Monthly Archives: July 2010

Ronald Maddox on illustrating Britain

 In the 70s and 80s artist Ronald Maddox travelled throughout the United Kingdom making drawings and paintings for the Post Office, Royal Mail and BT. The resulting images later appeared on stamps, first day covers, posters, aerogrammes, telephone directories and stamp books. In a talk given here in May, Ronald Maddox reflected on more than two decades of work. This talk is now available on our podcast.

Village Churches, 1972

Village Churches, 1972

One of Ronald Maddox’s best known stamp issues is the Village Churches set from 1972. Initially Maddox made drawings of around 50 churches before the final five were settled on. This being the first stamp issue he had designed, he recalled his excitement at visiting the stamp printers Harrisons and seeing the stamps come off press. Maddox was also interested to read a recent article in The Independent reporting that samples of the Village Churches stamps, printed on different paper stock to the issued stamps and encased in a Perspex block, are now worth £500 each.

Holyroodhouse stamp from British Architecture issue, 1978

Holyroodhouse stamp from British Architecture issue, 1978

In other stamp issues he designed, Maddox found that the Queen and politicians took a great interest in his work. When she saw the British Architecture (1978) designs, the Queen is said to have asked why the artist removed the hedges from the view of Holyroodhouse.

Garden Festival Hall, Liverpool stamp from the Urban Renewal issue, 1984

Garden Festival Hall, Liverpool stamp from the Urban Renewal issue, 1984

A few years later when Maddox was working on the Urban Renewal (1984) stamps he found that Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine kept in touch with him throughout the design process, urban renewal being a hot topic at that time.

Another interesting commission for Maddox was designing a mural for Liverpool Head Post Office. The mural shows many of Liverpool’s landmark buildings, and the boats, trains and other methods of transport used by Royal Mail at the time.

Ronald Maddox's mural for Liverpool Head Post Office (Photo courtesy Ronald Maddox)

Ronald Maddox's mural for Liverpool Head Post Office (Photo courtesy Ronald Maddox)

The BPMA podcast is available from http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast.

Olympics Stamps 2010

In the lead up to the London 2012 Games Royal Mail is issuing 30 stamps, each showcasing an Olympic or Paralympic sport. The second set of 10 stamps is available from today.

London 2012 Olympics stamps - set 2 (2010)

London 2012 Olympics stamps - set 2 (2010)

Apart from the contemporary look of this issue (each stamp is designed by a different artist), what makes it so interesting is the range of sports covered. Modern pentathlon, taekwondo, goalball and BMX cycling all make their debut on a British stamp, while many of the other sports featured appear for the only the second time ever.

13th Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh & World Hockey Cup for Men, London stamps (1986)

13th Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh & World Hockey Cup for Men, London stamps (1986)

Several previous sets of stamps, issued for the Commonwealth or Olympic Games, have covered a wide range of sports, but none have ever included a Paralympic sport. Indeed, people with disabilities have rarely featured on British stamps – the International Year of the Disabled stamps being one of the few exceptions.

International Year of the Disabled=

International Year of the Disabled stamps (1981)

The first London 2012 set featured Paralympic equestrian and archery, along with boccia, a version of bocce for athletes with physical disabilities. This new set of stamps features Paralympic rowing, table tennis and goalball.

Goalball was developed for blind and partially sighted players, and sees two teams of three competing to throw a ball into their opponents’ goal. A bell inside the ball enables the players to hear its location. In the stamp designed by Tobatron, the bell inside the ball is neatly shown by giving the goalball a speech bubble.

First Day of Issue postmarks for London 2012 stamps (2010)

First Day of Issue postmarks for London 2012 stamps (2010)

The British Olympic and Paralympic teams hope to do well at the London 2012 Games, and quotes from boxer Luke Campbell and goalball player Anna Sharkey appear on the first day of issue postmarks which accompany this issue.

The Olympic and Paralmypic Games stamps are available from Royal Mail Stamps & Collecting.

The real Winslow Boy

The biggest story in the British press 100 years ago today centred on a High Court case brought by the family of George Archer-Shee, a teenage naval cadet who had been expelled from Osborn Naval College two years previously for stealing a postal order valued at 5 shillings.

The grounds for George Archer-Shee’s expulsion were largely circumstantial. On 7th October 1908 he was granted permission to leave the grounds of the College and visit the local Post Office in order to purchase a postal order and a stamp, with which to buy a model train costing 15/6. Upon his return it was reported that a postal order for 5 shillings, which had been received earlier that day by fellow cadet Terence Back, had been stolen.

Local Post Office clerk Annie Tucker was summoned, and she produced the cashed postal order in Back’s name and stated that only two cadets had visited the Post Office that afternoon – and that the same cadet who had purchased the 15/6 postal order had cashed the 5 shilling order. On that basis Archer-Shee was expelled.

Martin Archer-Shee, George’s father, did not believe that his son had stolen Back’s postal order and began a defence of his honour. Prominent barrister Sir Edward Carson was engaged, and on 26th July 1910 the case finally came to the High Court.

Within the Royal Mail Archive we hold papers relating to the Archer-Shee case in POST 30/1652B. Amongst these papers are records of all postal orders purchased and cashed at Osborn Post Office on 7th October, and the 15/6 and 5 shilling postal orders, which were saved from destruction in order to be presented as evidence in court.

Postal order for 15/6 purchased by George Archer-Shee

Postal order for 15/6 purchased by George Archer-Shee

5 shilling postal order stolen from Terrence Back

5 shilling postal order stolen from Terrence Back

Also in the file are records of interviews with Post Office staff, and correspondence between Martin Archer-Shee and the Post Office, in which Archer-Shee asks permission to view the original postal orders.

Martin Archer-Shee’s determination to clear his son’s name was characterised in the press as a David and Goliath battle, in which a small boy of good reputation was unfairly expelled from the College by the Naval establishment. It is a story which has remained in the public memory, largely due to Terrence Rattigan’s 1946 play The Winslow Boy, which was inspired by the Archer-Shee case.

The Winslow Boy has been filmed twice, in 1948 and 1999, and is regularly performed on the stage. Several years ago the BPMA was asked to assist some theatre producers by providing a facsimile of a postal order of the period; we went one better – we sent them a facsimile of the original.

Thanking our volunteers

by Adrian Steel, Director 

BPMA invited all its volunteers to a reception on Wednesday evening to say ‘thank you’ for all the hours of time and effort given willingly and free of charge to help in our work.

Volunteering England define volunteering as:

…any activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or someone (individuals or groups) other than, or in addition to, close relatives. Central to this definition is the fact that volunteering must be a choice freely made by each individual. This can include formal activity undertaken through public, private and voluntary organisations as well as informal community participation.

At BPMA we think there is a lot more to it than conveyed by this simple definition. Volunteering should mean something to the individual concerned; we know it does to those who come here to BPMA. It should be enjoyable, there should be some feeling of achievement or progress as a result of what is done. A volunteer should feel part of a group, not just a lone individual. Above all a volunteer should feel appreciated.

BPMA is well aware that volunteers can make a difference to our organisation, and we’re hoping to extend both the number of volunteers we work with and the range of things they do in the coming months. Our major plans for a new home at Swindon will present substantial opportunities for volunteering, including meeting our visitors and helping to explain the wealth of postal heritage we care for. Not only do volunteers do useful jobs in the short or long term for BPMA, they act as ambassadors for us and what we stand for. All volunteers who came to our event, and those that could not, are greatly appreciated by our organisation – thank you!

As a token of our thanks Julian Barker, BPMA Trustee, presented a gift and a ‘thank you’ certificate to everyone attending on the evening.

Don Staddon, who has been working with our philatelic collection for more than 20 years.

Don Staddon, who has been working with our philatelic collection for more than 20 years.

Richard West, a well known figure in British philately, is another long-serving BPMA volunteer.

Richard West, a well known figure in British philately, is another long-serving BPMA volunteer.

Birgit Kertscher, who came to the BPMA from the Museum of Ethnography, Dresden with the express desire of learning a British cataloguing system. She also undertook collection handling, working with part of our large collection of slogan dies.

Birgit Kertscher, who came to the BPMA from the Museum of Ethnography, Dresden with the express desire of learning a British cataloguing system. She also undertook collection handling, working with part of our large collection of slogan dies.

Glenn Morgan, who has most recently been working with the pillar box collection at our Museum Store.

Glenn Morgan, who has most recently been working with the pillar box collection at our Museum Store.

If you’re interested in volunteering at the BPMA find our more on out website.

Silverstone Innovation Centre Design Challenge

by Alison Norris, London 2010 Exhibitions & Festival Officer 

Last Thursday was the final of the Silverstone Innovation Centre Design Challenge, and I travelled up to Silverstone to take part in the judging for the day.

The racing circuit at Silverstone

The racing circuit at Silverstone

The BPMA became involved in the Challenge as this was the first year of the Stamp It Challenge. Primary school children (Key stage 2) were asked to design a stamp on the theme of travel. The winners were Joseph Brownlow and Harry Chinnock from Cawthorne Primary. We chose their design for their innovative and creative take on the theme. You can see their design, and explanation, in the images below.

The winning design of the Stamp It challenge

The winning design of the Stamp It challenge

The winning designers' explanation of the design

The winning designers' explanation of the design

Alison Norris with Stamp It winners Joseph Brownlow and Harry Chinnock from Cawthorne Primary

Alison Norris with Stamp It winners Joseph Brownlow and Harry Chinnock from Cawthorne Primary

Here are some examples of designs by runners–up.

Other designs submitted by students

Other designs submitted by students

The overall purpose of the Challenge is to encourage students to expand on the skills they learn in school, and take them to the workforce.

While Stamp It was aimed at Key Stage 2 pupils, the other Challenges were aimed at older groups. Key Stage 3 and 4 students submitted proposals under themes such as ‘What Ya Call It’ where they were required to design a new object, ‘Engineering Excellence’ asked them to create a new tourist attraction, and ‘Promo Puzzle’ challenged students to come up with an innovative marketing campaign for the 60th anniversary of Drayton Manor Park.

Stands created by students from Key Stages 3 and 4

Stands created by students from Key Stages 3 and 4

Following the first pre-judging earlier in the year, selected students came to the Final last Thursday. They presented their reworked proposals to the judges in a Dragon’s Den style day! We Dragons then had to score each presentation, and overall winners were presented with their prizes in an awards ceremony at the end of the day.

The trophies

The trophies

The day was an exciting one to be involved in, and I was constantly surprised by the quality of projects and ideas that the students had come up with. Hopefully next year will be even better!

Find out more about the Silverstone Design Challenge on their website.

Empire Mail: last chance to see

Our exhibition Empire Mail: George V and the GPO ends this Sunday after almost three months at the Guildhall Art Gallery. Putting together the exhibition was a huge undertaking for our curators and exhibitions team, as well as many others.

Empire Mail: George V and the GPO at the Guildhall Art Gallery

Empire Mail: George V and the GPO at the Guildhall Art Gallery

We were particularly pleased to work in partnership with the Royal Philatelic Collection – one of the greatest collections of stamps and postal history in the world – and to exhibit some of its treasures alongside our own.

Treasures from the Royal Philatelic Collection on display

Treasures from the Royal Philatelic Collection on display

While there are no plans to re-mount Empire Mail, we have now uploaded photos of the exhibition to Flicker, and you can continue to enjoy the online version of the exhibition on our website.

Philatelic Congress of Great Britain

The Philatelic Congress of Great Britain, one of the highlights of the British philatelic calendar, takes place in Kenilworth next week. Amongst the special guest speakers is our Curator of Philately Douglas Muir who will speak on the work of Bertram Mackennal, designer of stamps, coins and medals during the reign of King George V.

Bertram Mackennal’s “Seahorses” stamp design, issued 1913

Bertram Mackennal’s “Seahorses” stamp design, issued 1913

Bertram Mackennal’s most admired stamp design was for the “Seahorses” High Values, originally issued by the Post Office on 30th June 1913. This design was seen as revolutionary for its time, being the first British stamp to bear a pictorial illustration alongside the monarch’s head and the value. In many ways it can be said to be the pre-cursor to the first British commemorative stamp, issued to celebrate the opening of the British Empire Exhibition 11 years later.

Other speakers at this year’s Congress of Great Britain will also cover stamps and postal history from the era of George V. In addition there will be a number of static displays, society meetings and social events taking place throughout the three-day event.

The full programme of events and booking details for the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain can be found on the Association of British Philatelic Societies website.