Monthly Archives: May 2010

New records available via our online catalogue

Don’t be a programme pirate

Don’t be a programme pirate (POST 110/4328)

Following an upload to our online catalogue earlier today, we’ve increased the amount of records searchable via our online catalogue to 89,240 – an increase of over 1500 descriptions of objects, documents, photographs and philatelic material.

These new descriptions include additional records of POST 110: Printed Publicity Material. Many of these new records describe posters placed in post offices advertising the latest stamp issues and posters for telephone kiosks advertising a variety of services, including Post Office Savings Bank.

As I grow, My savings will grow. Save regularly with the Savings Bank

As I grow, My savings will grow. Save regularly with the Savings Bank (POST 110/4329)

One telephone kiosk poster in particular tells users ‘Don’t be a programme pirate”, while another (POST 110/4329), showing a young child’s face, declares “As I grow, My savings will grow. Save regularly with the Savings Bank”. Post 110 also includes a sizeable collection of education posters from the 1980s which were aimed for classroom use.

Over 300 descriptions of King George V Registration Sheets have also been added. These comprise of low value Photogravures and Overprints. Many of the overprints were for use in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now modern-day Botswana.

Harrison and Sons in 1934 pioneered the use of the photogravure printing process in Britain. It introduced high-speed production and reduced the overall cost. The original designs were based on photographs meaning a new issue could reach the printing cylinder stage much quicker than preparing printing plates by the typographic process.

KGV ½d green photogravure, booklet panes of six, imperforate 1935 Jul 26 (POST 150/KGV/B/1557)

KGV ½d green photogravure, booklet panes of six, imperforate 1935 Jul 26 (POST 150/KGV/B/1557)

Search the BPMA catalogue at

‘Centuries of Innovation and Industry’ at Royal Mail Letters

An early pillar box on display at Rathbone Place

An early pillar box on display at Rathbone Place

by Emma Harper, Cataloguer (Collections)

Recently a small display of objects from the BPMA’s collection was installed in the new reception area of Royal Mail Letters at Rathbone Place. Rathbone Place is a busy mail centre and this hopefully means that the display will be seen by many people, both from within Royal Mail itself as well as any external visitors to the building.

On their website Royal Mail describe themselves as having ‘centuries of innovation and industry making our business what it is today’ and it is this theme that we have taken as the basis for the display. This includes looking at ‘First Innovations’ such as the introduction of the Penny Post, letter boxes and standard time; a section entitled ‘From Land to Sky’ charting the many different forms of transport that have been used to carry mail; and, linked to this, ‘Mail by Rail’ concentrating on the Post Office underground railway (aka Mail Rail) that connected sorting offices in London to mainline railway stations.

Emma Harper installs objects at Royal Mail Letters, Rathbone Place

Emma Harper installs objects at Royal Mail Letters, Rathbone Place

Highlights of the objects on display include a model Mail Coach, a Mail Guard’s timepiece, a railway sign that used to hang on the Post Office railway station at Rathbone Place and an early example of a letter box. We hope these objects will not only show how important Royal Mail’s heritage is, but also promote our role in preserving and presenting their long history. It is for this reason that we are always pleased to work with Royal Mail on displays such as this and hope that it will be enjoyed by those who see it.

Discover Session: King George V A-Z

by Vyki Sparkes, Assistant Curator 

King George V

King George V

Take three curators, a museum collection, 26 letters and a royal reign…. Inspired by the former Royal Mail advertising campaign, ‘Think of a Letter’, the museum curators have decided to tell the story of the Post Office during the reign of King George V through the 26 letters of the alphabet.

On the 10th June we will be holding a special, one-off Discover session at our Museum Store. Like all our Discover events, this is an in-depth session which gives you the rare chance to get close to some of our fantastic museum objects. Even if you have visited one of our open days before, you are bound to see and learn something new from our collection.

Use the Air Mail the Fastest Mail, designed by Frank Newbould

Use the Air Mail the Fastest Mail, designed by Frank Newbould

Massive social upheaval marked the reign of George V, such as the First World War, the Easter uprising, enfranchisement of women and the Great Depression. The Post Office also underwent huge change, from the takeover of the telephone system and development of airmail to the first commemorative stamps and the rise of public relations. In exploring this period through the letters of the alphabet, we hope to provide a fun yet informative session – expect a bit of friendly competition between Julian, Chris and myself as we see who will keep you most enlightened and entertained.

What will we do for each letter, especially the dreaded last three? You can probably guess that A will be for Airmail, but what about X, Y or Z? We can tell you that they won’t be for Xmas broadcast, a tradition started by King George V, Ypres, a battlefield in the First World War or Zeppelinpost. Find out what we decide is the best use of all the letters by coming along.

For more information and to book your place on the Discover Session please see our website.

Notes from the Colne Valley Postal History Museum curator’s workshop

by Steve Wright, Colne Valley Postal History Musuem

With just over a week to go before our first Open Day as part of London 2010: Festival of Stamps, it has been a frantic all-hands-on-deck time to get things ready here at Colne Valley Postal Museum.

The restoration of our 1935 Jubilee Telephone Kiosk has not proceeded as far as I would have liked and it now looks unlikely that it will be on site and complete by May 29th; hopefully it will all be here in time for our second Open Day on 10th July. This was caused by one of the key restorers being stranded in Spain by volcanic dust – which lost us two weeks in the schedule.

Telegraph head at Colne Valley Postal History Museum

Telegraph head at Colne Valley Postal History Museum

The good news is that a third large telegraph pole has arrived and been erected, and fitted with new arms to display 14 different types of insulators from our collection. Together with the two existing poles, this brings to 27 the total of different types of telegraph insulator on display. It also allowed another, different, George V notice plate to be displayed on the correct type of pole. Ultimately, the poles will allow the Push Button A mechanism in the restored kiosk to be connected to the national network. All the poles have been shortened to allow our visitors to get a good view of the signage and pole furniture that would normally be 22 feet above us!

Colne Valley Postal History Museum's Type D pillar box, 1932

Colne Valley Postal History Museum's Type D pillar box, 1932

On the post box front, our Type D pillar of 1932 has now been fitted with a second enamel notice plate – the vertical format “coin drop” notice – and has also been fitted with a Type F booklet dispensing mechanism. This will be operational, sadly at the rate of 50 pence instead of 2d – on the day. Our other George V boxes are being cleaned or repainted and a very special project is lined up for a spare GR wall box we have – watch this space!

Two more vintage Stamp Vending Machines have been restored – one from the early reign of George V. This was shown and demonstrated successfully during our visit to the Post Office Vehicles Club rally in April and it will be available and working on the Open Days for visitors to try. It is believed to date from 1912-1915 and is an original Kermode mechanism.

The Philatelic element has not been forgotten and the displays on the day will feature enlargements of some of the best-known designs from the King George V reign together with our own extensive displays of Seahorse high values overprinted for use abroad: pages from Nauru, British Bechuanaland, Bechuanaland Protectorate, Levant, Morroco, Tangier and the Irish Free State will be on display.

Colne Valley Postal History Museum will be open on 29th May, 10th July and 11th and 12th September 2010, and by appointment to groups. For further information on the open days please see the London 2010: Festival of Stamps website.

Morten Collection Object of the Month: May 2010 – Stamps from Weimar Germany

Each month, for ten months, we’ll be presenting an object from the Morten Collection on this blog. The Morten Collection is a nationally important postal history collection currently held at Bruce Castle, Tottenham.

As part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project, Pistols, Packets and Postmen, the BPMA, Bruce Castle Museum and the Communication Workers Union (the owner of the Collection) are working together to widen access to and develop educational resources for the Morten Collection.

If you have any comments on the objects or the Collection we’d be grateful to hear them. At the end of the ten months we hope we’ll have given you an overview of the Collection, highlighting individual items but also emphasising the diverse nature of the material. For further information on the Morten Collection, please see our blog of 16th December 2009.

by Bettina Trabant, Postal Heritage Officer, Bruce Castle Museum

The Weimar Republic is the period in German history between the end of WWI and the coming to power of Hitler in 1933. Weimar society was characterised by great political instability, violence and strikes. There were eight elections in its short 15 year life span, and over 16 different political parties, including five different liberal parties, standing for parliament.

Inflation was extremely high due to an increase in money since the start of WWI and reparation payments agreed with the Allies (as part of the Treaty of Versailles) after the war ended. By 1923 the German Mark was practically worthless due to new credits that were taken out in order to continue making reparations payments and to provide social security benefits for striking workers. Compounding the problem was that due to the strike Germany had no goods to trade with.

In 1922, 1000 Marks was the highest bank note, but by 1923 the highest bank note was One Billion Marks. People would be paid daily and go shopping daily as money became worthless the next day. The crisis ended in November 1923 when Germany underwent currency reform and introduced the Rentenmark.

In our collection at Bruce Castle we have an example of how the German Post Office dealt with the inflation crisis. A window printed envelope from the Portugisisches Handeskontor in Hamburg from 1923 contains five 400 Mark stamps on the front, overprinted to valued them at 800,000 Marks, and twenty 100 Mark stamps on the reverse, overprinted to value them at 100,000 Marks.

Envelope from Weimar Germany with five 400 Mark stamps on the front overprinted to valued them at 800,000 Marks

Envelope from Weimar Germany with five 400 Mark stamps on the front overprinted to valued them at 800,000 Marks

Envelope from Weimar Germany with twenty 100 Mark stamps on the reverse, overprinted to value them at 100,000 Marks

Envelope from Weimar Germany with twenty 100 Mark stamps on the reverse, overprinted to value them at 100,000 Marks

Overprinting to change the value of stamps is not unique to Weimar Germany, it has happened in many other parts of the world, including some British colonies.

Stick it in the family album – Part 2

by Adrian Steel, Director 

My examination of the stamp albums left by my late Grandfather, Frank Steel, has continued recently, inspired by the International Stamp Exhibition at the Business Design Centre, part of London 2010: Festival of Stamps. I have found the special stamps issued for the 1970 and 1980 international shows in his albums and have taken a look at what I can find out about them.

The 1970 event, Philympia, took place in September of that year, and in the Royal Mail Archive posters advertising the event, showing the venue and the special stamps, survive. A second poster reminds us that (as this year) partnership led to items from the Royal Philatelic Collection being shown, and an exhibition from the Post Office’s collection of ‘Historic Treasures’. BPMA also holds the slogan die for the commemorative cancellation from 1970, and a medal from the event. My grandfather collected all three special stamps in ‘mint’ condition, and a number of the 5d value used, as the page from his album shows.

Stamps from Philympia 1970 from Frank Steel's stamp album

Stamps from Philympia 1970 from Frank Steel's stamp album

In 1980 the exhibition took place at Earl’s Court and a special stamp issue designed by Jeffery Matthews was produced. It now took place in May, opening on 6 May, the 140th anniversary of the first use of the 1d black. A copy of the catalogue for the event is held in the BPMA library, and among the posters in the Royal Mail Archive is one promoting the special stamp. Information about the issue can also be found elsewhere on the web. My grandfather collected the 50p stamp though not a miniature sheet as far as I can see; I cannot see any of the colour variations hinted at by the author of the last article linked to.

Jeffrey Matthew's stamps for the 1980 London International Stamp exhibition as they appear in Frank Steel's stamp album

Jeffrey Matthew's stamps for the 1980 London International Stamp exhibition as they appear in Frank Steel's stamp album

This year commemorative issues have centred upon King George V, the 100th anniversary of his accession to the throne being marked on 6th May. No doubt other collectors are following in my grandfather’s footsteps and gathering stamps, and more, related to the 2010 event.

Solihull Stamp Fair & Midland Philatelic Federation Spring Convention

by John H Barker, Solihull Philatelic Society

Visitors to this third Regional event organised by members of the Association of British Philatelic Societies came to Solihull on a warm sunny day to enjoy the spirit of London 2010: Festival of Stamps.

Brian Goodey, Chairman of the Trustees of the British Postal Museum & Archive opened the Fair with words of encouragement to collectors about the Festival of Stamps and how it is providing a stimulus for organised philately in the UK. Brian outlined some of the developments at the BPMA in its search for new premises. After much thought and careful evaluation, a decision has been made to focus on siting the new premises in the old chain testing works at Swindon.

John Smith, winner of the aerophilately class

John Smith, winner of the aerophilately class

19 competitive exhibits were on display, each of 16 sheets. Awards were presented by John Baron, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the ABPS to John Smith of Solihull who won best in show with his aerophilatelic exhibit of ‘DLH South America’ with Laurance Kimpton, also of Solihull, coming a close second with ‘The RAF Cairo – Baghdad Airmail Service’.

Clive Jones, who won the Postal History class with ‘Halifax Postal History’

Clive Jones, who won the Postal History class with ‘Halifax Postal History’

Clive Jones, Solihull, won the Postal History class with ‘Halifax Postal History’, Chris Jackson, Redditch, won the Open class with ‘ The Fishing Industry in Redditch’, John Smith, Solihull, won the Traditional class with ‘British Somaliland’ and David Gabe, Loughborough, won the Thematic class with ‘Mathematics and Philately’.

Tony Whitehead won the popular vote with GB GV Postal Orders

Tony Whitehead won the popular vote with GB GV Postal Orders

A popular vote by visitors to the Fair for the BPMA Open Trophy resulted in Tony Whitehead of Solihull taking the Trophy with his entry on GB GV Postal Orders and Colin Searle, also of Solihull, coming second.

The British Thematic Association held a successful workshop during the morning and the Great Britain Philatelic Society and Midlands (GB) Postal History Society both held meetings in the afternoon. A steady stream of members of the public brought in collections for valuation by Tony Lester, Auctioneers who kindly supported the event.  John Davies provided a Stamp Active Network table for younger visitors attending the Fair.

The Solihull Philatelic Society starts a new season in September with meetings every Tuesday evening at the Solihull Cricket and Tennis Club, Marsh Lane, Solihull. Our excellent Library, club packets and auctions provide members with support for their collecting interests. New members and visitors are always welcome.

For further details visit or contact Paul Woodness on 01564 776879.

Illustrating Britain and Stamp Design

Designer and illustrator Ronald Maddox has worked extensively for the Post Office and Royal Mail, designing stamps, stamp book covers, first day covers, presentation packs, posters and charts. On 27th May Ronald Maddox will speak at the BPMA about the design process, and many of the designs and artworks he has completed over the years.

After studying at London College of Printing and Graphic Art, and Regents Street Polytechnic School of Art, Ronald Maddox joined the RAF for National Service as a Designer/Artist in the Air Ministry Design Unit. Since then he has been working as a freelance artist, designer, consultant and illustrator. Maddox is President of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours and a specialist in this medium, and has exhibited regularly in London and provincial exhibitions, including at the Royal Academy and the Mall Galleries, and has had several one-man shows.

Ronald Maddox’s stamps and posters typically feature British architecture, rural life and countryside. A 1964 Post Office recruitment poster designed by Maddox shows Post Office vans driving through a rural village and a modern city centre.

A 1964 Post Office recruitment poster

A 1964 Post Office recruitment poster designed by Ronald Maddox

Two years later Maddox illustrated a poster on the importance of correct addressing with a painting of Capel Curig, in rural North Wales.

Poster advising on correct addressing designed by Ronald Maddox

Poster advising on correct addressing designed by Ronald Maddox

In 1971 both Maddox and Nicholas Jenkins were asked to submit designs for a stamp issue on Modern University Buildings. While Jenkins was the successful designer for these stamps, the Post Office was impressed with the quality of Maddox’s drawings and his meticulous research, and he was invited to design the 1972 stamp issue Village Churches, as well as the poster and first day cover for Modern University Buildings.

A poster advertising the Modern University Buildings stamp issue

A poster designed by Ronald Maddox advertising the Modern University Buildings stamp issue

For the Village Churches issue, Maddox originally presented more than 20 designs of rural churches, ensuring a wide range of architectural styles were represented. Eventually, five churches were selected for the set. Stuart Rose, Post Office Design Advisor at the time noted that “to condense six or seven hundred years of ecclesiastical architecture into five little stamps is no mean feat and Ronald Maddox has good reason to be proud of his achievement”. The Village Churches stamps became the first ever prints to receive a Design Council Award.

Village Churches stamp issue, 1972

Village Churches stamp issue, 1972

Other stamp issues designed by Ronald Maddox include British Architecture (1978), Urban Renewal (1984) and Industrial Archaeology (1989).

Further information and booking details for Illustrating Britain and Stamp Design can be found on our website.

British Postal Museum Store Open Weekend

This May bank holiday weekend (29-30th May) the BPMA Museum Store in Debden will be open to the public on both Saturday and Sunday for special events. Both days are free and all are welcome. The Store will be open from 10.00am until 4.00pm.

Last year’s Open Day at the StoreMini Curator Day, Saturday 29th May

Mini Curator Day will give young visitors the chance to act as curator for the day, learning about objects, how to care for them and how to explain what they are to others! Use white gloves in a handling session and create a ‘Mini Curator’ rosette to show others. Display your work as you see fit in our display area and enter the raffle to win a prize!

Craft Day, Sunday 30th May

The hugely successful and popular East London Craft Guerrilla will be in the Store from 12.00pm to help visitors create accessories and other crafted responses to items in the store, using textiles and paper to re-imagine our items in new ways.

Open Day 2010

The Guerrillas use recycled textiles in their work and we encourage you to bring along anything you would like to use in your piece. The Guerrillas are expert crafters who will be on hand to assist.

The Store is easy to find from Debden tube station (Central Line) or there is parking outside – it is located within Unit 7 of the Debden Industrial Estate on Lenthall Road, IG10 3UD.

Call us on 020 7239 2570 or email to let us know you are attending.

Britain Alone

Royal Mail has issued stamps commemorating many aspects of World War 2 in the past (you can see many of them in our online exhibition World War 2 in Stamps), but these have tended to focus on military personnel and military achievements. In a new set of stamps released today, entitled Britain Alone, Royal Mail pays tribute to those who stayed at home and kept the country running.

The Britain Alone stamps

The Britain Alone stamps

Civil defence organisations, and the work and sacrifices of ordinary civilians, were vital to Britain’s survival during the 2nd World War. To ensure an increase in food production, millions of women were called on to replace conscripted men on farms as part of the Women’s Land Army, members of which were commonly known as Land Girls.

In the cities and towns, groups of local volunteers, often First World War veterans, joined the Home Guard, who were ready to fight in the event of an enemy invasion. Also important were the Air Raid Wardens, who were responsible for enforcing a blackout during enemy bombing raids.

The Britain Alone issue sees all of these civilian organisations represented on British stamps for the first time, along with the many women who took on factory work during the war, and the Fire Service, who were particularly vital during the Battle of Britain.

Also commemorated, are wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, a man who is no stranger to British stamps, seen inspecting the Home Guard; the Royal Princesses, the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret (making her first appearance on a British stamp?), pictured making a morale boosting broadcast to the children of the Commonwealth; and some of the three million evacuees, many of them children, who were relocated to the countryside to be away from the bombs.

To accompany the British Alone issue is a miniature sheet commemorating the mass evacuation of Dunkirk, the nine day operation which saw more than 300,000 British, French, Canadian and Belgium troops, trapped on the beaches of western France by the advancing German army. A combination of destroyers, large ships and around 700 smaller ships, including fishing vessels, merchant ships, pleasure craft and lifeboats, ferried the troops to safety in Britain. This remarkable mobilisation is still remembered with pride, and was most recently evoked as a possible solution to the volcanic ash cloud crisis, which saw thousands of British tourists trapped in Europe.

Dunkirk miniature sheet, 2010

Dunkirk miniature sheet, 2010

Two pictorial ‘first day of issue postmarks’ have been produced to accompany Britain Alone, both of which feature famous propaganda slogans of the period. One of them, Keep Calm and Carry On, has recently become popular, appearing on merchandise and inspiring a recent advertising campaign for the Police.

Britain Alone first day of issue postmarks

Britain Alone first day of issue postmarks

A variety of Britain Alone products are available from Royal Mail.


Royal Mail have have released a video about the new Britain Alone stamps: