114-year-old envelope is set to be auctioned
PUBLISHED: 09:30 04 March 2014
An envelope sent to a King’s Lynn doctor during the Boer War in Africa in 1900 is set to fetch up to £120 at auction.
Although the name of the prisoner of war who sent the envelope from Pretoria is not known, because the letter originally inside the envelope is missing, much more is known about the recipient.
Dr Charles Bagge Plowright was one of Britain’s leading experts on fungi. In 1872, he published a list of 800 Norfolk fungi in the Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists’ Society.
A president of the British Mycological Society for two years, he was also a house surgeon at the West Norfolk and Lynn Hospital, a Lynn magistrate and a governor of Lynn grammar school.
Dr Plowright was born in Lynn on April 3, 1849, and was apprenticed to Dr John Lowe, surgeon-apothecary to the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and surgeon to the West Norfolk and Lynn hospital.
At the time of the 1901 census, he was living at King Street in Lynn.
He died nine years later and his funeral took place at North Wootton parish church on April 27, 1910.
Dr Plowright’s envelope was posted in Pretoria (in what is now South Africa) on May 15, 1900 – during the final months of Queen Victoria’s reign – and took six weeks to make the tortuous 6,000-mile journey by sea to Britain. The envelope eventually reached King’s Lynn on June 26, 1900.
Dr Plowright’s great-grandson, Dr Michael Petch, is a consultant cardiologist at the Sandringham Hospital in King’s Lynn, and in a paper for the British Medical Journal in 1998, he described Dr Plowright as “a Victorian polymath”, and added: “Most of his publications were concerned with the study of fungi.
“His wide-ranging interests also included the Neolithic man in west Norfolk and woad as a blue dye, both subjects of presentations to the Norfolk Naturalists’ Society.”
The Plowright envelope is among more than 400 rare Boer War stamps and envelopes collected by Harry Birkhead, honorary life president of the Philatelic Federation of South Africa, who died last year. Mr Birkhead’s collection is expected to fetch about £170,000 at the Spink auction in Bloomsbury, London, on Wednesday, March 12.
Do you know of an item with a Norfolk connection that is about to be auctioned? Email firstname.lastname@example.org