The letter that took 100 years to reach its destination

The letter that took 100 years to reach its destination

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  • Author, Harry Low
  • Rolle, BBC News
  • 2 hours ago


The letter is addressed to Katie Marsh, wife of a stamp magnate.

A letter written in February 1916 has finally reached its addressee, a south London flat, more than 100 years after it was sent.

The envelope, which bears a postmark from the city of Bath in southwest England and a 1d (1p) stamp bearing the head of King George V, arrived at the home of theater director Finlay Glen, who lives on Hamlet Road in Crystal Palace.

“We were obviously very surprised and amazed at how this could have stood there for over 100 years,” said Glen, who received the letter in 2021 and kept it in a drawer.

Royal Mail, the UK’s courier company, said it was “unclear what happened in this case”.

The letter was sent two years before World War I rationing came into effect.

King George V had been on the throne for five years. Later that same year, future Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Sir Edward Heath were born.


Finlay Glen kept the letter in a drawer for two years.

While it is a crime under the Postal Services Act 2000 to open mail that is not addressed to you, director Finlay Glen said he thought it was “fair” to open the letter as it dates from 1916 and not 2016 .

Glen, 27, added, “If I’ve committed a crime, I apologize.”

The letter was written to “my dear Katie”, the wife of local tycoon Oswald Marsh, according to Stephen Oxford, editor of the Norwood Review, a quarterly magazine covering the area’s history.

Oswald Marsh was a respected stamp dealer who was often consulted as an expert in stamp fraud cases.

The letter was written by Christabel Mennell, daughter of wealthy tea merchant Henry Tuke Mennell, who was on holiday at the time.

In the letter, Mennell explained that she was “very ashamed after I said what I said” and that she was “really uncomfortable here with a very bad cold.”


Christabel Mennell wrote the letter to Katie Marsh while she was in Somerset

Oxford claimed the letter was a historical document. “It’s very unusual and actually quite exciting to have this reference to local history and the people who lived in Norwood, which was a very popular place for the upper middle class in the late 19th century.”

“Crystal Palace has attracted a tremendous influx of very wealthy people, so it’s absolutely fascinating to find out that someone may have moved to the area for that reason,” explained the editor.



Oswald Marsh was the son of Joseph Chandler Marsh

When asked what he would do if the sender’s or recipient’s relatives got in touch, Glen replied: “It’s an amazing piece of their family history. If they want it, I’ll send it back.”

The story first appeared in the South London Press on Wednesday.

A Royal Mail spokesman said, “Incidents like this happen very occasionally and we are not sure what happened in this case”.

“We really appreciate that people are intrigued by the story of this 1916 letter, but we have no further information as to what may have happened.”

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