphibious Locomotives, serving as ambulances on land and as punts on
water. Copies may be seen at the Horse Guards. Ordinance Select
Committee, March 26, 1861, and Quarter-Master General's Minute 3658 No.
2155, April 19, 1861.
My name is known at Woolwich arsenal, for a plan to
throw shells of larger diameter than the bore of the gun, which was
tried with success at Woolwich.
February 20, 1876, I submitted a plan for the
protection of Her Majesty's ports and arsenals, viz., an impregnable
Rotary Floating Battery, drawings of which may be seen at the Admiralty.
April 5, 1876, I submitted to Her Majesty's
Government an invention to protect strategic points or passes in Her
Majesty's Indian Empire, as well as Great Britain, which has been
forwarded to the War Office by Sir Stafford Northcote, together with a
letter to His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge; which invention is
destined to play a no inconsiderable part in case any of Her Majesty’s
dominions should ever be attacked, which I have named VICTORIA FORTS in
honor of Her Most Gracious Majesty;
and which I have presented for Her
Majesty's acceptance; it is an IMPREGNABLE, INVISIBLE, ROTARY BATTERY
which will keep up a stream of shot in any one direction. The drawings
can be seen at the War Office, and I should much like Her Majesty to
see the drawings (3 in number).
Thus you see, my dear Mr. Rowsall, I have ever
worked for the national good without fee or reward; but it is hard to
sit down and see it stated in the public journals that a memorial is to
be erected at public expense to the memory of Rowland Hill, as the
ORIGINATOR of the Penny Postage Stamp.
It is this statement in the public papers that has
drawn me out of my seclusion to contradict it, or you or the public at
large would never have heard of me on the subject, and I hope you and
others will pardon me. Rowland Hill carried out my plan and no more.
I am, my dear Mr.
Yours very truly and
FRANCIS W. STEVENS
P.S.- I am well known to the New Zealand Government,
having suggested many things, and to Sir Julius Vogel, our late
Premier, who recently thanked me for hints on loans, &c., I had
given him. My three sons are known to him also, they hold responsible
positions under the New Zealand Government.
In June 1877 Stevens published a 12 page pamphlet entitled “Rowland Hill not the originator of the
Penny Postage Stamp, but Francis Worrell Stevens is the inventor and
originator of the adhesive and universal Penny Postage Stamp”.
This pamphlet includes his petition to Queen Victoria, the two letters
to Rev T
Rowsell and Stevens' claims as follows:
OR NARRATIVE OF FACTS.
My father, William Seaman
Stevens, married Miss Mary Foot, daughter of William Foot, landed
proprietor and farmer of Chalton, near Shaftesbury, and cousin to the
Countess of Harrington, and with my mother he had considerable
property. He held a large farm in Hampshire, and afterwards had many
vicissitudes in life, and at one time followed the musical profession.
He composed and published many musical productions which still bear his
name, and on many occasions presided at oratorios in the room of Samuel
Wesley, the celebrated organist, the father of the late Dr. Wesley. He
was a great friend of Wesley's, and always attended for him whenever
his friend Wesley was too unwell to preside himself
My father had eight children, and I am the youngest
of the eight, and am now nearly seventy-two.
When I was quite young, my father, who was a man of
high classical education, opened a school at Stanstead, in Essex, and
afterwards removed to Albion House, Loughton, Essex, on the Epping
Forest, near the eleventh mile-stone.
In 1827, I purchased the school of my father, and my
eldest brother, Mr. William Stevens, of the firm of Stevens, Wood,
Wilkinson, and Satchill, solicitors, 6, Queen-street, Cheapside, made
out the deed between us.
On 18th December, 1830, I married Miss Barbara
Vickers, third daughter of Joseph Vickers, the owner of the Royalty
Theatre, Goodman's Fields. This took place at Old Hackney Church, near
I carried on the school for many years, and I had
numerous scholars. Amongst my very earliest may be mentioned Dr. James
Mouat, and his brothers Frederick and Charles; also the Haigs, Dr.
Brushfield, &c., who have acquired considerable eminence in the
world. Dr. James Mouat I met out here in Auckland, New Zealand, who
held the post of Deputy Inspector-General of Hospitals, &c.
In 1833, or thereabouts, I wrote to Lord Althorp,
then Chancellor of the Exchequer, relative to an adhesive universal
penny postage stamp.
At this time and prior thereto postages were high,
the charge being 6d. from London to or from Brighton, 10d. to
Birmingham, &c., and 2d. for every letter delivered in the
Metropolis of London. Letters from Calcutta, &c., were as much as
2s. and upwards.
I pointed out to Lord Althorp that the revenue
would, by my system, be collected in advance by the sale of stamps,
instead of being collected by the numerous postmen as heretofore; that
the benefit to merchants, tradespeople, and the industrial population
of the United Kingdom would he very great; and that the interchange of
thought would be accelerated, and ideas and information be spread
thereby in a most marvellous manner by such a boon being given to the
public at large.
That the increase of revenue by indirect means would
be commensurate with the wide-spread advantage; and inasmuch as the
first or immediate falling off the revenue by such a scheme would be
great, I proposed as a counterbalance a penny adhesive stamp also for
all parcels and packages carried by public conveyance.
These statements, and other arguments will be found
in my letters to Lord Althorp.
I first drew a likeness of William the Fourth, but on consideration put
it aside, as he was aged, and as the postage stamp would require to be
changed with each succeeding monarch, I resolved to have the Royal
arms, which I drew, and this drawing is in the letters sent to Lord
Althorp, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, thus-
These letters, and copies
of Lord Althorp's replies by his secretary, Mr. Wallace, must be
amongst the records kept in Downing-street.
About the years 1833 or 1834, I
had occasion for an assistant, and I advertised and had numerous
applications. I met the applicants at the Three Nuns Inn, Aldgate, at
that period a very respectable inn.
I selected a gentleman whose name was Hill - a Mr.
Rowland Hill. He was considerably my senior - some eight or ten years -
I was about twenty-six, and he about thirty-five. I asked him if he
were related to Rowland Hill the preacher, and I think he said “no”,
but at this distance of time it is hard to recollect (I am writing now
June 3, 1877, or over forty years after the event). I know I asked him
for a reference, and he gave me a reference to the master of Bruce
Castle School Tottenham. I will not be sure, but I think I recollect
his saying that his father kept a school at Birmingham, and I expressed
some surprise; nevertheless I engaged him, and he remained with me till
the end of the half-year - about five months.
After business hours I treated him as one of the
family and as an equal - not usual in schools.
We used to amuse ourselves after the young gentlemen
had retired to rest with music and giving each other lessons, he
teaching me French.
My assistant, Mr. Rowland Hill, used to wear a long
black frock coat and his hair very long, and in the mornings would take
the boys for a run along the riding or gladeway in the forest; and he
invariably went without his hat, and I was much amused to see his long
hair and coat tails flying as he rushed along in front of the boys. I
told him he would take cold if he did so; he said, “Oh, no.”
I found him companionable, and we used to relate
anecdotes, and he gave me a description of some of his adventures. He
used at his leisure to write for one of the magazines, and on one
occasion he showed me a P.O. money order for £5 for something he
had written; and I saw it and read it, and it was very passable.
As we became familiar, I took from my writing desk
copies of letters I had written to Lord Althorp on the subject of the
universal adhesive Penny Postage Stamp, and then read them to him. Mr.
Hill seemed much pleased, and asked me if I would allow him to write a
pamphlet; he said he thought it a capital subject for a pamphlet. I
said I thought it was, but that I must decline his offer, as I thought
it better I should wait and see what the Government meant to do. I
added that I felt myself quite capable of writing a pamphlet if I
Time went on, and he asked me again, and I again
refused to lend him my papers for him to compose or write a pamphlet.
But one evening, after a pleasant chat and a little
wine, &c., I at last lent him my papers, and he promised to write
the pamphlet, and then give it me for my signature, or cast it into the
fire if I did not like it. He did not appear to get on with it (as I
then thought), as I asked him more than once to return my letters. He
said he had nearly finished the pamphlet and would show it me in a few
days, but never did, and did not return my papers.
I was at this time preparing the young gentlemen for
going home for the holidays, and forgot to ask Mr. Rowland Hill for my
papers. The school broke up; he left, and did not return, and I saw
nothing of him for two or three years, till one day I met him at the
Flowerpot, Bishopgate-street. He said he had got a situation as
secretary. We had a glass of wine together. He said he war going to
Tottenham, and I was going home to Loughton per coach. I never saw him
afterwards. I forgot to ask him for my papers, nor did I ever hear of
his publishing a pamphlet till the year 1876; so instead of putting my
name to it, he actually put his own name as the promoter and
originator, when he knew such was not the fact.
In or about 1840 I read in the papers that my Penny
Postage Stamp was to be adopted, but with “a likeness of Queen
Victoria” instead of the Royal Arms, and on seeing this I said to my
wife the head of the Queen is to be used instead of the Royal Arms. I
said, now this is only a trick or evasion but whether Royal Arms or
Queen's Head, it is still the Penny Postage Stamp, and my invention,
and not Rowland Hill's. He never sent me a pamphlet or gave me any
intimation of what he was doing, or what was going on, and I was so
much engaged in my professional duties I had little time to read
newspapers, and thus the whole affair passed on, and even now I should
never have noticed it but for the announcement in the papers that a
“memorial was to be erected to the honour of Rowland Hill as the
originator of the Penny Postage Stamp." I could bear this no longer,
and felt it my duty to make the whole case public.
The Hon. Mr. Reynolds, our Post-master-General, told
me in 1876, that Rowland Hill had received a reward, and that he wrote
a pamphlet in 1837, but I was not aware of it before.
Whenever the name of Rowland Hill was mentioned in
my presence as the originator of the Penny Postage system I have always
contradicted it, and my family and friends are well aware of the fact.
I appeal to the British nation.
Dunedin, New Zealand,
By 1889 Stevens had returned to England and was successful in securing
interest of the Marquis of Carmarthen, Member of Parliament for
Brixton, to present his case to the House of Commons.
On 17 July 1889 the Marquis presented a petition to the House of
Commons which read as follows:
“On behalf of Mr. Francis
Worrell Stevens, the real inventor of the Penny Postage System. To the
Most Honourable the House of Commons, the Humble Petition of Francis
Worrell Stevens, late of Dunedin, New Zealand, formerly of Loughton,
Essex, England, now of 37, Mayall Road, Brixton: That in the reign of
William the Fourth your Petitioner invented and submitted to Lord
Althorp, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the universal Penny Postage
A printed copy of this petition, which is in the Post
Office archives, has a hand written note on the reverse which reads
"P.M.G. does not propose to take any action in the matter".
That a correspondence between his Lordship and
your Petitioner took place relative to the system of the said Postage
of a Penny Stamp, and your Petitioner received his Lordship's thanks in
letters signed by his Secretary, Mr. Wallace.
Petitioner had been in New Zealand for many years
when he was told by the Hon. Mr. Reynolds, Postmaster General of New
Zealand, that Rowland Hill in 1876 had received a Reward and Honours
for his invention of the Penny Postage System, and that
he had written a pamphlet in his own name in 1837. This was the first
intimation Petitioner ever heard of it, and Petitioner immediately
wrote from Dunedin, New Zealand, to Rowland Hill asking how he dared to
assert he was the inventor and originator when he knew to the contrary.
Rowland Hill never answered.
Rowland Hill knew your Petitioner was the Inventor
and Originator, and he knew he was imposing on the country and the
Government. His conduct deserved the greatest reprobation. He was an
impostor - the country has been cheated and swindled.
Petitioner prays that the statue erected in his
honour be pulled down. Crime is not washed out by time, and it is never
too late for an honourable country to do justice. Reward has been given
to the wrong man.”
H V Wiles mentions, in his book, that there is an 1890
Stevens' handwriting to the Lord Mayor of London which was forwarded to
Postmaster General on 4 February 1890. The Lord Mayor was sent a reply
which stated that there was "no evidence to support the claim".
Worrell Stevens was
registered in the Lambeth registry office in the March quarter of 1890
(Jan, Feb, Mar).
PROBLEMS WITH THE STORY
Rowland Hill was at the time at the time in
question, 1833/1834, a headmaster of his own
school (Bruce Grove, Tottenham). Hill handed over the running of this
school to his brother when he was made
secretary of the South Australian Colonization Commission in 1834.
There are no references anywhere about Hill working at Albion
House apart from Stevens’ claim. There are no unexplained gaps in any
biographies. It is not conceivable that
Hill would have taken five months
off from running his own school.
Why did Stevens fail to state that he had worked for Rowland Hill
sometime before this time? Instead he claimed that he met Hill for the
first time in 1833 or 1834.
Stevens mentions a P.O. Money Order - these were not available from
Post Offices until 1838.
When Stevens first made his claim known to the press in New Zealand he
said that Rowland Hill was the private secretary to Lord Althorp. It is
possible that the newspaper may have misunderstood Stevens. His later
claim, that the letter was from Mr Wallace, again cannot be true -
is no reference to a person of this name being the secretary to Lord
Althorp in Lord Althorp's biography. The person that Stevens was
referring to was most probably Robert
Wallace MP who was one of the advocates for postal reform at that
From early 1837 details of Rowland Hills' plan was frequently mentioned
press, so it is difficult to understand why it took Stevens 40 years to
make his claims known publicly. Rowland Hill produced a booklet of some
28,000 words, the result of about a years work - Stevens gives very
little or no detail of what his plan was.
Use of words such as "He was an
impostor - the country has been cheated and swindled." strongly suggest
lack of objectiveness and attempts to distort the truth.
After carefully studying all the information available on Francis
and his claim in the invention of the stamp - I consider that
Stevens was not a credible witness and there is no doubt in my mind
that he fabricated the story
about the invention of the stamp.
This article is based on information
available on the Web, links are shown above, on the following book
A Corner of Epping Forest and the origin of the Penny Post, by
H V Wiles, c1948, West Essex Printing Co Ltd
and the booklet
Hill not the originator of the Penny Postage Stamp, but Francis Worrell
Stevens is the inventor and originator of the adhesive and universal
Penny Postage Stamp”, by Francis Worrell Stevens, self
published, Dunedin, June 1877, 12pp. (pdf
file of booklet)
Frank Staff in his book, The
Penny Post 1680 - 1918, mentions Stevens' claim on pages 195
-196. His sources were the above two publications, by Wiles and Stevens.
Penny Post 1680 - 1918
by Frank Staff, Lutterworth Press, first edition 1964, 219pp, ISBN
Penny Post 1680 - 1918
by Frank Staff, Lutterworth Press, new edition 1993, 219pp, ISBN
Worrell is sometimes spelt Worrall, Worral or Worrel
Jan Kosniowski 2010
- email: jpkos @ aol.com