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Darwin Correspondence Project

From the principal inhabitants of Down1 to the secretary of the Post Office2   [1845–51?]3

To the Secretary of the Post-office.

We the undersigned the principal inhabitants of the village of Down in Kent & its neighbourhood, respectfully request your attention to the arrangement for the delivery our letters. Although but a small place we receive an average from 50 to 60 letters & newspapers &c. daily.— A letter posted by general post in London we receive not until after 9 oclock the next morning, which is almost too late to act on that day. But our chief grievance is that a letter written in any part of Great Britain (except a few places in the South), say on a Monday, is not delivered here till past 9 on the Wednesday morning; such letters lying 23 hours at Bromley, only six miles distant.4 Our hopes for many months have been raised by constant reports of some improvement; but the present result & only change is that the Down Postman delivers all letters in Farnborugh, & our delivery has been delayed a full half-hour.—5

By a change granted us a few years ago, our letters leave this place at one oclock, by which means they get to London in time to be sent out by the general post of the same day, & are delivered within London on that night; we most earnestly pray that this arrangement may not be disturbed.6

Hoping that you will consider our case favourably | Sir | Your obedient servants


There were fourteen members of the gentry listed under Down in the Post Office directory of the six home counties for 1845, and six in 1851, including, at both dates, CD himself and John William Lubbock.
William Leader Maberley was secretary to the Post Office from 1836 to 1854 (DNB).
The beginning of the date range is suggested by known changes to the postal arrangements for Down and Farnborough in 1845 (see nn. 5 and 6, below). The end of the date range is suggested by the fact that, at the time of writing, letters posted to Down from outside London, and letters posted within London, were evidently arriving at Bromley at different times, the post from outside London being delivered too late for the morning dispatch to Down. ‘London and all letters’ were delivered to Bromley at the same time in 1851 (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1845; see n. 4, below).
From 1851 at the latest both the general post and the London post were being delivered to Bromley by the same mail. It appears that in 1845 London mail was being delivered separately. According to the Post Office directory of the six home counties for 1845 and 1851, letters were arriving at Down at 8:00 A.M. during both these years. (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1845, 1851.)
A foot-messenger was appointed in March 1845 to take letters to and from Bromley to Farnborough and Down (Postmaster general’s minutes, vol. 81, minute 3376). CD is first known to have used Farnborough in his letterhead in 1846 (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter to J. D. Hooker, [May 1846]). Rowland Hill, as secretary to the postmaster-general from 1846, made repeated attempts to reform the postal service; these were consistently rejected by Maberley (DNB).
An application was made in 1843 by the inhabitants of Down for mail to be collected early enough to reach Bromley in time for the twopenny post dispatch to London (Postmaster general’s minutes, vol. 71, minute 2087). This may not have been put into immediate effect, as, according to the Post Office directory of the six home counties 1845, mail was dispatched from Down at 2 P.M. It was dispatched at 1 P.M. in 1851.


Complain about the postal service to Down and urgently request improvement.

Letter details

Letter no.
Principal inhabitants of Down
Secretary of the Post Office
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 96: 6
Physical description
ADraft 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3359,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13 (Supplement)