‘I was shocked’: Letter sent in 1916 arrives at Crystal Palace address more than a century later

A man has been left “baffled” by a letter posted to the building he lives in which was sent more than a century ago.

Finlay Glen, 27, who lives in a block of flats in Hamlet Road, Crystal Palace, said he noticed the letter when it arrived bore the stamp of King George V.

He noticed it was dated 1916 on the envelope and decided to open it, finding a “quite moving” letter inside.

The letter addressed to Mrs Oswald Marsh in 1916 (Picture: Finlay Glen)

“It’s been sitting in my drawer for a while,” said Finlay. “Me and my girlfriend, Lucy, found it and always spoke about this incredible thing. We would get it out occasionally and show friends, almost like a party trick.

“I had always meant to go to the local paper about it and I just saw it in my drawer again.”

The letter, which arrived in 2021, is addressed to a Mrs Oswald Marsh, who was the wife of an affluent stamp magnate at the time.

The letter starts: “My dear Katie, will you lend me your aid – I’m feeling quite ashamed of myself after saying what I did at the circle.”

The letter headed with a Croydon address has a return address to Bath (Picture: Finlay Glen)

Most of the letter is difficult to read, but there are sections which describe someone being unwell.

The inside of the letter has the address of Lansdowne Grove House in Bath, a hotel which once had a sanatorium and hospital in the grounds.

The letter is signed by someone called Christabel, who is believed to be Oswald Marsh’s mother.

Finlay said he had at first assumed they were friends but had noticed a “passive, aggressive” tone in the letter and found it “interesting they were in-laws”.

He added: “There was something weirdly moving about it, looking into these people’s lives. And that it was never delivered. I was shocked and curious about how it could have been sitting somewhere for 100 years.”

The letter appears to describe someone in a hospital (Picture: Finlay Glen)

The letter appears to have crossed the country, bearing postage stamps from Bath and Sydenham, though the letter itself is headed with a Croydon address.

Stephen Oxford at the Norwood Society has been looking into the letter and believes it may have been sitting in the Sydenham sorting office all those years.

He said: “The letter delivered recently to Oswald Marsh’s mother, once of Hamlet Road, Crystal Palace, has a fascinating story to tell about Oswald.

“He was a very successful Norwood entrepreneur – a stamp dealer who lived in a series of houses in the area.

“As a local historian I was amazed and delighted to have the details of the letter passed to me and excited to find out more about Oswald Marsh and what he was up to just down the road from me in Upper Norwood.

“The letter may well have been lost sitting in a dark corner in the Sydenham sorting office and only recently discovered.

“We will be publishing a detailed account about the Marsh family in forthcoming edition of our quarterly magazine The Norwood Review.”

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “Incidents like this happen very occasionally, and we are uncertain what happened in this instance. 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.”

Pictured top: Finlay holds the letter outside 18 Hamlet Road (Picture: Finlay Glen)

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One thought on “‘I was shocked’: Letter sent in 1916 arrives at Crystal Palace address more than a century later

  • So good to see the great interest aspects of local history. Well done Finlay for not binnng the letter and to the South London Press for bringing it to a wider audience.
    Full details of the Marsh family history will be, as mentioned, shared in the Norwood Review.


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