Strange Addresses And The Ingenuity Of Postmen

My previous post titled An Ingenious Postman told an anecdote of a resourceful postman who was able to deliver a letter despite the ambiguity of the address. This post includes several more instances in which a postman was able to successfully deliver a letter even if the recipient’s address was vague, illegible or partially wrong.

Didn’t Know About the Address

Some letter senders have no idea about the exact address of the recipient so they settled on providing more — albeit vague — information that may help the postman.

A letter addressed to “My dear Ant Sue as lives in the Cottage” found its way to Aunt Sue, after some difficulties, who was living in a cottage near Lyndhurst.

It made me wonder how they were able to deliver this letter directed to

H. M. Steem Friegkt,
Vutur, Uncon or els ware,

to H. M. Steam Frigate Vulture in Hong Kong.

The letter addressed

george miller.png

was duly delivered to George Miller, on board the Amphitrite in Valparaiso.

The following was not only curious but praiseworthy as well:

An American man who went to England didn’t know the current residence of his sister at the time so he addressed his letter to her previous residence:

Upper Norwood,
Or Elsewhere

Curiously, the post office was still able to deliver the letter to his sister. The man was surprised when he got a reply from his sister, who told him that she received the letter on the top of a stagecoach in Wales.

The man was both amazed and grateful to the post  office for their ingenuity and dedication, he wrote, “[…] no other country can show the parallel, or would take the trouble at any cost.”

Didn’t Know the Name

Sometimes, the senders didn’t include the name of the recipient either because they didn’t think that it’s necessary or they didn’t know the name of the recipient. In these cases, they tried to give a description of the recipient’s physical appearance or occupation.

This is for her that maks dresses for ladies, that livs at tother side of road to James Brocklip.

The fate of this letter was unknown:

Travelling Band, one of the four playing in the street.
Persha [Pershore], Worcestershire.
Please to find him if possible.

This letter’s fate from Mrs. Gamp was also undetermined:

To E. E, a cook as lived tempery with a Mrs L, or some such a name, a shoemaker in Castle St. about No. — Hoburn in 1851; try to make this out. She is a Welsh person about 5 feet 1 — stoutish. Lives in service some ware in London or naboured. London.

Vague Addresses

In these examples, the senders were familiar with the address to a certain degree. However, they didn’t know how to spell the addresses correctly. For instance, someone who wanted to send a letter to Scotland wrote “Stockling” and another wrote “10 S C” instead of Tennessee. But there are much worse examples, like spelling Ratcliffe Highway as “Ratlifhaivai” and “Ratlef Fieway”, and High Wycombe as “Ivicum”.

If you are a postman, you better know different spelling variations of several places in case someone messes up the spelling of the address. A couple of centuries ago, the Danish and Norwegian Consul of Ipswitch noted that “Ipswitch” had a large number of spelling variations in the addresses of letters he received from overseas. Thus, he decided to assiduously compile a list of all the incrorrect spellings of Ipswitch. There were 57 in total and here’s some of them:

Ispovich, Ie yis wich, Ipsvikh, Vittspits, Ipsveten, Epsig, Elsfleth, Ixvig, Ibsvi, Hoispis, Ipsvitx, Iysuich, Ipswgs, Ipswitis

Some people addressed letters using shorthand which included numbers:

The letter addressed to,

23 Adne Edle Street, London,

was correctly delivered to 2 Threadneedle Street, London.

The address

John 7, Scotland

looked confusing at first glance, but the postman was able to duly deliver this letter to Johnshaven, a village in the North of Scotland.

Consider this letter which was addressed to

Mr. Weston
Osburn Cottage

This letter was meant to someone who lived in Osborne Cottage, Isle of Wight.

It’s hard to think how

Mr. Dick
Bishop Cans
ner the Wises

received the letter as his place of residence was Devizes.

And this letter addressed

too dad Thomas
hat the ole oke
10 Bary. Fade

was successfully delivered to The Old Oak Orchard, Tenbury.

Other Curious Addresses

This one was rather ambiguous, but the postman was able to locate her:

To my sister Jean, Up the Canongate,
Down a Close, Edinburgh.

She has a wooden leg.

Some letter senders were too general in their descriptions. The post office may need to hire a psychic or two for these letters to be delivered:

To Mr. Michl
In the town of

This letter was probably written as a joke. Obviously, it wasn’t delivered:

To the Britisher most Ashamed of his Country,
House of Commons,

Someone addressed a letter addressed to

The biggest fool in the world,

The post office endorsed the letter as:

“The Postmaster of Tunbridge cannot decide whom to deliver this
to, as he does not know the writer. Cannot find.”

This one was written by a student in Salsbury:

To my Uncle Jon,
In London.

A letter together with a pair of spectacles had the following superscription:

My dear Father in Yorkshire at the white cottage with white pailings.

There are instances when the eyes are not enough to decipher an unclear address. In the following case, the postman also had to rely on his sense of hearing. A letter arrived in London addressed to

Mr Owl O’Neil,
General Post Office.

However, nobody in the post office knew someone with that name. A clerk kept repeating “Mr Owl O’Neil, Mr Owl O’Neil” aloud while looking at the letter. Another clerk who heard suddenly exclaimed, “Why! That must be intended for Mr. Rowland Hill.” — which was correct.

Modern Examples

If you think that the digital age had already dulled the ingenuity of modern postmen, then think again.


In December 2016, Nicole Lally received a Chrismas card that didn’t contain an exact address from her friend Amanda. The postman was clued that the letter should be sent “between between Ballinasloe and Galway”. The letter was addressed to

Yer wan, her mother’s from Castleblakeney but the daughter’s an ex-townie, grew up in Athlone and moved to Ballymacward when she got married, lives next door to her in-laws now and has a rake of children, 7 dogs, 4 cats and about 30 hens and ducks, some rabbits and fish and I think she has a hamster as well.

Finally, the postman was given an additional hint, “She also has a shrine to the Virgin Mary at the left corner of her garden.” Using all the information provided and his local knowledge, he managed to deliver the letter successfully.

iceland letter map.jpg

In August 2016, a letter which contained a hand-drawn map of a remote corner of Iceland instead of a detailed address was promptly delivered to its proper recipient.

The sender addressed the letter to Iceland, identified the city as the village of Búðardalur, and named the recipient as “a horse farm with an Icelandic/Danish couple and three kids and a lot of sheep”.

At the bottom right corner of the letter, the sender wrote that the letter’s recipient was “the Danish woman [who] works in a supermarket in Búðardalur”. The letter also depicted a map that pointed the direction to the house.

The map showed some roads and the bay of Hvammsfjörður. A red dot (with a boxed label “here”) was used to indicate the location of the house. Fortunately, the postman succeeds in delivering the letter despite the circumstance.


Andrew Wynter, Curiosities of Toil and Other Papers, 1870

Charles Dickens, Jan Myrdal (trans.), Vardagsord: Tidningsmannen Dickens i urval av Jan Myrdal, 2011

Walter Thombury, Old and New London: A Narrative of its History, its People, and its Places Vol. 2, 1873

The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, Vol. 9, 1869

Amazing Galway postman manages to deliver Christmas card addressed to ‘Yer wan who lives next door to the in-laws with a rake of kids’

Letter with hand-drawn map and no address makes it to remote home in Iceland

Posted by

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

24 thoughts on “Strange Addresses And The Ingenuity Of Postmen

  1. WOOD
    This letter was delivered to
    John Underwood
    Hants (Hampshire) U.K.
    Incidentally when I lived in Hong Kong my address was simply
    Tai hang Hau Village
    Clearwater Bay


  2. Sadly, in Canada, I don’t think they put this kind of effort into their mandate to deliver the mail. I once had a letter returned to me for missing an “a” in an address. I’m sure they could have figured that out themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My ma works for the USPS so I’ve always had a fondness for this kind of stuff. If you like weird address, look into Nicaragua! They have super vague addresses that often used demolished/abandoned buildings as locations.
    Something like: “Go ‘up’ the street two blocks and turn right. Across from the Pepsi plant (which doesn’t exist anymore).”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My Mum once sent a letter addressed simply to Mark King, Isle of Wight. The Royal Mail delivered it successfully. Mind you, Mark is the lead singer and bassist of the group Level 42 and relatively famous. 🙂 He even replied, proving what a star he is.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In the old days, I really believe the postmen were better at their jobs. There are still some good ones but they seem to be few and far between. The ones that can decipher and get stuff where it’s supposed to go, they are awesome 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My father’s name was Douglas Gordon and in 1960 we moved from a small farming community in South Australia to an outer suburb of Melbourne population about 2 million
    The next year dad got a letter addressed “Dug ordon. Melbin.” we were pretty impressed.

    Liked by 2 people

What's On Your Mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s