One of the few things you can buy, by way of souvenir, on Ascension Island is stamps and other philatelic items from the Post Office in Georgetown. I will refer to this again in a ‘shopping” review. Here I will relate a little about to-day’s and yesteryear’s stamps and mail services to the island.
Long before anyone lived on Ascension it had, in the 17th century, become known as the Sailor’s Post Office. It was a place where ships would drop of correspondence for other ships or for other ships to pick up and carry on to another destination. This leaving of messages was an inspiration for the islands existing letterbox walks about which you can read more in my letterbox walks review.
A more formal postal service started in 1867 when the UK’s Postmaster General first sent stamps to the Island for sale. Mail delivery and pickup was handled by a combination of the Union Castle Steamship Company (to 1977) and the Royal Navy (to 1922).
It wasn’t until Ascension Island became a dependency of St Helena in 1922 that it got its own stamps – which were in fact St Helena stamps overprinted with Ascension. There was an instant demand for these stamps from collectors worldwide. On 20th August 1924, the first sets of Ascension definitive stamps were produced, and demand increased. A new and still very important export business had been born on Ascension Island.
Today, Ascension Island issue five or more sets of commemorative stamps each year. Stamp designs are agreed by the Philatelic Committee, which consists of members of the public, and is chaired by the Administrator. For those readers who have read my tip All things British – Government – you now know one of the ways the Administrator fills his day!
To protect the integrity of this important industry the Post Office operates within the strict regulations of the International Postal Union so, for example, all first day covers are actually cancelled in the Ascension Post Office – notwithstanding that stamps etc are all printed overseas.
Notwithstanding all these stamps there is no postal delivery service on Ascension Island. All postal addresses, are those of employing organisations who collect the mail from the Post Office. Internal deliveries between organisations are to separate boxes, one for each organisation, outside the Administrator’s office. Mail within Ascension, other than business mail, is very rare.
Airmail to and from the island is received and dispatched twice a week (now curtailed) via the RAF fight that flies between the UK and the Falkland Islands. Surface mail and parcels arrive every month from the UK on the MOD chartered Shipping Service, also en route to the Falklands. Surface Mail to and from Cape Town and St Helena travels on the Royal Mail Ship, RMS St Helena.
In addition to being able to procure your Ascension Island philatelic requirements, those from St Helena and Tristan Da Cunha can also be procured at the post office (or via its online service if you cant make it to Ascension Island).
Address: Post Office, Georgetown Centre