A letter posted 22 years ago has just been returned to the sender – this newspaper.

On March 5, 1990 a letter detailing new advertising rates was sent by the commercial director from the company’s head office in Sandiford Road, Sutton, to a customer in Norwood Road, Tulse Hill.

That was the year of the poll tax riots and Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. House music was topping the charts and Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, triggering the first Gulf War.

On September 13 this year Royal Mail finally placed a sticker on the yellowing envelope announcing that the addressee had gone away and took it back to the Sandiford Road address.

From there it was forwarded to the company’s current offices in the centre of Sutton.

The letter took 22 years to complete a round-trip of just 10 miles.

In the intervening years Nelson Mandela became president of a post-apartheid South Africa, Saddam Hussein was executed for crimes against humanity and the commercial director went on to become chief executive of Newsquest, owners of this newspaper and one of the UK’s largest regional newspaper groups, following a management buyout from Reed Regional Newspapers.

Inflation has massively increased the price of most things in the past two decades, with the cost of a first-class stamp soaring from 20p to 60p.

But the cost of some of the advertising rates in our newspapers, described in the letter, have increased only marginally since the letter was sent.

It is not known where the letter has been all this time.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: "We are sorry for the delay. However, it is extremely unlikely that this item of mail was in our system all this time as we regularly check that all our offices are clear of mail. It is difficult to speculate what may have happened but almost certainly it was put back in a post box very recently."