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Francis Worrell Stevens


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 £1,690, 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 documents")

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 were present"

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 trial.

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 bankrupt.

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 secretary.
    Lord Althorp's stay in office being short, the correspondence can be referred to, which is in Downing street.
    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 a reward.
    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-
Stevens design for stamp
    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 Rowland Hill's.
    Your petitioner humbly prays that the records may be searched and that some acknowledgement may be conferred.
    And your petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray,
Dunedin, New Zealand.
February 20,1877,

The letter written by Stevens' wife Barbara Stevens was as follows:
Dunedin, New Zealand,
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 favourite.
    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 letters.
    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 Majesty’s perusal.
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,
Your affectionate cousin,

The Letter  written by Francis Stevens was as follows:
Dunedin, New Zealand,
February 20, 1877.
The Rev. T. Rowsell,
    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 reign.
    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. Rowsall,
Yours very truly and faithfully,

    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:
    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 London.
    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-
Stevens design for stamp
     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 wanted one.
    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,
    June 5,1877.

By 1889 Stevens had returned to England and was successful in securing the 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 Stamp.

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.”

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".

H V Wiles mentions, in his book, that there is an 1890 letter in Stevens' handwriting to the Lord Mayor of London which was forwarded to the Postmaster General on 4 February 1890. The Lord Mayor was sent a reply which stated that there was "no evidence to support the claim".

The death of Francis Worrell Stevens was registered in the Lambeth registry office in the March quarter of 1890 (Jan, Feb, Mar).


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 of Hill's 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 - there 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 time.

From early 1837 details of Rowland Hills' plan was frequently mentioned the the 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 Worrell Stevens 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
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”, 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.

The Penny Post 1680 - 1918
by Frank Staff, Lutterworth Press, first edition 1964, 219pp, ISBN 0718806301
The Penny Post 1680 - 1918
by Frank Staff, Lutterworth Press, new edition 1993, 219pp, ISBN 071882878X

Worrell is sometimes spelt Worrall, Worral or Worrel

Jan Kosniowski 2010 -  email: jpkos @

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