It all began in 1898. Mr. Reginald Bray, a clerk from Forest Hill in South London, bought a copy of the Royal Mail guide that proudly proclaimed they would deliver anything as ‘small as a bumblebee and as large as an elephant’. Bray viewed these rules as a challenge and spent the next 40 years of his life experimenting with the limits of the British postal system.
(map shown: Forest Hill, London – OS County Series 1:2,500 – 1895)
He started with postcards. His first postcard was addressed to ‘any house in London’. He followed this with envelopes knitted from wool. He even tried sending two postcards with two addresses hoping for them to be forever forwarded from one address to the other.Bray then switched to parcels. He mailed, amongst other objects, a bowler hat, a turnip with the address carved on it, a rabbit’s skull, a pipe, a bicycle pump, a clump of dried seaweed and even his faithful Irish terrier, Bob.
Not satisfied with that, he had himself delivered, not once but three times, including being sent, along with his bicycle, by registered mail. An official form acknowledges ‘Delivery of an Inland Registered Person Cyclist’ to Bray’s home address for a charge of 3d a mile.
This is certainly not a facility provided by the Royal Mail today. However, one of the few living creatures still permitted to be sent through the postal system are live bees. It’s good to see that at least part of their original slogan ‘as small as a bumblebee and as large as an elephant’ still holds true.
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