Leeward Islands Stamps and Postal History

Leeward Islands stamps: 5s. green and blue from 1897 Sexagenary Issue

The Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands, comprising the northerly group of islands in the Lesser Antilles, was formed from the five Presidencies:
Antigua, with Barbuda and Redonda: Antigua colonised from St. Kitts by British 1632, Attempted settlement of Barbuda 1628 failed; colonised from Antigua 1661. Treaty of Breda ceded Antigua to Britain 1667.

Dominica: Attempted settlement 1627 failed. Captured by British 1757 and formally ceded 1763. Captured by French 1778, restored to Britain 1783.

Montserrat: Colonised 1632 from St. Kitts. Ceded to Britain by Treaty of Versailles 1783.

St. Christopher (ST. KITTS), with Nevis and Anguilla: Sir Thomas Warner’s landing at Old Bay Road, St. Kitts, began British Colonisation 1623. Nevis settled from there 1628 and Anguilla in 1650. Ceded to Britain by Treaty of Versailles 1783.

British Virgin Islands: Dutch buccaneers ejected by British 1666. Colonised from Anguilla between 1680-94.

The Colony’s total area was about 720 square miles, with seat of Government at St. John’s, Antigua. The southerly group - the Windward Islands - consisted philatelically of Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada, but there were never issues for that group as a separate entity. Dominica was transferred to the Windward Islands administration on 1 January 1940.

The islands of the Leewards had been discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second expedition in November 1493. Inhabited by Caribs or Arawak Indians, they were visited by Europeans in the 16th century - and fought over between them until the 19th century.

The Federal stamp issues came into use on 31 October 1890. Before that date, Great Britain adhesives had been used from 1858 to 1860. From 8 May 1858 G.B. adhesives prepaid packet correspondence only, extended to local mail on 1 February 1859. This arrangement ended on 1 May 1860 when control of postal affairs was transferred to the West Indies from London and stamps gradually began to be issued by the individual islands:

  • Antigua from August 1862;
  • Dominica from 4 May 1874;
  • Montserrat from September 1876;
  • Nevis from 1861;
  • St. Christopher (St. Kitts) from 1 April 1870;
  • Virgin Islands from 1866.

Various PAID handstamps served during the interim periods before these issues.

The administrative good sense of the Federal issues of 1890 soon caused philatelic revenue to tail off. By 1898 the resumption of special issues for the Presidencies for use concurrently with the Federal stamps began to be approved. In January 1899 the Virgin Islands led the way; between May and September 1903 it was joined by Antigua, Dominica, Montserrat and combined issues for St. Kitts-Nevis.

Leeward Islands Federal issues were overprinted for use in Barbuda and issued on 13 July 1922. Thereafter Antigua stamps were used until 1968.

In 1952 the inscription on St. Kitts-Nevis stamps was changed to St. Christopher-Nevis- Anguilla.

In 1956, when the Leeward Islands group was broken up, the Federal issues (then Q.E.II keytypes) ceased to be valid from 1 July 1956.

Leeward Islands King George VI Stamps 1938-1954 Part 1


The Leeward Islands, like Mauritius, made use of the Key and Duty Plate method of printing stamps, but, unlike Mauritius, the Leeward Islands used both the small General Key Type and the larger High Value Key Type.

The small General Key Type has a Key Plate carrying the whole of the design with a blank panel at the top of the stamp to receive the name of the colony, and a blank tablet at the bottom of the stamp to receive the individual duty or value. In addition to the Key Plate, therefore, each duty has its own "Name and Value Plate". Each 'set' was of 120 impressions arranged in two panes of 60, in 10 rows of 6. The Plate number of the Key Plate is above the 2nd stamp of the left pane, and below the penultimate stamps of the right pane. On the two occasions where the Duty Plate was numbered, the number was above the first stamp of the left pane and below the last stamp of the right pane.

Leeward Islands King George VI Large Key Type Stamps 1937-1951

Leeward Islands 1938-51purple and black on carmine  £1, lower right corner marginal plate no. block of four with broken lower right scroll SG 114ae

The High Value Key Type differed from the General Key Type in that the portion common to all values is the King’s Head, set in an oval and surmounted by a crown, with scrolls and pendent leaves and fruit to give the effect of a shield, while each duty had a separate Frame Plate incorporating the name of the colony, the duty in words and figures and the words ‘Postage & Revenue’. In both plates the ‘set’ was 60, arranged in a single wide pane of five rows of impressions, with twelve impressions to a row.

Leeward Islands King George V Key Plates Stamps 1912-1938

Leeward Islands stamps: 1s. (Die I) black on emerald, corner marginal block of four (Die I), with D I flaw

During the period 1912 to c. 1927 the Presidencies forming the Leeward Islands group (Antigua, Dominica, Montserrat, St Kitts-Nevis and Virgin Islands) requisitioned for their own stamp requirements. Leewards Islands stamps, known as the Federal issues, were valid for use concurrently with the individual issues of each Presidency. Some of the scarcer printings thus emanate from only one source. Late in 1926 control of Federal issues passed to the Federal Treasurer at St Johns, Antigua.