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British TaxidermistsEdward Gerrard

Dating Guide to Edward Gerrard

By 1 August 2023April 19th, 2024No Comments

Dating Guide to Edward Gerrard

When dating work by Edward Gerrard we can generally accurately date his work by the postcode referenced on the labels.

Between 1858 (when the original postal districts were set up) and 1917 (when the postcodes gained the addition of a number), Edward Gerrard’s workshops at 61 College Place, Camden Town bore the postcode of London N.W.

In 1917, as a wartime measure to improve efficiency, the London districts were further subdivided with a number applied to each sub-district and the postal district of Camden Town became London N.W.1.

or LONDON N.W.1.

photo: Dorne Lovegrove

Early postal system

The postal system and postcodes in England in the mid 1800’s

Dating Guide to Edward Gerrard

Sending letters

When we look at creating a Dating Guide to Edward Gerrard we must also consider the socio economic changes that were rapidly taking place in Victorian England.

In 1840 a huge change occurred when the cost of sending a letter dropped. It had previously cost over a shilling to send a letter from London to Edinburgh and it had simply to be a folded single sheet of paper. If you wanted to put your letter in an envelope and seal it, you paid extra charges.

Before 1840 when a postman came with a letter, he had to stand at the door and await payment. If you didn’t have the money, you didn’t get the letter!

When the change came in, you could send a letter for a penny. When the penny service was initiated a “bellman” would walk the busy parts of town ringing a bell and holding a bag with a slit in it in which you could post outgoing letters, but there would be no letter boxes in London until 1855.

For incoming letters six deliveries of mail came to the door each day, and later that rose to 12 deliveries. In 1849 it was advised that people cut a slit in their front doors, so that the postman could just drop your mail through the slot and be on his way.

These changes led to a huge increase in the sending and receiving of letters, and to manage it all London was then divided into 12 postal districts under the direction and conception of Sir Rowland Hill who set up the system of postal districts for London, the postal service and postage stamps. The map shows the original postal districts set up in 1857-58.


London was divided into Postal Districts from 1857

Sir Rowland Hill conceived and produced an almost perfectly circular area of 12 miles (19 km) radius from the central post office at St. Martin’s Le Grand in central London.

Within the district it was divided into two central areas and eight compass points which operated much like separate post towns. Each was named “London” with a suffix (EC, WC, N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, and NW) indicating the area it covered; each had a separate head office. The system was introduced during 1857 and completed on 1 January 1858.


N.W.1. AFTER 1917

So, this is an accurate way of generally dating the work of Edward Gerrard & Sons to one of two historical periods:
The early period 1858-1917
The later period post 1917

Check the label – if the postcode is written as London N.W., then it’s fair to say that the work was between 1858 – 1917 and if it reads London N.W.1. then it’s after 1917.

Obviously, there is a small margin of flexibility here because we know that it was possible for the business to continue using up old labels until they had new ones printed. What’s for sure is that if you see a label that says London N.W.1. then it’s undoubtedly post 1917.

For dating of the very earliest period examples – the origin between 1850-1858, when small round ivorine labels are seen inside the cases, it’s unsafe to make assumptions in the absence of a postcode.

Any examples of Edward Gerrard Senior’s work from this period are rare in the marketplace and only mostly to be unearthed in museums. In the case of the early ivorine labels which were found inside the case on some of Gerrard’s earliest work, the examples of which I have seen do not bear a postcode; they were small and look like they didn’t have room for a postcode; the paper label on the outside of the case is probably a better guide for dating purposes.


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