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Postal History of Carluke


The Postal History of Carluke : by Brian Dow


At the start of the 19th century Carluke parish had a population of 1,756 and by 1831 this population had risen to 3,288. The town (population of 1,800) had several regular streets lit by gas from a gasworks erected in 1835. The Carluke district was found to be rich in coal, ironstone and limestone such that the Shotts Iron Company built extensive works a mile north of the town in 1836-7. These works consisted of four blast furnaces with steam engines with aggregate power of 200 horses. Thus the increase in population was probably due to the exploitation of coal and iron. Other employment in the Carluke area would have been in weaving and agriculture, and many women sewed muslins for the Glasgow manufacturers.

By 1841 the population had risen to 4,802 and this increased further to 6,283 in 1851.

Carluke Post Office was established in 1834 (Mackay 1989), although a regular post had been established by 1817 (Rankin, 1874). Prior to 1834, mail was sent through the Airdrie Post Office (opened 1800) or Lanark Post Office (opened by 1738).
The letter below was sent by Dr Daniel Rankin (1805-1882) (Logan & Warren 1988) on 8 June 1836 to Hamilton Palace and shows a straight-line “AIRDRIE” mark. It was unusual for letters to have been prepaid as normally postage costs would have been paid by recipients of letters prior to the advent of postage stamps (in 1840). In this example, the postage of 6d would cover any (single sheet) letter for a distance of 20-30 miles.



The postmaster in 1837 was James Shaw with an office in the High Street. Letters from Airdrie (Carluke’s major post office) arrived by mail gig every morning at 5am and were dispatched every night at 9pm. Letters from Lanark arrived every night at 9pm and were dispatched every night at 10pm.



The first Carluke postal marking was a straight-line “CARLUKE” (LK48) which was issued from Kirkwoods of Edinburgh after 11 February 1837. This was normally found in black ink (to signify postage still to be collected). The three examples shown include the only recorded (Auckland 1995) example (4 December 1838) (see below), an earlier example from 15 November 1838 (above) and a further later example from 15 October 1839.



The later 1838 letter from Carluke to Lanark cost 2d postage for under 8 miles.



The other postage marking shown is the circular Edinburgh receiving datestamp (17 Oct 1839).
The same straight-line “CARLUKE” (LK48) but in red ink, to signify that 1d postage had been prepaid, was used on mail between 28 February 1840 and 1850.



This demonstrates that Carluke was originally a sub-office for Airdrie (in 1840) whilst by 1850, it was clearly a sub-office of Lanark.



By 1852, Carluke mail arrived from Lanark at 8.30am and was dispatched at 6pm. Auckland (1995) also lists a yellow ink impression of the “CARLUKE” (LK48) straight line mark in use 1852-3.












4 October 1850(above) and 20 October 1853(below) use of yellow ink


The above example also shows the Carluke “67” obliterator handstamp over the penny red stamp. This obliterator has 4-4-4 line format and is classified as “A1” by Mackay (1987) with a presumed usage between 1844 and 1865.
By 1861, the Post Office had moved to Kirkton Street and the postmaster was now John Smith. Letters from Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and the north arrived every morning at 7.20am and dispatched at noon, and also in the evening at 7.20pm.



Above an example of late usage in 8 March 1865
The A2 obliterator (with 4-5-4 line format) was recorded as being used between 1865 and 1869.


The A4 obliterator (with 4-4-3 line format) was recorded from 1869 until 1877.



A4 obliterator used in 9 June 1875

A Carluke double arc datestamp to show when items were posted seems to have been produced by Kirkwoods on 30 May 1854:


Actual used copies are:



This datestamp was replaced with a single arc datestamp produced by Kirkwoods on 4 March 1861:



Examples in use are:


In 1877, Carluke was issued with a B4 duplex canceller. This then allowed stamps to be franked with a two-bar “67” canceller and also have an adjacent datestamp to show when the item was posted.


Codes A-D are recorded


Code E (not previously recorded)

By 1878, the postmaster was now Thomas S Aikman and the Post Office was now sited in Hamilton Street. The mail from England, and the south arrived at 6.20am whilst the mail from Glasgow and the north arrived at 6.34pm. The mail was dispatched to Glasgow and the north at 6.29am whilst the mail to England and the south was dispatched at 6.34pm.

A combined datestamp C1 with code letters A-E was made by Kirkwoods in March 1884:


By 1899, this datestamp was in need of repair and was replaced initially by a type 6 skeleton handstamp which was used between 6 and 20th December 1899 (Mackay 1978) and then by the C2 datestamp which had a clocktime rather than a code letter and was slightly larger in diameter:


By 1903 Miss Elizabeth Aikman was the postmistress with the Post Office again sited in the High Street. There were 4 deliveries: 7.10am; 2.00, 5.40 and 7.10pm; Mail was dispatched at 6, 11.10am, 1.15, 4.30, 5.40, 8.30 and 9.10pm (Sunday 5.40pm). A wall box in Hamilton Street was cleared 5 times a day, whilst a pillar box in Station Road was was also cleared 5 times a day.



Carluke Post Office was situated in what is now the Paper Box opposite the current Post Office in Scotmid (card dated January 1906 – later that year it moved across the High Street [Logan & Warren 1988])


By April 1906, the Carluke-67 handstamp needed to be replaced and a type 8 (Mackay 1978) skeleton handstamp was supplied and is recorded as being first used on 24 April 1906 but unknown when it was superceded. The example shown dates from 30 April 1906:


The skeleton handstamp is usually used in emergency.  In addition to the usual date slugs, skeleton handstamps can also take individual letters so that any name can be made up.

Since the need for the office number (67) in the combined stamp was seen to be no longer so pressing, it was dropped from the handstamps issued to the many of the smaller offices from 1900 onwards (1906, in the case of Carluke).  A cross pattee replaced the “67” at the foot of the datestamp.


The next handstamp was similar except the twin arcs were much longer and the Carluke name was more compressed.


A previously unrecorded type 17 skeleton handstamp (shown here used on 11 June 1921) marks the end of the above “CARLUKE” handstamp,


whilst awaiting delivery of its replacement (below) “CARLUKE, LANARKSHIRE” with solid arc and cross pattee:


Mackay (1978) also reported the use of a type 17 skeleton handstamp on 13 April 1930 with no reported last use.


The example shown corresponds to the Mackay recording. A feature of skeleton handstamps is the uneven lettering and this example clearly shows this with the “L” being out of alignment. During the early 1930s, the handstamp in routine use was a CARLUKE/LANARKSHIRE with solid arcs. Note the size of the “R” in Carluke which is quite broad. This handstamp appears to have been in use up to the Second World War.


Following the Second World War, an apparently identical handstamp except for the size of the “R” in Carluke, which was now narrow, was in use up until the 1990s.


The Carluke Office had sufficient mail to warrant a machine canceller and a Krag machine was used in the 1950s with the earliest recorded use in 26 July 1955 and latest 21 May 1959 (Carter 2012).


Earliest recorded usage of Krag machine cancel


Late usage of Krag machine cancel on 23 July 1959
(postdates previous known last date by 2 months)
The earliest Universal machine cancellation was 15 August 1959:


Earliest recorded use of the Universal machine (note inverted year!)
From 17 September 1968, Carluke mail was transported to Lanark for cancellation (Mackay 1986). There were a few exceptions to this, particularly during the festive season, when the mail was still cancelled with the Carluke universal machine.


Example dated 18 December 1974

Rubber datestamps were introduced into larger post offices because of the postal order and telegram business.  By 1910, rubber datestamps were being extensively used for cancelling stamps on soft packets where the normal steel cancellers would produce damage.


Examples of rubber cancellations
The use of single ring counter datestamps have been originally used to record the date and place of stamping on all incoming and outgoing mail. In the late 19th century, the introduction of duplex cancellation alleviated the need to backstamp outgoing mail, but incoming mail was usually backstamped. The latter process fell into decline and the single circle datestamps were more often used for counter work. The datestamps are still used for registered mail and numerous other non-postal business.

Rubber datestamps were introduced into larger post offices because of the postal order and telegram business. By 1910, rubber datestamps were being extensively used for cancelling stamps on soft packets where the normal steel cancellers would produce damage.


Kirkton Street Post Office in 1994 – the site since 1960 (Logan & Warren 1988)


With Postcode                       Modern “curly-wurly”

The modern “curly-wurly” counter datestamp came into use on 14 October 1994 when the Post Office moved from Kirkton Street to its present location within Scotmid. In January 2013, Scotmid closed for a week (Noon Friday 11th to Noon Friday 18th) whilst it was refurbished. During this week, the Post Office was relocated to the rear of the store. Unfortunately when the Post Office resumed business, it failed to have an associated post box. Once this was reported on the front page of the local paper, the Carluke Gazette, a temporary post box was quickly erected within the store.


Scotmid Post Office in 1994


The Delivery Office remained in Kirkton Street until 22 January 1996, when a new Lanark and Carluke Delivery Office was opened in Home Street, Lanark.
Registered Mail had its own specific oval handstamp


Carluke also had its own registration labels


When postage was due on an item, a handstruck marking indicating the amount due would be applied to the postal item.

Capture421d postage due

Carluke Post Office also had its own postage due boxed stamp, identified by the “S” number “S18”.


Note large “D” and letters


Note smaller “D” and smaller letters


Known to be used on 10 October 1967
The triangular cancel of S18 (Carluke) in the Universal machine cancellation was commonly used for bulk postings when the postage had been paid in stamps.
Carluke also had its own Parcel Post labels with a three letter code (CRZ)


The Parcel Post labels had compartments where postage stamps should be fixed and for the office datestamp to be struck. Special parcel cancellations would applied to the stamps and the parcel label would then be stuck onto the parcel. As in the examples above, eventually the stamps were placed directly on the parcel and the parcel label was cancelled with the counter datestamp.


1900’s (see Crossford)
Eventually a special rectangular Parcel Post cancellation was used to cancel the stamps on the parcel.


Carluke saw the arrival of the Caledonian railway in 1856 (Somerville and Warren 1991) and parcels, etc could arrive (and be sent) by that means:


Carluke also had a triangular three letter (CRZ) coded handstamp. CRZ was the telegraphic code for Carluke. The triangular handstamp was applied to circulars and other printed matter, such as bills or postcards. Regulations in 1895 allowed for such items to be sent at Printed matter rates. However to qualify for these rates, the letters had to be in unsealed envelopes and had to be handed in at the Post Office where the stamps would be cancelled with this triangular cancellation.


An example of a modern bag label showing that material had arrived from Aberdeen addressed through Glasgow mail centre to Carluke ML8.


If the postman was unable to deliver an item, a P739 form would be left with the intended recipient asking for them to indicate how or when to redeliver the item or alternatively where they could collect the item. Prior to 1994, this would have been at the Kirkton Street Post Office:


Dated July 1991

By 2002, the form had changed and of course the Post Office had moved to Scotmid.


Companies with their own postage franking machines can save on postage (e.g. 19p on second class mail) and one such recent example from Swinton Insurance is shown:


Nowadays the Post Office clerks will use a Horizon machine to print postage labels that are then affixed to the items to be posted:


Examples of postal history to extend the usage of postmarks are always eagerly sought.

The Law Post Office photograph was taken by James Mackay and is now in the Scottish Postal History library. All other illustrations are either from my own personal collection or from the Kirkwood proof books. For those interested in Lanarkshire or Scottish postal history, please click on the following links.

The Lanarkshire Postal History Collection

The Scottish Postal History Society

The Lanarkshire Philatelic Society

Carluke Parish Historical Society


Auckland B (1995) Postal Markings of Scotland to 1840.
Ed R Stables 2nd Edition.

Carter PT (2012) Krag machine postmarks of Great Britain & Ireland.
British Postmark Society.

Kirkwood Proof Books (2012) Digitised copy of proof books held by Scottish Postal History Society.

Logan MJC and Warren CH (1988) Carluke in old picture postcards 2nd edition.

Mackay JA (1978) The skeleton postmarks of Scotland.

Mackay JA (1986) Machine cancellations of Scotland.

Mackay JA (1987) Scottish Numeral Postmarks.

Mackay JA (1989) Scottish Post Offices.

Post Office Directories National Library of Scotland website.

Rankin DR (1874) Notices, historical, statistical & biographical relating to the parish of Carluke from 1288 till 1874.William Rankin.

Smith K (2012) personal communication (British Postmark Society).

Somerville I and Warren C (1991) Bygone Carluke. Stenlake publishing.

© Brian Dow 2013

One Response to “Postal History of Carluke”

  1. Peter A. says:

    1. The former P.O., still with letter box

    2. Thomson Smith Aikman, postmaster, and here pictured on the right, as president of Carluke bowls club

    3. T.S.A. obituary

    4. Lizzie Aikman, dau of T.S.A.

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