Local Government Overprints

Local Government Overprints

Local government overprints make up a large part of the commercial overprints that can be collected. Indeed, the dominant overprint users on Queen Elizabeth II stamps were local government offices and public utilities with very few private companies overprinting at this time.

Some terms that collectors of commercial overprints will come across :

A City is a large and important town or borough originally with a cathedral, or an Episcopal see. Nowadays, the Queen, on the advice of the government, awards the title city to a town. It has very little meaning other than to convey a status on the town. Some very large towns are not cities whereas other small and less important towns have become cities. There are several towns, ones having a see and others without, that do not have the title of a city.

City of Bath overprints

A Council is the elected local administrative body of a parish, district, town, county or city. The County Council is administered by a chairman, aldermen and councilors.

Urban District Councils and Rural District Councils (abbreviated U. D. C. and R. D. C. on overprinted stamps) came about by the Local Government Act 1894, and the Parish Councils Act 1895. These Acts divided the whole country into Urban Districts and Rural Districts if not already classified a Borough, with each having its own council.

Hornchurch UDC overprints
Uckfield R.D.C. overprints

Boroughs developed over the centuries with the amalgamation of villages and towns. The dictionary gives the origin for the word burg as a walled or fortified town. The town needed governing, and over time, elected mayors and councilors emerged. Eventually the town came to be represented in the House of Commons; the representative being known as a Member of Parliament. In due course the town or district was then granted the status of a borough, a town with a municipal corporation and privileges conferred by a Royal Charter.

County Borough of West Hartleppol receipt with C B W H overprint on SG 465

A Burgh was an autonomous corporate entity in Scotland and Northern England. This type of administrative division existed from the 12th century, when King David I created the first royal burghs. Burgh status was broadly analogous to borough status, found in the rest of the UK. This status was abolished as a unit of local government by the Local Government Act 1975. The title of royal burgh remains in use in many towns, but now has little more than ceremonial value.

Burgh of Cumbernauld receipt and overprint
Royal Burgh overprints of Peebles and Troon

Corporations were preceded by boroughs and incorporated them by the Municipal Corporation Act 1835. This laid the foundation of modern local government. The 1835 Act followed soon after the Reform Bill of 1832. Both reformed voting rights by extending them to each male person who had lived within seven miles of the borough for the previous six months. Towns with a population of 6,000 were divided into wards, with rules for voting rights. The Act introduced the term municipal borough. A very important feature of the Act required audited accounts on the monies received and spent.

Bolton Corporation
Huddersfield Corporation

A Parish is a very ancient unit of territorial administration. It corresponded in the past to the area served by one church. Today, this may still be the case, though more generally parishes are the small subdivisions of boroughs or districts. The powers of parish councils are limited mainly to social issues, sport and culture, and perhaps local parks and some local social services.

a few Parish overprints

Link to : Google map of Local Government overprints on SG 518