Today's Object of the Week is a banknote which has been cut in half. Buy why? Read on to find out.

THE dread call of “your money or your life” was a very real and present threat to travellers in the 1700s.

Highwaymen often preyed on Royal Mail coaches and the promise that a bag full of letters may reveal a cache of banknotes or coins – as well as money, watches and rings taken from the passengers – made it a lucrative business.

Read more: Pub owner Daniel was was on the right tracks at the birth of the railways

And the banks and Post Office had to try to find a way to counteract this theft of their monies.

Banknotes, which were issued in staggering sums even up to values of £1,000, became a more popular and sensible way to carry or send money, rather than heavy bags of gold or silver coins.

As notes could easily be sent by post enclosed in letters, the losses by robbery and highwaymen began to be of concern to Post Office officials.

In order to guard against the loss of bank notes that were sent by Royal Mail, the Post Office issued an advertisement on the February 9. 1782 recommending that all persons who send banknotes in the post to cut them in half, and send them by different posts.

The Northern Echo: A 1782 letter issued by the Royal Mail, explaining how to prevent highwaymen carrying out costly robberies

Headed “To prevent Mail Robberies”, the text read: “It is recommended to all persons, at present uninformed, who may have occasion to send bank notes by the post, to cut them in two parts, according to the following specimen where it is marked with a blank line, and send them by different posts, first writing the name, date, and year at the end of the note and the letter and number at the other end.

“By this means each part will contain a sufficient specification of the whole and prevent any kind of difficulty in the payment of it at the Bank of England to the right owner, in case of the loss of the other part.”

The growing interest in paper notes and their wide usage was one of the reasons for the decline of the highway robbers in England, certainly in the 19th century, because paper money was more traceable than coinage.

The 1888 £5 note pictured here, issued by the J. Backhouse & Co. Stockton on Tees bank in 1890 has been cut in half and re-joined using a propriety gummed strip – a long forgotten practice which seems very alien in our modern world of electronics and virtual monies.

The Northern Echo: Stockton on Tees £5a

The practice of cutting the notes in half must have been very widespread and lasted into the early 20th century – there was even specific tape such as the ‘Pure Gummed Banknote Connector’ manufactured for the purpose.

Banknotes were also handled by the Post Offices and this example was originally received by the Yorkshire Penny Bank, Middlesbrough, and then through time received by various sub post offices which each applied their counter datestamp –Darlington 1890; Barnard Castle 1890; Middleton 1890; Norton Durham 1891.

The Northern Echo: Half Bank Note Letter 1771

The above letter was written in 1771 posted in London addressed to Litchfield in Staffordshire. Part of the contents refer to receiving half bank notes through the post.

It reads: “I enclosed your receipt of the other halves of the three banknotes for Mr. Turner…….”

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