The letter sheet – envelopes were rarely used – to which it is still attached was sent from the Isle of Wight to the wonderfully named Newbury solicitor, Broome Pinniger, on March 20, 1841.
That same year – 21 years before the Newbury Weekly News was born – Charles Dickens published his latest novel, The Old Curiosity Shop; Queen Victoria gave birth to her first child, Edward (later King Edward V11) and missionary and explorer Dr David Livingstone visited Africa for the first time.
Mr Pinniger’s Penny Black letter made part of its journey to Newbury from the Isle of Wight probably by horse-drawn mail coach,as Newbury railway station did not open until 1847.
The short-lived Penny Black postage stamp was replaced in February 1841 by the Penny Red. The colour was changed because it was difficult to see a black cancellation mark on a black stamp which meant that some people were tempted to re-use the stamps.
In the early 1840s, postage stamps were not perforated so they had to be laboriously cut by hand from a sheet of stamps and some were cut better than others.
The Newbury Penny Black has what auctioneers Spink describe as “huge margins” which are more appealing to some collectors.
The letter is simply addressed to ‘B.Pinniger Esq, Newbury, Berks.
However although there is no street name the postman knew where to find Mr Pinniger, as Newbury was much smaller in 1841 with a population of just 6,379 compared to today’s population of 39,186.
Also, comparatively few people received mail in those days.
According to the 1841 Census, Mr Pinniger, his wife Elizabeth, their children Broome junior, James, Alice and Edward, plus their three live-in servants Martha Woodley, Charlotte Morris and John Barber, lived at Market Place.
But some time between 1841 and 1851, the Pinniger family moved to Wharf Road, Newbury, where they employed three new servants: Hamstead Marshall-born John Coxhead, Kintbury-born Mary King and Reading-born Maria Waters.
The Newbury letter and its Penny Black is expected to sell for between £350 and £400 at Spink in Bloomsbury, London, on Wednesday, May 14.