Monthly Archives: March 2010

Ten Collections – One Collector

A social-thematic philatelic display and talk by Dane Garrod

There are so very many themes, countries and periods that any philatelist, stamp-collector, or even social historian, can collect and research, that we are spoilt for choice.  One can marvel at those who are determined to place all their energies and time in having interest in just one area or theme.  However, diversity brings its own rewards by allowing a constant return to a collection that has been temporarily put aside, but to which one can return with fresh enthusiasm and retained knowledge.

My upcoming display and talk at the BPMA will cover ten such diverse collecting interests – there should be something for everyone here – and a brief resumé follows concerning some of what will be shown and alluded to.  Many will include stories of the people who shaped their time, and their country.

The unused 1kr orange of 1850

The unused 1kr orange of 1850

Austria – 19th and early 20th century: To begin, a very early stamp-issuing country in Europe, the first letter of the alphabet, and the first item is their first stamp from some 160 years ago – catalogued as S.G. No.1, it is the unused 1kr orange of 1850.  The sheets in this section continue with the design work of J.F. Renner, who designed all the stamps for Austria from mid-1919 to mid-1921.  Beautifully written-up in Gothic script, but not by this presenter.  Research has failed to find who this illustrious Austrian collector was, but he has left his philatelic legacy in this format. 

Avis de Réception – 21st century: Covers/envelopes from many countries requesting acknowledgement of receipt, with the returning cards prepared for despatch.  This began in the early 19th century in Austria, and spread worldwide in later years.  Now much in decline, it served as a procedure for confirming receipt of letter, package or parcel.  These items shown are from very recent years.

Avis de Réception cover and receipt from Syria

Avis de Réception cover and receipt from Syria

£1 George VI stamp from Kenya, Uganda & Tanganyika

£1 George VI stamp from Kenya, Uganda & Tanganyika

British Commonwealth – King George VI issues:  A display of covers and stamps, with stamps from Ceylon, Mauritius, and Kenya, Uganda & Tanganyika, as examples of diversity of design and colour shades.  The covers have stories to tell, which is revealed in the PowerPoint display.

Germany – The Third Reich:  With additional supporting items such as a postcard from the set sold on the ill-fated Hindenburg airship, and a voting slip for the 1932 Presidential election, the philatelic material includes stories and examples of a forged German postcard, a Red Cross transmitted item from occupied Guernsey, and the use of the Olympic Stadium postmark of 1936.

A cover sent in 1938 from Stuttgart

A cover sent in 1938 from Stuttgart

Great Britain – Parliamentary:  One of the oldest item shown in this display was written by Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, dated 1714 – her parliamentary involvement is well known.  There is an envelope and letter to Willy Sax in Zurich, paint supplier to Churchill – items connected with John Stonehouse and with David Cameron (not to be mentioned together, of course) –  and part of an undated petition to Parliament from the Lady Howard and her daughters, which would have been transmitted by messenger at some date in perhaps the late 1500s.

Christmas card from David and Samantha Cameron, 2004

2004 Christmas card from the current leader of the Conversative party David Cameron and his wife Samantha.

WWI Prisoner of War mail to Kopenhagen:  World War One prisoner-of-war envelopes/covers, despatched to the Danish Red Cross in Kopenhagen, from Russian prisoners in Germany or Poland.  They show the full details of the sender, prison camp, and even the barrack block, and would have contained letters in cyrillic that were sent onwards to their families and loved ones.  The display shows how the covers changed in their pre-printing over the five years of use.

World War One prisoner-of-war mail

World War One prisoner-of-war mail

Revenues:  A field of collecting now returning with a measure of revival in recent years.  Shown are Saar revenue stamps, and British revenue items including vehicle tax discs from the 1950s, a TV licence when it was just £3, and various Motor Ration Books from the 1973 oil crisis – prepared and issued, but fortunately not required.

A TV licence issued in 1960

A TV licence issued in 1960

Württemberg – Stuttgart Privat Post & other stories:  One of the highlights in this section is the postal stationery produced by Wilhelm Leopold for Stuttgart city post from 1888, in competition with the official German post.  Leopold’s attractive postcards were popular with the city inhabitants who were prepared to pay 3 pfennig for them instead of the usual 2 pfennig. When the German postal authorities decided to increase their rate to 3 pfennig, Leopold reduced his to 2 pfennig!

Stuttgart Privat Post postcard

Stuttgart Privat Post postcard

British Commonwealth – Queen Elizabeth II issues:  Mint stamps from Gambia, Sierra Leone and Swaziland are featured, the last two countries showing the use, or even over-use, of overprints on definitives sets.  A few covers to compete this section, including an air-mail letter from independent Rhodesia that was surcharged upon entry to Britain, as the Rhodesian independence was declared illegal.

A surcharged air-mail letter from independent Rhodesia

A surcharged air-mail letter from independent Rhodesia

Great Britain – Social/Open class & other stories:  Perhaps the most interesting and diverse area of philatelic and related material, most with a story to tell.  Included are items from a forced 5-year honeymoon, begun in June 1940 in Guernsey – a letter-card from the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic – hand-drawn Edwardian covers – and finally, a much-loved acrostic.   If like the writer originally was, you are unsure what an acrostic is, then I urge you to come to this PowerPoint talk and display on 22nd April and enjoy being well-informed and much entertained…

British prisoner of war post from Germany

British prisoner of war post from Germany

Dane Garrod will speak at the BPMA on 22nd April. For further information and booking details please visit our website.

New to our online catalogue

Over 4,000 descriptions were uploaded to the online catalogue last week, bringing the total of records available for public consultation to 87,635. The latest batch of records available include:

From the Royal Mail Archive

  • POST 109 – an additional 900 records of publicity artwork and designs;
  • POST 68 – 1250 records of rules and instructions;

From the Museum collection

  • Approximately 1800 descriptions of handstamps;
  • Approximately 120 descriptions of badges and buttons;
  • And an additional 69 book titles to the Search Room library.
One of David Langdon’s cartoons on safe driving

One of David Langdon’s cartoons on safe driving (POST 109/564)

The latest records show a great variety in the collections held by the BPMA. Handstamps were items in everyday use at post offices and sorting offices across the country and our collection includes a cross-section of the types of handstamps used. From special event handstamps, such as the Littlewoods Challenge Cup 1989 Wembley handstamp (2010-0033/2) to the local penny post handstamps, such as the Aycliffe handstamp from early –mid nineteenth century (2009-0334).

Post 109 new entries include David Langdon’s series of cartoon artwork on safe driving (POST 109/564-567) and Jan Lewitt and George Him’s artwork for “x-mas” postings (POST 109/602-605).

Post 68 includes a broad range of instructions, manuals, rule books and circulars from all areas of the Post Office. This series of records will prove interesting to anyone wishing to know more about Post Office operations and services. Some of these rules also contain a surprising wealth of personal and local information, such as the instructions for the postmaster of Garn Dolbenmaen (POST 68/920) which contain details about the postmen’s walk schedule in 1880.

Lord Bath, Tony Benn and Bath Postal Museum help to launch London 2010: Festival of Stamps

Lord Bath sends off a carrier pigeon with his message to Mr Tony Benn. Watching are the Mayor and Mayoress of Bath (left) with Audrey Swindells and Ivan Holliday of the Bath Postal Museum.

Lord Bath sends off a carrier pigeon with his message to Mr Tony Benn. Watching are the Mayor and Mayoress of Bath (left) with Audrey Swindells and Ivan Holliday of the Bath Postal Museum. (Photo: Bath Postal Museum)

by Colin Baker, Bath Postal Museum

On 23rd March the Marquess of Bath, a patron of the Bath Postal Museum, despatched a message by carrier pigeon from outside the Guildhall in the centre of Bath to Tony Benn in London. Lord Bath’s message wished the London 2010: Festival of Stamps every success. Tony Benn was the ideal receiver of this message, being the last Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in Britain. The message was written on an original pigeongramme form as used in World War Two, which is very lightweight paper that weighed only one gram.

Lord Bath sends one of the pigeons on its way. The Mayor, Mayoress and some of the Trustees of the Bath Postal Museum follow its progress.

Lord Bath sends one of the pigeons on its way. The Mayor, Mayoress and some of the Trustees of the Bath Postal Museum follow its progress. (Photo: Bath Postal Museum)

It was more than a year ago that the Bath Postal Museum first suggested the idea of using a pigeon to send greetings to the organisers of the Festival of Stamps. The event was organised by the museum to complement their latest exhibition covering some of the major events in the reign of King George V. The exhibition will remain open to the public until the end of 2010.

Watching the release of the pigeons and making sure they were safely in the air were the Mayor and Mayoress of Bath, Councillor and Mrs Colin Barrett, with Trustees, Friends and volunteers of the Bath Postal Museum.

The 1935 Morris Minor postal van sets off from the Guildhall in Bath with its cargo of special event covers.

The 1935 Morris Minor postal van sets off from the Guildhall in Bath with its cargo of special event covers. (Photo: Bath Postal Museum)

The three pigeons had been received by pigeon trainer Trevor Cocks of Bath who with his son handed them to Lord Bath who launched each pigeon into the air. Three pigeons set off ensuring safe arrival. Lord Bath then waved off a 1930s Morris Minor Post Office vehicle owned and driven by Kevin Saville. There are only two of these period vehicles fully roadworthy and it was a privilege for the Bath Postal Museum to be able to use this one to carry some of its special commemorative envelopes.

The vintage Post Office vehicle was followed by a modern Post Office van provided by Royal Mail, Bath section, both vehicles representing early and modern post office vehicles. After the event all present were entertained by the Mayor and Mayoress in the Guildhall and then given a guided tour of the beautiful Mayor’s Parlour.

Tony Benn holding the pigeon that carried the message from Lord Bath. Watching from left to right, Brian Trotter & Alan Huggins (London 2010), Colin Baker (Bath Postal Museum) and Teddy Hendrie the pigeon’s owner.

Tony Benn holding the pigeon that carried the message from Lord Bath. Watching from left to right, Brian Trotter & Alan Huggins (London 2010), Colin Baker (Bath Postal Museum) and Teddy Hendrie the pigeon’s owner. (Photo: Michael Pitt-Payne)

The pigeon carrying the message from Lord Bath flew to its home loft in East London from where the message was taken and presented to Tony Benn by Ted Hendrie of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association. Tony Benn then passed the message to Brian Trotter – Chairman of the International Stamp Exhibition. Alan Huggins – Chairman of the Festival Advisory Board and Colin Baker from the Bath Postal Museum was also present to witness the receipt of the message. Colin Baker said “The way this pigeon message has been sent will show people how communication always played an important role in our society. Although there was no internet in King George V’s reign, the techniques used in his day were often faster than some of the methods we currently employ.”

The pigeongramme that was sent to Tony Benn wishing the London 2010: Festival of Stamps every success.

The pigeongramme that was sent to Tony Benn wishing the London 2010: Festival of Stamps every success. (Photo: Bath Postal Museum)

Tony Benn was particularly interested in the pigeon and the message it carried. He told the story of his grandfather who was the first pilot to parachute a spy behind enemy lines during the First World War. Dropping the spy was easy he said, they simply cut a hole in the floor of the plane which he slid through before opening his parachute. The spy took carrier pigeons with him, which he released over the next few days, with messages concerning enemy activities and other important information.

It may seem strange to us today to use a pigeon to send a message, but homing pigeons were used extensively in the past. During the siege of Paris in 1870 they were flown out of the city by hot air balloons and flew back after a suitable rest period carrying strips of microfilm with messages for the besieged Parisians. During the two world wars pigeons were used to carry messages between the front line and headquarters.

All RAF (Royal Air Force) bombers carried homing pigeons in the Second World War. For example a bird called ‘White Vision’ delivered a message bearing latitude and longitude details so that the RAF crew could be rescued. They were flying a Catalina Flying Boat which ditched over the Hebrides. This bird flew 60 miles in atrocious weather over heavy seas. It was awarded one of the 14 ‘Dickin Medals for Gallantry’ awarded to homing pigeons. In all 32 bravery medals were awarded to pigeons in the 2nd World War.

A day out with a difference

The BPMA's travelling exhibition for regional stamps shows

The BPMA's travelling exhibition for regional stamps shows

by Jennifer Flippance, 2010 Exhibitions & Project Manager

Why not try something a bit different this year?  All over the UK, as part of the London 2010: Festival of Stamps, member federations of the ABPS (Association of British Philatelic Societies) are holding special stamp shows.  

The first of these, WestBex10, takes place this Saturday, 27 March, at Thatcham in Berkshire.  Click here for full details of the show. 

Click here to read about my enjoyable visit to WestBex in 2009

The next special show is the 81st Scottish Congress in Perth, 16-17 April.  Click here for full details

These regional shows feature a wide range of activities with a broad appeal.  You can browse the dealers’ stands, attend a local society meeting or view the fascinating displays and some shows also have activities for children.

One highlight at many will be the valuation roadshow.  Do you have old stamp collection at home? Perhaps you inherited it from a relative. Why not bring it to be valued by the experts on hand during the day?

The BPMA Award for Favourite Stamp Display in Show

The BPMA Award for Favourite Stamp Display in Show

The BPMA has been getting involved by developing a small display and also sponsoring a rather unusual competition.  At each show, the winner of the ‘BPMA Award’ will be chosen by you, the visitors.  Everyone who attends will receive a voting slip to nominate their favourite stamp display at the show.  The winner of this public vote will receive this handsome trophy, engraved with the London 2010 logo.

Almost all the shows have free entry and many also have free parking.  Refreshments are available to buy.

For the full listing of 19 shows and details of what you can expect from each, click here http://www.london2010.org.uk/abps

The Association of British Philatelic Societies is the national organisation catering for the needs of federations, societies, collectors and others interested in stamps and philately throughout the British Isles.

To learn more and find out about events or your local society visit http://www.abps.org.uk or contact John Baron, Chairman – Executive Committee:  baronial@btconnect.com or 01235 832907.

House of Stewarts

The reigning British monarch has appeared on stamps since their introduction in 1840, but over the past couple of years Royal Mail has ensured that some of those monarchs who ruled before postal reform have also been commemorated. Following last year’s House of Tudor commemoratives and the Houses of Lancaster and York stamps of 2008 comes today’s new release, the House of Stewarts. 

House of Stewarts stamps: (left to right) James I, James II, James III, James IV, James V, Mary, James VI

House of Stewarts stamps: (left to right) James I, James II, James III, James IV, James V, Mary, James VI

The House of Stewart was founded in the late 14th Century by Robert II of Scotland. The Stewarts were monarchs of Scotland from 1371 to 1603, and Monarchs of Great Britain and Ireland from 1603 to 1714.

The House of Stewarts stamps commemorate the seven Stewart monarchs who reigned from 1406 to 1625. This period was significant in Scottish history and saw Scotland transformed from a poor, feudal country into a wealthy modern state which would eventually unite with the rest of the nations of the British Isles.

This era of progress is marked by the four commemoratives which appear in The Age of the Stewarts miniature sheet, marking the foundation of Scotland’s first university, St Andrews, in 1413; the granting of a Royal Charter to the College of Surgeons in 1505; the formalisation of the Court of Session in 1532; and the Reformation of the Church of Scotland (also known as the Presbyterian Church) in 1559.

The Age of the Stewarts miniature sheet

The Age of the Stewarts miniature sheet with stamps for St Andrews University, the College of Surgeons, the Court of Session, and the Reformation of the Church of Scotland.

King James I and Bible (Authorised version of the Bible) stamp, released in 1999 as part of The Christians’ Tale.

King James I and Bible (Authorised version of the Bible) stamp, released in 1999 as part of The Christians’ Tale.

Among the other key events of the House of Stewart period was the translation of the Bible into English. This became known as the King James Bible, and was commemorated on a stamp in 1999. The translation is named after the reigning monarch of the time James I of England and Ireland. James I succeeded Elizabeth I to the throne upon her death in 1603, but from 1567 had been James VI of Scotland. As the first of the Stuart Kings of England, James I will also be included in the House of Stuarts stamps to be released on 15th June.

Scottish Lamp Box, 1974-1976

Scottish Lamp Box, 1974-1976 (OB1994.17)

James I of England/James VI of Scotland is not the only monarch to have caused confusion to someone exploring the complex regal history of Britain. While the current Queen is Elizabeth II of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in Scotland she is technically Elizabeth I. As a result letter boxes and postal vehicles in Scotland do not bear her cipher, ERII, but the Scottish crown.

The House of Stewart stamps area available from the Royal Mail website.

Britain’s Postal Heritage

Bettina Trabant, Postal Heritage Officer at Bruce Castle Museum, will speak at the BPMA on 8th April. The focus of her talk will be Bruce Castle’s postal history collection, some of which has been highlighted on this blog in recent months.

An embroidered Valentines Day card from Bruce Castle's postal history collection

An embroidered Valentines Day card from Bruce Castle's postal history collection

The BPMA is currently working with Bruce Castle and the Communications Worker’s Union (CWU) to widen access to the Morten Collection, collected by former postal worker W.V. Morten. When Morten died in the 1920’s the Union of Communication Workers (now the CWU) recognised the importance of the collection and purchased it. Since then it has been housed at Bruce Castle, expanding from 8,000 items to more than 30,000.

Highlights of the Bruce Castle Museum Postal History Collection include material related to the TPO (Travelling Post Office), mail coaches, trade union history, stamps, Valentines cards, and Sir Rowland Hill, who at one point lived at Bruce Castle where he was headmaster of a school. The oldest object in the collection is a letter from Normandy sent in 1397.

Bettina Trabant’s talk is free and booking details can be found on our website.

Valued volunteer and postal historian retires

Recently one of our most highly valued volunteers, Mike Bament, retired, hanging up his tweezers for the last time. Mike has been volunteering at the BPMA for more than 20 years and is also a well-known postal historian.

This is the earliest recorded example of a mileage mark, 65 ARUNDEL, struck on a letter sent to Horsham in Sussex on 1st October 1784. The BB stands for By-Bag.

This is the earliest recorded example of a mileage mark, 65 ARUNDEL, struck on a letter sent to Horsham in Sussex on 1st October 1784. The BB stands for By-Bag.

The study of postal markings is often called “postal history”. Postal markings include datestamps, rate markings and indications of the origin, route and arrival of mail. With more modern mail they also show evidence of automatic cancelling and sorting. The BPMA’s extensive collections cover all these, as well as more than 200 albums dating from before and after the introduction of the first adhesive postage stamp in 1840, including entire letters, covers, envelopes, postcards and postal stationery.

Before the advent of airmail all British mail going abroad, and coming from abroad, had to travel by sea. The earliest known handstamps were not recorded until early in the eighteenth century when the first handstruck stamps were issued by the General Post Office indicating that mail had arrived by sea.

A letter sent from Liverpool to New York in 1841

A letter sent “pr Britannia” from Liverpool to New York on 19th April 1841. The postage was ‘PAID AT / LIVERPOOL’ where the BCC type 60 framed handstamp with chamfered corners and dated was struck in red. This type of handstamp is found on some maritime mail from about 1840 to 1850.

One of Mike Bament’s recent projects has been to compile postal history material, which have then been digitised for the BPMA website, making them accessible to more people.

The latest listings went online recently and consist of four postal reform listings: Ship Letters, India Letters, ‘Paid at’ Stamps and Postal Reform. This is a continuation of the project which saw postal history items for the listings Penny Posts (including 5th Clause Posts), Mileage Marks and Missent Marks go online early last year.

Mike Bament has contributed invaluable work to the BPMA throughout the years, and he will be greatly missed. His work has and will continue to increase access to BPMA’s unique collections, and will be of great benefit to postal historians researching these subjects.

Would you like to volunteer at the BPMA? Visit http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/support/volunteer/ to find out more.