Back in the 1600-1800s, packet ships ruled the mail, carrying packets to and from Britain’s far-flung embassies, colonies, and outposts. This was the era when Britain ruled most of the world (“The sun never sets on the British Empire”), so there were lots of ships and tons of packets. It was how they communicated back then: Sailing the ocean blue. Then when the mail reached the shore it was harried along by stage coach. You’ve probably seen the pictures: wild-looking driver holding on for dear life while cracking his whip, wheels hitting ruts, passengers being thrown all around, that kind of thing.
In the late 1600s, Falmouth was appointed the Royal Mail packet station--the deep harbor and strategic location making it the perfect shipping port. With the Royal Mail appointment, Falmouth became the second biggest information hub in the British Empire, second only to London in knowing the headlines. Sort of like the CNN of the 1600s.
This is the HMP Countess of Chicester, a packet ship built in Falmouth in 1810. Actually, it’s a painting of the Countess by N. Cammillieri, which you can read about here.
Sadly but predictably, new technology ended the packet era when steamships—faster and less prone to mishaps on the water—took over. They in turn would be replaced by rail, steam, email, and who-knows-maybe-some-day, teleporting. The progress thing.
The kind Royal Mail just released a stamp honoring the mighty packet ship. It’s part of a series called Royal Mail Heritage Transport. See the whole series here.
Will there be a packet ship in Falmouth? It'd be cool to tour one.