Monthly Archives: July 2011

Royal Mail’s exhibition sheet for Philanippon 2011

The Philanippon 2011 world stamp exhibition starts today in Yokohama, Japan. In celebration, Royal Mail have produced this delightful sheet featuring origami objects representing Japanese culture.

Philanippon Stamp Sheet

The designer of the sheet is David Kimpton, an independent designer formerly of Hat-trick. Hat-trick have worked on a number of recent Royal Mail stamp issues including The Royal Society 350 Years.

The sheet is printed in lithography by Cartor Security Print and features 20 Hello stamps.

Final Olympics stamps

The final set of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games stamps have been issued today, exactly one year before the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. This is the third set of ten London 2012 stamps issued by Royal Mail in the lead-up to the Games; previous sets of ten stamps were issued in 2009 and 2010.

Final set of London 2012 stamps

Final set of London 2012 stamps

The London 2012 stamps are Royal Mail’s largest stamp commission since the Millennium series, which saw more than 100 stamps issued during 1999-2001. 30 UK artists and image makers have designed stamps for the London 2012 sets, many of whom were first time stamp designers.

Paralympic Sailing, Athletics, Volleyball, Wheelchair Rugby, Wrestling, Wheelchair Tennis, Fencing, Gymnastics, Triathlon and Handball feature on this final set of 10 stamps, which is subtitled ‘Get Ready for 2012’. Three first day of issue postmarks have been produced to accompany this set.

First day of issue postmarks

First day of issue postmarks

In addition to the usual range of philatelic products, Royal Mail has produced a composite stamp sheet which features all 30 stamps from the three Olympic and Paralympic stamp issues on a single sheet.

The stamps, first day covers and other products are available from the Royal Mail website.

Volunteers’ Event 2011

BPMA invited all its volunteers to an evening reception on Wednesday 13 July to say ‘thank you’ for all the hours of time and effort given to help in our work. The evening was kindly sponsored by UniversalMail UK.

Our volunteers

Our volunteers

We have a total of 19 volunteers, and they have contributed 500 hours of their own time in the year since our first volunteer celebration last July.

Although our volunteers work without financial recompense, we hope that each of them gets a high level of satisfaction from working with and for us. Some learn new skills or use the opportunity as career development. For others, volunteering at BPMA is a chance to do something different from their day job, or to use specialist skills and knowledge developed at work. And for our philatelic volunteers, working at BPMA is about simple enjoyment, the pleasure of meeting people or working on a subject they love.

Whatever their motivation, our volunteers have made splendid contributions to the BPMA in the past year. These have ranged from helping us be present at events we couldn’t otherwise attend, to working with schoolchildren, undertaking specialist cataloguing and digitisation, and hands-on work with objects and preservation.

As a token of our thanks, Helen Forde, Chair of the BPMA Trustees, presented a gift and ‘thank you’ certificate to everyone attending on the evening.

Sarah Cooper

Sarah Cooper

Sarah Cooper joined us as an enthusiastic ten week intern. She is helping across a wide spectrum of typical curatorial work. She is gaining experience in numerous areas, including object handling, documentation, movement control and storage issues. We have provided training in a small number of areas such as IPM (Pest Management), Oral History summarisation technique and Family History research. Sarah has also written several blogs for us, including last Friday’s piece on George Romney.

Alexia Lazou

Alexia Lazou

Alexia Lazou worked on the lantern slide collections review and cataloguing project doing background research into the lantern slides and the slide manufacturers. She also assisted in the sorting and repackaging of the lantern slides, contributing to their long-term preservation.

Don Staddon

Don Staddon

Don Staddon has been working on special stamp issues from 1985 to date, mounting the issued material. This is part of a large project to amalgamate all the material from each issue to tell that issue’s story in order, and is in preparation for the material eventually going online.

Tom Norgate

Tom Norgate

Tom Norgate has been working on creating listings of airmail and railway letters which will again eventually be added to the online catalogue. He also keeps our present day postal mechanisation up to date in consultation with Royal Mail engineers and others.

Julian Osley

Julian Osley

Julian Osley has been scanning and describing the H-series photographs from archive class POST 118 since October 2010. He has listed 540 photographs – assigned finding numbers and created descriptions on our collections management database; scanned 387 photographs and material dating from the 1960s-1970s, and attached images to the records.

Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson kicked the hornets nest when he agreed to take on the back-log of our ‘snap-shot’ mail collection. He has proactively managed the acquisition of new material; a job that Curatorial never had the time to commit to. He has also increased partner heritage organisations awareness of BPMA, and has improved storage, description and catalogue records of this collection.

Glenn Morgan

Glenn Morgan

Glenn Morgan, having almost completed the ‘keys’ project that formed much of his volunteering work last year, is now regularly helping the Curatorial team with collections management at Debden. He is giving the interior of our vehicles a clean out on a rota basis and pumping tyres, as well as looking at cycle storage and providing recommendations for the latter. This bench marking project will (hopefully) allow us to improve our storage of a ‘difficult’ group of objects, aiding us in completing a job that we do not have time for, and will prevent further damage to his part of the collection.

Ron Clarke

Ron Clarke

Ron Clarke attends many of the BPMA’s regular open afternoons at the Museum Store, Debden. He runs the shop for us and assists with the tours. He also takes responsibility for welcoming visitors as they arrive and helping to explain basic housekeeping. During tours he helps ensure visitors keep together and attends to any late comers. During the break in the tours Ron does a fantastic job looking after the BPMA shop, sales for stock are always higher when he is on duty!

Sarah Jenkins

Sarah Jenkins

Sarah Jenkins made significant headway on creating our printed and bound Accession Registers by creating and proofing the 2009 register. At 615 pages long at last count, this was no mean feat! Thanks to Sarah’s work, we were able to begin to meet the commitment we made to create these registers as part of our Museum Accreditation application. Sarah also assisted with some Saturday openings of the archive in the autumn. Sarah, a Museum Studies graduate currently working in the educational grants sector, much appreciated the opportunity to gain current experience with collections and collection management systems at the BPMA. She hopes it will help her gain a museum post after the end of her current contract, in September 2011.

To find out more about volunteering opportunities at the BPMA please see the volunteers page on our website.

How the Post Office Can Take You from Struggling Artist to Famous Society Portraitist!

Or at least this is just what it did for renowned artist George Romney in the 1760’s. Romney was one of the most popular portraitists in London during the second half of the 18th century, competing with the likes of Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds for commissions and patrons. He painted many leading society figures of his day—most notably Lady Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Horatio Nelson, who was Romney’s muse and appeared in over sixty of his paintings.

But Romney was not always the famous society artist that we know him as today. Born in Dalton-on-Furness on December 26, 1734, the son of a cabinet maker, Romney began his artistic career in Kendal at the age of twenty-one, apprenticed to a local artist. He was married in 1756 to Mary Abbott, but they were almost instantly separated after their marriage and remained apart for the better part of Romney’s life. He then moved to London in 1762, but continued to struggle financially and never found any great success, as Romney had very few acquaintances in London, which made it difficult to find commissions. However, this changed somewhat when Romney befriended Daniel Braithwaite, the clerk to the Postmaster General, who introduced him into the middle-class professional circles, an important society group eager to commission portraits. You can see Mr. Braithwaite’s appointment records in the Post Office below, in 1765 and 1768, which hail from the BPMA archives (POST 58/1).

Appointment of Daniel Braithwaite, 1765 (POST 58/1)

Appointment of Daniel Braithwaite, 1765 (POST 58/1)

Appointment of Daniel Braithwaite, 1768 (POST 58/1)

Appointment of Daniel Braithwaite, 1768 (POST 58/1)

After experiencing this success and finally earning some money as a portraitist, Romney then travelled to Paris in 1764 and Italy in 1772 to complete his training and study the works of the Old Masters, as most aspiring artists did in those days. He returned to London in great debt in 1775, but his new found training and his old success in the city helped him to win many important commissions, and Romney’s success as a portraitist was finally secured. It was during this wave of newfound popularity that Romney painted his portrait of Anthony Todd, the Postmaster General from 1762-65 and 1768-1798, whom he possibly had contact to through his friendship with Daniel Braithwaite.

Anthony Todd, George Romney, British Postal Museum & Archive Collection, c. 1779

Anthony Todd, George Romney, British Postal Museum & Archive Collection, c. 1779

Three years after painting the Postmaster General, in April 1782 at the height of his popularity, Romney met Emma Hamilton, then Emma Hart, only seventeen years old to his forty eight years, who he began to paint obsessively, in the form of real-life portraits, allegorical portraits and history paintings. This marked a change in his career, as he was so enamoured by his muse that he found it difficult to take on regular commissions, altering his portrait practice. Despite this change, with the deaths of Gainsborough in 1788 and Reynolds in 1792, George Romney still became the leading portraitist in London. He was continually overwhelmed with commissions until he was forced to return to Kendal and his estranged wife in 1799 as a result of his failing health. Romney died on 15 November 1802 in Kendal at age 68 as one of the most prolific and renowned portraitists of his time—a reputation he earned with the help of his early friends in the Post Office.

- Sarah Cooper, Intern

Postal appointment books now available online via Ancestry

by Gavin McGuffie, Acting Head of Archives and Records Management

Today, the BPMA in partnership with the popular family history website Ancestry.co.uk launched the first name searchable online genealogy resource featuring our material. The Post Office Appointment Books, 1737-1969, listing the men and women appointed to roles within the service over these years includes approximately 1.4 million individual entries.

Postman driver collecting at Shotwick, Cheshire. Women and children queueing in the street to hand over mail. (POST 118/1866)

Postman driver collecting at Shotwick, Cheshire. Women and children queueing in the street to hand over mail. (POST 118/1866)

The source of this data is archive class POST 58 (staff nomination and appointment records) which includes the appointment books from 1831 to 1960, these provide the majority of information for this publication. Prior to 1831 appointment records were not kept uniformly over the country and separate series were produced. In 1831 centralised employment records were first created by the Post Office by copying the relevant minute numbers and brief details relating to appointment, transfer, dismissal, resignation, retirement, or death.

The BPMA signed an agreement with the Generations Network Ltd, the company behind ancestry.co.uk, in March 2009. We already had this series microfilmed. In April 2009 two large boxes of microfilm were transported from Freeling House to Provo, Utah, where Ancestry’s headquarters and scanning unit are based. The material was duly copied and returned to us in September. In November 2009 the indexing (transcribing handwritten names) of the documents by Ancestry’s World Archives Project volunteers began. The results of all this work are now available for anyone with internet access to search.

Some people may have questions about how we have made this data available. There will be issues with accuracy and omissions; both in the original source document and the Ancestry indexing. More significantly people might ask why the BPMA hasn’t done the online publication itself and instead worked with a commercial partner like Ancestry.

The reality here is that the BPMA would not have had the resources to co-ordinate the indexing of over a million entries. Secondly searching for names is free, you only have to pay to access the digital copy of the original record. Finally this material is still available on microfilm (and occasionally original paper where we don’t have a surrogate available) at the BPMA for researchers to use (who can also access the ancestry website at Freeling House); charges will of course still apply for providing copies from microfilm.

Now all this data is online, I’ve been doing a little playing with the database and am pleased to say that out of my random five person search all have proved correct. Please let Ancestry know if you come across any errors.

Ancestry’s publicity emphasises the number of Patricias and Pats who worked for the Post Office. I thought I’d track down some other interesting names. There are eight instances of postal workers (sometimes a new appointment for the same person) named Letter, nine named Parcel (or Parcell), thirteen named Post, five named Van, a hundred or so Stamps, more than 850 Mans (mostly Manns!). I also checked my own name and found twelve McGuffies including Thomas McGuffie’s appointment as a letter carrier at Aberdeen in April 1847.

To all those who use this great resource in the next few weeks and months, good luck searching!

Search the Appointment Books on Ancestry.co.uk.

New found relative of Alfred Knight VC

by Chris Taft, Curator

One of the most useful and interesting aspects of any museum collection is how objects relate to people. Many of the most popular stories that can be told through the collections of the BPMA are those that link to people.

With the current increased interest in tracing family history another fascinating aspect is finding objects that provide a physical link to past members of a family.

One of the most personal objects in the BPMA collection are the medals awarded to Alfred Knight during the First World War. They have featured in a number of BPMA exhibitions including Last Post: Remembering the First World War back in 2008 and more recently Empire Mail: George V and the GPO in 2010.

In the past the BPMA have been in touch with a number of members of Knight’s family but recently we were contacted by Marcus Knight, a relative in another branch of the family.

Marcus Knight viewing Alfred Knight's medals

Marcus Knight viewing Alfred Knight's medals

Marcus had only recently learnt of his link with Alfred Knight and the fact that the former Post Office worker had received the Victoria Cross during the war.

The BPMA were delighted to be able to give Marcus the opportunity to view at first hand the medals awarded to his relative.

Find out more about Alfred Knight on our website. A touring version of our exhibition Last Post: Remembering the First World War is currently at The Royal Engineers Museum, Kent – see our website for details.

Photography competition

We are offering amateur photographers the chance to win a superb camera, as well as the opportunity to be a part of our upcoming photography exhibition The Post Office in Pictures.

The theme for the competition is ‘the Post Office in the UK’. Entrants are invited to submit an image that illustrates the theme, inspires the viewer, and evokes curiosity to find out more about what is pictured in the photo.

Among the Oasthouses, Kent, 1935 (POST 118/1151)

Among the Oasthouses, Kent, 1935 (POST 118/1151)

Finalists in each of the two categories (under and over 16 years old) will be displayed on the BPMA website, in selected media outlets, and during The Post Office in Pictures photo exhibition.

A panel of judges will select a Winner in both categories, who will receive:

Under-16 Winner: a Nikon Coolpix P500 camera *

Nikon Coolpix P500 camera

Over-16 Winner: a Nikon D3100 camera *

Nikon D3100 camera

These amazing prizes are provided courtesy of audiovisual retailer Sight 2 Sound.

For full details of the competition including guidance on eligibility and instructions for submission of entries please visit http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/photocomp.

To find out more about The Post Office in Pictures exhibition, which is a collaboration between the BPMA and Swindon-based artists from Artsite Ltd, visit http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/inpictures.

* A voucher alternative to each camera will be available on request.