Special delivery: Letter mailed in UK in 1916 arrives a century later

LONDON — This letter took a looong time to reach its destination.

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A letter written in February 1916 finally arrived in south London in 2021, the BBC reported.

The letter, with a postmark of Feb. 6, 1916, was mailed from Bath with a one-penny stamp bearing the image of King George V, the news organization reported.

Bath is located about 115 miles from downtown London.

The letter arrived at Finlay Glen’s residence two years ago, CNN reported. It was addressed to Mrs. Oswald Marsh, according to the BBC.

“We noticed that the year on it was ‘16. So we thought it was 2016,” Glen told the cable news outlet. “Then we noticed that the stamp was a king rather than a queen, so we felt that it couldn’t have been 2016.”

Glen, 27, a theater director told CNN that the letter arrived at his address two years ago, but had only recently taken it to an area historical society for research purposes.

He added that he opened the letter, even though it is a crime under the Postal Services Act 2000, believing that its age made it “fair game,” the BBC reported.

“If I’ve committed a crime, I can only apologize,” Glen told the news outlet.

According to Stephen Oxford, editor of the Norwood Review -- a quarterly history magazine -- the letter was written to “my dear Katie,” the wife of stamp dealer Oswald Marsh, the BBC reported.

“It’s very unusual and actually quite exciting in terms of giving us a lead into local history and people who lived in Norwood, which was a very popular place for the upper middle classes in the late 1800s,” Oxford told the BBC. “Crystal Palace generated a huge influx of very wealthy people and so to find out about someone who moved to the area for possibly that very reason is absolutely fascinating.”

The note was written by family friend and Croydon resident Christabel Mennell while she was vacationing in Bath, according to the news organization. She was in her early 40s and the daughter of tea merchant Henry Tuke Mennell when the letter was written, according to UK online vital records.

Christabel Mennell never received an answer to this particular letter. She never married and died on Oct. 17, 1958, at a London nursing home, online records show. She was 86.

Glen said that any descendants of the Marsh family can view the letter if they are interested.

“It’s an amazing piece of their family history that has turned up,” Glen told the BBC. “If they want to, they can come round.”

“Incidents like this happen very occasionally, and we are uncertain what happened in this instance,” a Royal Mail spokesperson told the news outlet. “We appreciate that people will be intrigued by the history of this letter from 1916, but we have no further information on what might have happened.”