British Bechuanaland was a short lived crown colony of the United Kingdom that existed in southern Africa from its formation on September 1, 1885, until its annexation to the neighboring Cape Colony on November 16, 1895. The earlier history of the region up until it’s division from the northern portion was told in an article about the Bechuanaland Protectorate published on this blog earlier this month. Stellaland, Goshen and other territories lying to the south of the Molopo river were constituted as British Bechuanaland which was governed as a crown colony, while the northern potion was a protectorate. British Bechuanaland had an area of, 51,424 square miles (133,190 square kilometers) and a population of 84,210. The region now forms part of South Africa, the area around present-day Mahikeng.
Stellaland stamps, which had been issued in 1884, continued to be used in British Bechuanaland until December 2, 1885. Any external mail had to be franked with both Stellaland stamps and Cape of Good Hope stamps. The cancellations on these stamps were applied by pen and ink and are known postmarked at Barkly West and Kimberly in Griqualand West. The stamps were withdrawn from use on December 2, 1885, and all the unused Stellaland stamps were sold to a stamp dealer, Whitfield, King & Company of Ipswich. On that date, stamps from Cape of Good Hope overprinted British Bechuanaland were made available at the Vryburg post office. Eight different values from ½ penny to 1 shilling were overprinted by W.A. Richards & Son of Cape Town.
In 1885 and 1886, mail within the colony was carried by runner or border police. Postal agencies were opened at Banks Drift, Kuruman, Poedomoe, Setlagloi (1886), Palachwe (1888), Macloustie (1890), Vryburg Station, and Keimoes (1891). All items of postal stationery produced for British Bechuanaland were Cape of Good Hope or British items of stationery overprinted with BRITISH BECHUANALAND or British Bechuanaland. The first postal cards were overprinted 1 penny Cape of Good Hope postcards issued in July 1886. A total of six different overprints were printed on 1 penny Cape of Good Hope postcards by W.A. Richards & Son of Cape Town as well as two printings on 1 penny British postcards. The 1 penny rate was for local and southern Africa.
On November 1, 1887, a supply of stamps from Great Britain was issued. The ½ penny stamp was overprinted BRITISH BECHUANALAND by De La Rue. Twelve other denominations ranging from 1 penny to 5 pounds were produced by De La Rue using blank “Unappropriated Die” designs for British fiscal stamps and overprinting them with BRITISH BECHUANALAND POSTAGE AND REVENUE. The stamps produced using the “Unappropriated Die” designs had their denominations in text (ONE PENNY, for example). On August 7, 1888, the five low values were overprinted locally in Vryburg, by P. Townshend & Co, to show the value in numbers (1d, for example). In December 1888, 3 pence stamps of the 1887 issue were overprinted One Half-Penny and in January 1889 Cape of Good Hope ½ penny stamps were overprinted British Bechuanaland by the local printer in Vryburg.
The South African Customs Union was extended to British Bechuanaland in 1891. New rates of postage were introduced following the Universal Postal Union’s 1891 Congress in Vienna. The local rates were ½ penny and 1 penny; the rate to Great Britain was 1 penny, and the international and Mashonaland rate was 1½ pence. In 1893, responsibility for the postal services was transferred from the Postmaster-General of British Bechuanaland to the Postmaster-General of the Cape of Good Hope and a 1½ pence Cape of Good Hope postcard was overprinted and issued in March of that year. In September 1894, a British ½ penny postcard was additionally overprinted THREE HALF PENCE and at the same time ½ penny British postcards overprinted BRITISH BECHUANALAND were supplied.
A further seven postage stamps were produced by overprinting either Cape Colony stamps or British stamps before British Bechuanaland was annexed by the Cape of Good Hope on November 16, 1895 and ceased to issue stamps. All the remaining stamps of British Bechuanaland were transferred to the Bechuanaland Protectorate and continued to be used there, without any overprints, until 1897.
Scott #35 of British Bechuanaland was the 4 pence denomination of Great Britain’s Queen Victoria Jubilee issue of 1887-1892 (Scott #116). Printed by typography in brown and green, the stamp was watermarked with the Imperial crown. It was overprinted BRITISH BECHUAUNALAND by De La Rue & Company and released on December 1, 1891. My copy was postmarked in Mafeking on August 19, 1895, just three months prior to the crown colony’s annexation by the Cape of Good Hope.