Monthly Archives: October 2010

Bertram Mackennal podcast

New to our podcast is a recent talk given by our Curator of Philately Douglas Muir, on the stamps, medals and coins of Bertram Mackennal.

Bertram Mackennal was an Australian sculptor who, amongst other things, worked on all definitive stamps issued during the reign of King George V. Douglas Muir’s talk gives an in-depth insight into the design and production process for these issues, and also looks at Mackennal’s work on coins and medals.

The podcast is free to download from www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast or iTunes

Douglas Muir’s book George V and the GPO: Stamps, Conflict and Creativity, can be purchased from our online shop.

Museum of the Post Office in the Community Receives Accreditation

by Chris Taft, Curator

The Museum of the Post Office in the Community, which is managed by The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA), has been awarded full Accreditation status. The Museum is situated on the Blists Hill Victorian Town site, at Ironbridge near Telford. This is a major achievement for the BPMA and one which all involved should feel justly proud of. The Museum is now an Accredited Museum, this is a reflection of the fact that the museum and its collections are cared for and the organisation governed to national standards set by the government agency for museums, the Museums Libraries and Archives council (MLA).

The Museum of the Post Office in the Community, Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge

The Museum of the Post Office in the Community, Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge

To become an Accredited Museum applicants must demonstrate good practice across a number of areas including access to the collections, visitor services, collections management and documentation, museum governance and good forward planning. The BPMA had to demonstrate it met these standards when applying to the scheme and the application was followed up by two site visits, one to Freeling House where the BPMA are based and one to the Museum at Blists Hill. The assessor looks closely at the management of the museum and ensures staff have a good awareness of best practice and use this when managing the collections. The application is then studied and considered by a panel made up of experience museum professionals. Ultimately the panel can award provisional status and recommend areas for improvement to allow full Accreditation to be achieved but for the BPMA the panel agreed that full Accreditation could be awarded. This is not something all museums can achieve.

For those that have been with us at the BPMA since the closure of the National Postal Museum this achievement comes on the back of something started back then. When the Museum closed it had provisional Registration status (Registration was the forerunner of Accreditation). This it held till earlier this year. Until the opening of the Museum of the Post office in the Community in October 2009 the BPMA were unable to demonstrate full achievement of the standard as it did not have the public facing museum. The Museum at Blists Hill answered this and it is through this site the Accreditation has been achieved.

The BPMA can use this achievement to help support funding applications and to show to potential sponsors that it can run an Accredited Museum.

Since its opening in October 2009 the Museum has proved very successful with over 100,000 visitors going through the door. Into 2011 the BPMA plans to capitalise on Accreditation and seek ways of running events in partnership with the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust who runs Blists Hill. The BPMA also plans to run some evaluation of the exhibition and seek ways to better promote the Museum.

Picture Post

The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) is proud to present Picture Post, an innovative community outreach project run in collaboration with Holborn Community Association, London, and Artsite Ltd, Swindon.

Family groups in both regions will work with artists and photographers to produce artistic responses to fascinating photographs from the BPMA collections.

During the 1930s-40s, the General Post Office (GPO) began using photography to support their newly established public relations activities. These promotional images were used in the Post Office magazine and on posters, travelling exhibitions and displays promoting the GPO.

Postman delivering mail to Kent hop farm, 1935 (POST 118/467)

Postman delivering mail to Kent hop farm, 1935 (POST 118/467)

The photographs show sorting clerks busy at work, fleets of motor vehicles, historic letter boxes, notable GPO buildings, engineers, travelling post offices and, of course, postmen and women delivering letters across Britain – from blitz-torn London to remote lighthouses.

In August 2010, the BPMA was one of four nationally important collections to benefit from the Designation Development Fund, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) council. The BPMA received £40,000 from the fund to improve conservation of the photographs, as well as access and understanding of its collections.

Picture Post was developed to increase access to the photography collection, and enable different groups to learn more about them, and postal history in general.

The London sessions are led by the BPMA in collaboration with staff and families from the Holborn Community Association and photographer Dan Salter. So far, these have involved using the museum handling collection of uniforms to recreate favourite photographs, and arts and crafts activities using photos for inspiration.

Choosing favourite photos

Choosing favourite photos

Charlie interpreting his favourite photo

Charlie interpreting his favourite photo

Rahim models postman's uniform

Rahim models postman's uniform

Dan setting up Charlie as Moses Nobbs the mail coach man

Dan setting up Charlie as Moses Nobbs the mail coach man

The artistic responses created by the families in the sessions will form part of a new travelling display, which will tour community spaces in London and Swindon during 2011.

Archive photos and images from the project can be viewed on Flickr

Painting of letter boxes during World War II

During World War II, the frequency of normal repainting of letter boxes, telephone kiosks, fire alarm posts etc was suspended. Each Head Postmaster was to decide what painting was necessary though they were expected to spend no more than a quarter of the normal, pre-war, amount on this.

Pillar box in Birkenhead painted with three white lines, 1938

Pillar box in Birkenhead painted with three white lines, 1938

A degree of over-enthusiasm was exhibited in Oxton, Birkenhead in 1938 when the local A.R.P. employed workmen to paint certain obstacles with white lines. The men painted a number of pillar boxes with three bands of white paint. It was reported that the “rapidly promoted sergeants of the sidewalk soon lost their military status” and the boxes were quickly restored to their normal peacetime colour scheme.

More official steps were soon taken to assist in the movement of vehicular traffic during ‘black-out’ conditions.  Local Authorities, acting on instructions from the Ministry of Home Security, applied bands of white paint or ‘other suitable distinguishing marks’ to trees, lamp posts, poles etc. bordering roads. The normal practice was for street objects to be painted with 6” white bands at 6” intervals to a height of 3’ from the ground. The decision on which objects required painting lay with the Local Authority and the Post Office gave authority for pillar boxes, police and fire alarm posts, telephone poles and telephone kiosks to also be painted with white paint if requested. However Local Authorities were advised that the Post Office preference was for just the plinths of pillar boxes to be painted white. If additional white paint was required, authority was given for the projecting rim of the cap to also be painted. Telephone kiosks types K2, K4 and K6 had bases painted white up to the bottom level of the glass panes. Kiosks K1 and K3 already featured stippled light paint and did not require further work. If local authorities pressed strongly for more extensive painting then this was permitted.

At first, Local Authorities were expected to pay for the white paint being applied, but from November 1944, instructions were issued that the Post Office would meet the cost of any white bands applied to Post Office property.

During the war the Post Office agreed with the Home Office that Local Authorities could, where they desired, paint the caps of pillar boxes with yellowish green, gas detector paint. It was thought that this would enable Air Raid Wardens to detect the presence of gas in the event of enemy raids. The Home Office issued instructions that this was not to be carried out until Local Authorities received notification ‘to complete Air Raid Precaution plans’. Regional Head Postmasters were informed by the Authority which boxes had been so painted. In response to tentative enquiry, in late 1944 the Post Office specifically stated that they were not considering the question of camouflage painting of letter boxes.

Sources:
BPMA  POST 78/311
BPMA POST 78/312
BPMA POST 78/313

BPMA POST 78/314
BPMA POST 56/23
, Post Office A.R.P. Manual VIII 13, 1940
Post Office Magazine November, 1938

Final two Festival of Stamps stamp shows

The last of the special London 2010: Festival of Stamps regional stamp shows are coming up…

Cornex 2010 – Cornwall Stamp Show, 23 October 2010

Organised by Cornwall Philatelic Federation

Free Admission

Venue:

Liskeard School and Community College
Luxstowe
Liskeard
Cornwall
PL14 3EA

Features:

  • Annual competition and fair
  • Dealers stands (18 dealers expected)
  • Competitive and non-competitive displays
  • Collections valued

 

Postal map of Bolton, 1824, from the Royal Mail Archive (POST 21/111)

Postal map of Bolton, 1824, from the Royal Mail Archive (POST 21/111)

 

North Western Stamp Show, 30 October, 10am-5pm

Organised by North-Western Philatelic Federation

Free Admission

Venue:

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic High School and Sports College
Chorley New Road
Horwich
BL6 6HW

Features:

  • Dealers stands (16 dealers expected)
  • Competitive and non-competitive displays
  • Open competition voted for by the public for the BPMA Award

Find out about other London 2010: Festival of Stamps events at www.london2010.org.uk

Cruchley’s Postal District Map, 1859

Each month we present 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.

This month, Bruce Robertson, a retired town planner from East London, who has been a volunteer working on the postal history collections at Bruce Castle Museum, chooses his favourite object:

Cruchley's Postal District Map, 1859

Cruchley's Postal District Map, 1859

“As a town planner interested in postal history, one of the postal maps was always going to be my favourite object.

Cruchley’s Postal District Map of 1859 was produced when Queen Victoria was on the throne. Rowland Hill’s postal reform, postage stamps, the Penny Black and universal Penny Postage – and District Post Offices – were all part of everyday life. The use of ‘the post’ had grown so much, and there used to be three or four deliveries a day. To aid the sorting of the mail, London had been divided into postal districts – the start of the post-code system we use today”.

Children’s Books – Winnie the Pooh

Since the 1950s European postal administrations have released stamps each year on a common theme; these are known as the Europa issues. This year members of PostEurop, the association of European public postal operators, are releasing stamps on the theme of Children’s Books. Royal Mail’s contribution is 10 stamps featuring characters from the Pooh stories by AA. Milne.

The stamps use E.H. Shepard’s book illustrations from the original Pooh stories, Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner and the book of verse, Now we are Six.

Winnie-the-Pooh sheet stamps

Winnie-the-Pooh sheet stamps

Pooh and his friends Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo and Owl feature on the six sheet stamps, while the friendship between Pooh and Christopher Robin is the focus of the four 1st Class stamps in the Miniature Sheet.

Children's Books miniature sheet

Children's Books miniature sheet

Two First Day of Issue postmarks are available, which also make use of Shepard’s illustrations.

Winnie-the-Pooh first day of issue postmarksq

Winnie-the-Pooh first day of issue postmarks

The enduring popularity of the Pooh stories will no doubt make these stamps a best-seller, although keen fans may wish to track down The Year of the Child commemorative issue (1979) which featured illustrations from Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as Winnie-the-Pooh.

Year of the Child stamp issue, 1979

Year of the Child stamp issue, 1979

The Winnie the Pooh stamps are available online from the Royal Mail website.

Grandpa England – The Public and Private Life of George V 100 Years On

On 21 October PhD candidate Matthew Glencross, who is working in the Royal Archives on the role of monarchy in the early 20th Century, will speak at the BPMA about King George V. Matthew kindly sent us the following preview of his talk.

King George V

King George V

Grandpa England, the name which the young Princess Elizabeth affectionately called her elderly grandfather in her younger years, in many ways sums up the man. In a twenty five year reign George V looked over Great Britain and the British Empire with an almost paternal instinct as the 458 million people who looked to him as King/Emperor went through much change.

His accession saw the pinnacle of Imperial Pomp and ceremony with the Delhi Durbar in 1911, when he became the only British monarch to be crowned Emperor of India, whilst the closing years of his reign saw the Empire begin its transformation into the Commonwealth with the Statute of Westminster in 1931.

At home George saw women being given the vote in the UK for the first time as well as the establishment of the Irish Free State. He also welcomed in Britain’s first Labour government, which although reluctant at first, he would later confess to his diary that Ramsay Macdonald was his favourite Prime Minister.

However, his reign is arguably most famed for the bloodshed of the First World War to which he uttered this simple line to the troops in the frontline, “I cannot share your hardships, but my heart is with you every hour of the day.” A sentiment he supported with regular visits to the soldiers in the trenches.

Therefore, Grandpa England makes a fitting title to this talk which will sweep over the late King’s life from his younger days as a carefree Sailor Prince to his final years in the shadow of an approaching European conflict. A man who watched over Britain as she passed through some of the most difficult times of the early 20th century, one hundred years since his accession we remember him.

Booking details for Grandpa England can be found on our website.

World Post Day

Today is World Post Day, marking the anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Postal Union.

The Universal Postal Union is a specialised agency of the United Nations which exists as an international forum for postal co-operation, establishing rules for international mail exchange and making recommendations to promote growth in mail volumes and ensures quality of service. Formed in 1874, it is the second oldest intergovernmental organisation in existence.

Paris Postal Conference centenary stamp, 1963

Paris Postal Conference centenary stamp, 1963

In 1862, Montgomery Blair, USA Postmaster-General, convened a forum to discuss simplification of the existing system of treaties between pairs or small groups of countries, and the first conference of the International Postal Commission was held in Paris on 11th May 1863. An international postal treaty was proposed to develop social, cultural and commercial communication but, while general principles were adopted for application to pacts between the administrations of fifteen individual countries, no formally binding agreement was established.

In 1868 a plan for a postal union between “civilised countries” was drawn up by Heinrich von Stephan, Superior Privy Councillor of Posts in the North German Confederation. The plan was submitted to the first International Postal Congress, which took place in Berne on 15th September 1874. Delegates from 22 countries, Austria and Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States of America, attended the conference, which resulted in the signing of the 1874 Treaty of Berne on 9th October. A collective convention governing the international postal service was established, and the General Postal Union came into effect on 1st July 1875.

Centenary of the Universal Postal Union stamps, 1974
Centenary of the Universal Postal Union stamps, 1974

Further expansion was inevitable due to rapid international development and in 1878, following the accession of the colonies of some member countries, in addition to other new members, the name was changed to the Universal Postal Union. The 1878 Paris Congress decided that membership should be open to any country, by means of a unilateral declaration, without consultation with existing members. This system lasted until 1st July 1948, when the union became a specialised agency of the United Nations.

75th Anniversary of the Universal Postal Union, 1949

75th Anniversary of the Universal Postal Union, 1949

Postal Union Congress £1 stamp

Postal Union Congress £1 stamp

The Convention was revised again by the 1947 Paris Congress and, as one of the conditions under which the UPU was recognised as an agency of the UN, accession requests required the approval of two thirds of the union’s membership. Membership is now open to all UN countries, but approval must still be sought by sovereign countries outside the UN. Currently the Universal Postal Union had 191 member countries.

Postal Union Congress low value commemorative stamps

Postal Union Congress low value commemorative stamps

According to the Universal Postal Union’s website today is a day to “create awareness of the role of the postal sector in people’s and businesses’ everyday lives and its contribution to the social and economic development of countries”. Why not post a letter to your friends to celebrate?

Why are postcodes significant and where did they come from?

In this series of blog posts, Peter Sutton, PhD candidate researching the post-war history of technology and industrial relations in the British Postal Service, offers some reflections on the history of the modern postcode. The significance of the postcode and its origins in the post-1945 era are considered followed by some archival examples tracing different aspects of its design along its journey from a specialised engineering concept to a universally recognised geographical referencing tool.

Home sweet WV3 8ZR. Remember your house now has a postcode

Poster promoting postcode usage, circa 1978

We think about postcodes regularly. Perhaps, as it gets lost in the noise of everyday activity, we aren’t aware of how often we do it or at least how many ways we benefit from them. In our correspondence, by ‘phone, in the car and in all manner of ways online, we engage with them in the everyday sense. A moment’s thought reveals the wide-ranging uses of postcodes, and yet, as a tool, it has many more hidden and no less important applications. After all, they are today used in demographic profiling, monitoring crime levels, determining insurance premiums, data analysis and marketing techniques – not to mention their role in house prices or catchment areas for schools and healthcare. In fact trying to list all applications of the postcode has been made virtually impossible by the internet where ordering a pizza or a beanbag can be done with little more than a postcode and a credit card. The geographers Jonathan Raper, David Rhind and John Shepherd have pointed to its diverse usage whilst acknowledging its postal origins in their book Postcodes: The New Geography (1992). “We need”, they write in their introduction, “something that provides the ability to divide up the country into small areas or large ones, is simple to understand, can be related to everyday experience and is easily handled by computers as well as human beings. This is the Postcode, born out of the postal system and founded upon postal addresses.” And yet it is a relatively recent invention. It differs in its form from country to country, but in all cases (including the British with its familiar, even reassuring, two-part alpha-numeric arrangement) it did not exist until the 1960s. Not, at least, in anything like a modern, widespread or standardised sense.

Your requisition may be delayed if your postcode is not quoted

Informational handstamp about using postcodes. (20th Century)

So where did the postcode come from? In Britain, Royal Mail can take the credit, or, as it was then, the General Post Office. Some codes were used locally in the nineteenth century postal service, such as in London where compass point abbreviations had evolved by the end of the First World War to include several sub-districts helping to simplify the Capital’s sorting and delivery. However it was not until after 1945 that a systematic, national coding scheme was seriously considered, as new types of technology and logistical techniques combined with growing financial pressures to create a powerful incentive to code the country. It was originally intended to reduce the information contained in a written address into a machine-readable code in order to help increase the speed and reduce the cost of mail delivery, and it continues to serve this purpose today. Its design began in earnest in the 1950s, primarily to enable the spread of mechanised sorting, leading to a major trial at Norwich from 1959 and then to a period from 1965-1972 when every British address received a code. The timing of this coincided with an early phase in the first national mechanisation programme known as the Letter Post Plan in which the national mail flow was concentrated onto large mechanised sorting offices. The modern postcode therefore has its origins in the long history of postal mechanisation and automation.

Let's meet under the GU1 3AA. Please use your postcode

Royal Mail poster about using postcodes, circa 1980

In the next post we delve a little further into the history of the postcode after 1945, summarising the simple economics that made it such an attractive scheme to Post Office officials as well as highlighting the diverse range of factors that helped shape its design.