by Jennifer Flippance, 2010 Exhibitions & Project Manager
Empire Mail: George V and the GPO, hosted by Guildhall Art Gallery, in the heart of the City of London, is the BPMA’s flagship exhibition for the London 2010: Festival of Stamps, produced in conjunction with the Royal Philatelic Collection.
The exhibition explores the reign of King George V (1910 – 1936), an era of conflict, change and innovation. Investigate the passions of the ‘philatelist king’, alongside the extraordinary period of design and creativity in the General Post Office during the period.
Displays include some of the rarest and most valuable stamps in the world alongside vehicles, pillar boxes, posters and pioneering works from the GPO Film Unit. Empire Mail: George V and The GPO will explore themes from the King’s reign such as innovations in mail transportation, the first Atlantic air crossing, the rise of graphic design in the 1920s and 1930s, and the impact of conflict.
The items on display are sourced from the unique and complementary collections of the BPMA and the Royal Philatelic Collection. These include a sheet of unused Edward VII Tyrian Plum stamps plus the only one known to have been used – sent on an envelope to George V on 5 May 1910 when he was Prince of Wales and arriving the day he became King following the death of his father.
There are many gems from King George V’s own collection, including two examples of the famous Post Office Mauritius stamp, among them an unused 2d, bought by the King when Prince of Wales in 1904 for the then record sum of £1,450.
Other highlights include: items and original film footage from the 1911 Coronation Aerial Post; original stamp artwork for the first ever UK commemorative stamp produced for the 1924/5 Wembley Empire Exhibition; the only Victoria Cross won by the Post Office Rifles during the First World War; mail carried on pioneering (successful and unsuccessful) transatlantic air crossings; and objects and images from the Post Office Underground Railway.
The BPMA’s fully restored blue airmail pillar box will be seen in public for the first time, alongside other pillar boxes of the period and vehicles, including a 1945 Morris “Red Van” in George V livery and a 1933 BSA motorcycle.
As an added attraction, between 8–15 May, there will be regular demonstrations by staff from the security printers Enschedé, who will be printing reproductions of the 1929 PUC £1 on an intaglio press.
A series of free lunchtime talks will also take during the exhibition’s run.
- Wednesday 12th May, 1.00-1.45pm – Meet the Curator, with BPMA Curator of Philately Douglas Muir.
- Wednesday 19th May, 1.00-1.45pm – Gems of the Royal Philatelic Collection, with Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection Michael Sefi.
- Wednesday 26th May, 1.00-1.45pm – Air mail boxes of King George V, with BPMA Assistant Curator Julian Stray.
- Wednesday 16th June, 1.00-1.45pm – The combination pillar boxes of 1931, with BPMA Assistant Curator Julian Stray.
- Wednesday 21st June, 1.00-1.45pm – Construction and rise of the Post Office (London) Underground Railway, with BPMA Curator Chris Taft
- Wednesday 30 June, 1.00-1.45pm – Meet the Curator, the BPMA Curator of Philately Douglas Muir.