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Rookery postcard front

This postcard was franked at the side in Headington Post Office, and then franked again at the top in Oxford. The number 605 obliterating the pre-printed postage stamp was the reference number of Oxford Post Office. The date of the franking was obviously 2 July, but the year is harder to read. It looks like 1885.

On the back is the order below sent by W. S. Gibson of The Rookery (now Ruskin College) in Old Headington to M. A. A. Mathews, stationer of St Giles'.

Rookery postcard back

The above message reads:

Sir. Please send me a half gallon jar of Field's Non Corrosive Ink, and a 2/6 box of quill pens.
Yours faithfully
W. S. Gibson
The Rookery, Headington
July 1st

Walter Sumner Gibson (1849–1918)

Gibson, who had been an undergraduate at Balliol College, bought The Rookery in Old Headington (then being used as a boys' prep school) from the Revd Taylor in 1883. He married Julia Elizabeth Olivier the following year, and their six children were born at the Rookery between 1885 and 1897. The half a gallon of ink (four pints, or 2.27 litres) that he ordered in 1885 was obviously for school rather than personal use.

He then worked as schoolmaster and later a tutor in London, but moved back to Oxford and lived at 9 Lathbury Road after being appointed academic reader to the Oxford University Press in 1914.

His son Harry Olivier Sumner Gibson served in the First World War and was killed in Palestine on 19 April 1917. There is more detail about Gibson and his family in Harry's war biography.

Walter Sumner Gibson died on 20 January 1918 at 9 Lathbury Road. His effects came to £515 19s. 4d., and his wife Elizabeth was his executor.

Michael Angelo Alfred Mathews (1821–1901)

Mathews is listed in Kelly's Directory from 1891 to 1894 as a “stationer, printer, bookbinder &c” at 69 St Giles' Street (one of the shops demolished in 1937 to make way for the second phase of the Taylorian).

Plain postcards

Plain postcards with no picture were first issued in the UK in 1870: they were published by the Post Office, and they all had a pre-printed stamp as in this example. (No other companies were permitted to print postcards until 1894, when they started to appear with pictures.) These plain postcards were used for business correspondence: they saved money, as the postage rate was a halfpenny, as opposed to a penny for a letter, until 1918, when both rates were increased.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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