Lost letter finally shows up—and what’s inside is invaluable.

When Finlay Glen opened his mailbox that morning, he probably wasn’t all that shocked to find a letter addressed to someone else. These things happen. Upon closer inspection, though the name was wrong, the address was correct. The mystery letter had rightfully made it to his apartment on Hamlet Road, Crystal Palace, England.  

It took a third look for Glen to realize just how unique this letter really was. That’s because the mystery letter was postmarked 1916.

To say that Glen was intrigued would be an understatement. He knew that opening mail not addressed to him would amount to a crime but, since the letter was over 100 years old, he decided to throw caution to the wind. Surely, the recipient, a Mrs. Oswald Marsh, wouldn’t mind.

“If I’ve committed a crime, I can only apologize,” Glen said cheekily. The 27-year-old added, though, that he would be happy to turn the letter over to Mrs. Marsh’s family. “It’s an amazing piece of their family history that has turned up. If they want to, they can come round.”

Inside the Mystery Letter

So, how exactly did it turn up? Who is Mrs. Oswald Marsh? Who wrote to her? And just what is in this mystery letter that her family would be so happy to get their hands on? The answers to these questions make the story even more intriguing.

Glen said he was “obviously pretty surprised and mystified as to how it could have sat around for more than 100 years.” Royal Mail echoed Glen’s thoughts as to why the letter took so long to be delivered. A spokesperson for the mail service admitted, “Incidents like this happen very occasionally, and we are uncertain what happened in this instance.”

The envelope has a one-penny stamp with the likeness of King George V. At the time it was sent, George V had been king for five years. It was also the year that two future prime ministers would be born and just a couple of years before England would introduce rationing during World War I.

The intended recipient of the letter was Katie Marsh, the wife of wealthy stamp dealer Oswald Marsh. Oswald Marsh was also an expert witness in cases of stamp fraud. The letter to his wife was from a friend, Christabel Mennell, the daughter of a tea merchant. She wrote the letter while vacationing in Bath.

The letter to “my dear Katie” appears to be a letter of apology. In it, Christabel writes that she is “quite ashamed of myself after saying what I did” and asks for Katie’s help.

Letter Draws the Attention of Historians

Stephen Oxford, editor of a local history magazine, was especially keen to take a look at the mystery letter. He said that a piece like this showing up now is highly unusual and gives us “a lead into local history and people who lived in Norwood, which was a very popular place for the upper middle classes.” 

Crystal Palace, where the letter was delivered, was also home to very wealthy people. “So to find out about someone who moved to the area for possibly that very reason is absolutely fascinating,” Oxford continued.

It’s indeed a special delivery that Glen won’t soon forget, a piece of living history delivered right to his doorstep.