'HVP' - High Value Packet Service

In 1929 a Committee was formed by the Post Office to discuss a scheme, available only to banks, for registering packets containing items of high value, and procedures for dealing with these at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office. In a search for ideas, an approach was made to the German Postal Administration for details of their registration of packets scheme and enquiries were also made with the Swedish and Danish Administrations.

At a meeting in the Secretary’s Office on 14 February 1930 it was proposed that parcels of banknotes, cheques and other securities sent through the post should be classed as ‘High Value Packets’. They would be registered, but in addition would bear a special red label inscribed ‘HVP’ and would be entered on special lists in transit. Furthermore, ‘HVP’ packets would be enclosed in special green mailbags to ensure they were not overlooked. No additional charge would be made for this service but special conditions were laid down as to how and where such packets were to be handled, and would follow a strict timetable. Among the points discussed was whether the mail vans used on this service should be accompanied by retired Police Officers as guards and, if so, whether they should be armed, although neither eventually happened.

Following these discussions the High Value Packet service came into operation, being announced in the Post Office Circular of 11 June 1930 to begin on 16 June. Packets were to contain bank notes of a value of Ł500 or over and would be sent by letter post only, prepaid at the letter rate, with a registration fee of 3d, which would cover compensation up to Ł5. Packets were not delivered to the banks but collected from specified Post Offices by authorised bank staff, and individually signed for.

Although it was originally intended to cover the entire Country, the Scottish banks, after expressing initial interest, decided that the existing Registered and/or Express systems, coupled with their own insurance cover, would be adequate for their needs and cause less work for them; as a result the service only covered England and Wales.

A service from London to Belfast was included in the scheme but did not extend further into Northern Ireland, where the normal Registered/Express service was used. This was a one-way service, as it did not operate from Belfast to England. In addition there was a service of some sort between Belfast and Dublin for the exchange of banknotes. Both these services ended around 1972.

There is also reference to a High Value Packet service being in operation in 1945 between the North of Scotland Bank in Glasgow and Belfast, but no details of this are known or if ‘HVP’ labels were used. The North of Scotland Bank merged with the Clydesdale Bank in 1950.

On 28 March 1949 the ‘HVP’ service was extended to Scotland but only between London and Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee or Aberdeen and was used mainly for the exchange of banknotes. Scottish banks still issue their own notes. A limited ‘HVP’ service began within Scotland early in 1961 and became fully operational throughout Scotland on 1 March 1961. Normally ‘HVP’ labels were used but ‘HVP’ handstamps have been seen in black and purple, plus handwritten in red.

Although originally no charge was made for the service, from 10 January 1966 a charge was introduced of 2/- per lb or part thereof, plus Registration and weight. This was increased to 4/6d per lb from 1 January 1969, amended to 22˝p following decimalisation in 1971.

By the 1960s some larger Bank offices were using franking machines and meter frankings can be found used on HVP mail instead of stamps.

Urgent packets could also be sent Registered/Express when postage would be calculated on Registration plus Express plus postage on weight. ‘HVP’ labels were not used, as this was a separate service with its own rules and regulations.

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