Monthly Archives: September 2012

Final Post & Go British Farm Animals stamps issued: Cattle

Royal Mail rounds off its British Farm Animals series of Post & Go stamps with its third and final issue featuring six examples of cattle breeds found in the British Isles.

The Post & Go Cattle stamps issued today include the extremely endangered Irish Moiled, one of Britain’s oldest the White Park, and one world’s best known breeds, the Aberdeen Angus.

Post & Go Cattle issue

Post & Go Cattle issue

The Aberdeen Angus also has royal connections: HRH Prince Charles is the patron of the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society and has a successful herd at Highgrove.

The other cattle featured on the stamps are the Welsh Black, Highland and Red Poll.

As with all previous Post & Go pictorial stamps, Royal Mail has commissioned Kate Stephens to oversee the designs, which are illustrated by wildlife artist Robert Gillmor. The British Farm Animals series began with sheep in February, followed by pigs in April.

The Cattle Post & Go pictorial stamps will be available from Post & Go terminals in 146 Post Office branches. The initial design used for the self-adhesive stamps, which are overprinted with the postage on demand, featured the profile of Her Majesty the Queen created by Arnold Machin and used on UK definitive stamps. Pictorial versions of these new kinds of stamps were introduced in September 2010 with the first in the Birds of Britain series.

Post & Go terminals allow customers to weigh their letters and packets, pay for and print postage stamps and labels without the need to visit the counter. The first Post & Go machine was trialled in The Galleries Post Office in Bristol in 2008. Since 2008 over 220 terminals have been installed in 146 branches.

Two First Day of Issue handstamps are available to accompany this issue.

Post & Go Cattle - First Day of Issue handstamps

Post & Go Cattle – First Day of Issue handstamps

Memories of London 2012

Royal Mail is issuing its final set of stamps marking the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games today. Entitled Memories of London 2012 the set is the first to feature the much-praised Games Makers – the army of volunteers who are credited with helping make London 2012 one of the most successful Games ever.

Memories of London miniature sheet

Memories of London miniature sheet

Memories of London - Games Makers stamp

Memories of London – Games Makers stamp

More than 70,000 people volunteered to help the millions of visitors who flocked to London during the summer. Now the Games Makers are commemorated on a stamp featuring an image of a group of volunteers, in their distinctive purple and red uniforms, with the famous London 2012 Olympic stadium in the background.

Memories of London - Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony stamp

Memories of London – Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony stamp

Memories of London - Paralympics GB Procession stamp

Memories of London – Paralympics GB Procession stamp

Other memories featured on the stamps include the spectacular fireworks display during the Paralympic Opening Ceremony and a First Class stamp shows the ParalympicsGB team entering the stadium to conclude the procession of the participating athletes.

Memories of London - Olympics Closing Ceremony stamp

Memories of London – Olympics Closing Ceremony stamp

The final stamp shows a scene from the Olympic Closing Ceremony, in which athletes and officials of all the countries formed a human version of the Union Flag in the Olympic Stadium.

The stamps are printed within a miniature sheet, the border of which features a quote from Lord Coe, reflecting on the success of both Games.

Two First Day of Issue handstamps are available to accompany this issue.

Memories of London - First Day of Issue handstamps

Memories of London – First Day of Issue handstamps

For more information on the Memories of London 2012 stamp issue visit

Autumn Stampex 2012

Stampex is starting again this Wednesday, 26 September 2012 and the Friends of the BPMA will be there to chat about upcoming events, activities and the latest postal heritage products.

Stalls at Stampex.

Stalls at Stampex.

The Business Design Centre Islington in London N1 will open its doors for the popular stamp show on Wednesday at 11.30am and will be open until 7pm on that day, 10am to 6pm on Thursday and Friday and 10am to 5pm Saturday, 29 September 2012. Admission is free – so come along to visit the Friends at stand 20 and browse the various stands by stamp dealers, see the display on Australasian Philately or Royal Mail’s range of Olympic & Paralympics Games Memories, Post & Go stamp issues and much more.

There will also be information about the BPMA’s plans for the new museum & archive in Calthorpe House at the Friends’ stand as well as the opportunity to buy tickets for the talk by designer Kate Stephens and Royal Mail design manager Catharine Brandy, in which they share the journey through the working process behind the Diamond Jubilee Stamps. The talk is taking place on Thursday, 27 September 2012 at 7pm in the Phoenix Centre, next door to The Royal Mail Archive.

Stamps from the recent Diamond Jubilee issue.

Stamps from the recent Diamond Jubilee issue.

Fascinating images from our touring exhibition The Post Office in Pictures will also be on display at the stand as well as more material based on our collections.

There will be special offers on BPMA products and the chance to browse through the latest publications such as Bob Wilcock’s The London 1948 Olympic Games – A Collectors Guide book, or a beautiful edition of the map of Mail Steamship routes, designed by MacDonald Gill in 1937, with an introduction by BPMA Curator Julian Stray. For the full selection of postal heritage products, see our online shop at

Friends of the BPMA stall.

Friends of the BPMA stall.

The Friends of the BPMA are looking forward to meeting you there!

Royal Mail cigarette cards

The collections we care for at BPMA are very diverse, ranging from vehicles and sorting equipment to stamps and personnel records. Our goal is to collect things that reflect the role of people in the postal service, and the innovations in technology to meet the demands of a changing world – the cigarette cards in our collection certainly do that!

Previously we have blogged on cigarette cards from the Wilkinson Collection and others produced by Wills’s focusing on the Australian Post Office but now we have added a set of 50 cards on the theme of “Royal Mail” to our Flickr site.
The Royal Mail cigarette cards were produced by W. Clarke & Son (and later reissued by Ogden’s) in the early 20th Century. They show people, equipment and events connected with the postal service up to the late 19th, or possibly early 20th, century.

'A Mail Coach in a Snow-Drift' - Ogden's Cigarette Card (2010-0469/09)

‘A Mail Coach in a Snow-Drift’ – Ogden’s Cigarette Card (2010-0469/09)

While many of the cards look at postal operations in Great Britain, such as mail coaches and the Travelling Post Office, others show postal services in what was then the British Empire. A mail coach in a snow-drift in rural England contrasts with the “Mashonaland Zebra Mail Team”, depicted crossing a river near Fort Tuli in South Africa.

'The Mashonaland Zebra Mail Team.' - Ogden's Cigarette Card (2010-0469/17)c

‘The Mashonaland Zebra Mail Team.’ – Ogden’s Cigarette Card (2010-0469/17)

Similarly, the military-style uniform of the New South Wales postman is markedly different to the dress of the African postal runner, who “in youth, perchance, owed allegiance to a Zulu chief”.

'Postman, Sydney, N.S. Wales' - Ogden's Cigarette Card (2010-0469/21)

‘Postman, Sydney, N.S. Wales’ – Ogden’s Cigarette Card (2010-0469/21)

'An African Postal Runner' - Ogden's Cigarette Card (2010-0469/22)

‘An African Postal Runner’ – Ogden’s Cigarette Card (2010-0469/22)

Also amongst the cards are several intriguing postal stories, including the much-loved Mail Coach attacked by a lioness (as previously blogged about), and the more obscure St Kilda Mail Bag, a strange and possibly unreliable method of sending mail from this remote island to the mainland.

Visit Flickr to see the Royal Mail cigarette cards.

Majestic Magic

BPMA is participating in a Family Learning Fun Day at Coram Fields, near Russell Square tube station, this Saturday, 22nd September. The theme will be knights, princes, princesses, kings and queens, and it is a free fun day for families with children up to 12.

Attendees will have an opportunity to make fantastic crowns and tiaras, design their own maze and create a wonderful castle. There will be storytelling and music for the little ones and the whole event takes place indoors so you won’t need to worry about the weather spoiling the fun!

Make a crown at the Majestic Magic day.

Make a crown at the Majestic Magic day.

The BPMA will be offering two hands-on activities. In “Stamp Champs”, families will have a go at a card-matching quiz – trying to match pictures of British kings and queens to their stamps. In “Glam Stamps”, parents and children will get to practise their art and design skills, using colouring pencils, collage materials and jewels to make their own glamorous stamp to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Majestic Magic Family Fun Day will take place in Coram’s Fields, 93 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1DN, on Saturday 22nd of September from 1 to 5pm.

Ask A Curator

On Wednesday three members of our Curatorial team will be taking over our Twitter account as part of Ask A Curator Day.

Our curators manage our existing collections and actively acquire new objects to add more detail to the story of the British postal service. The objects within our collection include letter boxes, stamps, postal vehicles, paintings, hand stamps, archive documents and much more.

The three curators tweeting will be:

11am-1pm – Sarah Jenkins, who works with our collections including the recently digitised lantern slides.

1-3pm – Chris Taft, our Senior Curator. He has recently been working on our Mail Rail project to preserve rolling stock from this fascinating underground railway.

3-5pm – Emma Harper, who is organising the curatorial aspects of our move to a new home at Calthorpe House, and has previously worked with the Wilkinson Collection of pillar box memorabilia.

Chris Taft poses with Mail Rail rolling stock recovered from the underground tunnels at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office in London.

Chris Taft poses with Mail Rail rolling stock recovered from the underground tunnels at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office in London.

If you have any questions for our curators tweet them on @postalheritage this Wednesday. Don’t forget to include the hashtag #AskACurator.

The London Postal School

Regular readers of this blog will have seen our recent post about the digitised lantern slides of Foreign Postal Workers we recently added to Flickr. We have now added more digitised lantern slides to Flickr, this time related to the London Postal School (LPS).

'London Postal School. Postmens Retiring Room. Tea Time' - Lantern Slide (2012-0049/13)

‘London Postal School. Postmens Retiring Room. Tea Time’ – Lantern Slide (2012-0049/13)

The London Postal School was, as the name suggests, the General Post Office’s training facility for postal workers. The School taught trainees how to perform a variety of tasks and functions, from serving on a Post Office counter to sorting and delivering the mail.

As in today’s workplace training sessions students at the London Postal School attended illustrated presentations related to their work, but this being the first half of the 20th Century the students viewed lantern slide shows rather than PowerPoint presentations. The slides from these shows are now part of our Museum Collection, and they give an interesting insight into postal operations of the period.

One lantern slide shows the Post Office branch at Charing Cross, which is described as “very old”. With its ornate exterior and cramped interior it is markedly less modern than the Post Offices at Kentish Town and Albemarle Street.

'London Postal School. Very old P.O. Charing Cross B.O. Exterior' - Lantern Slide (2012-0049/17)

‘London Postal School. Very old P.O. Charing Cross B.O. Exterior’ – Lantern Slide (2012-0049/17)

There are also a number of slides showing airmail operations, then a new and groundbreaking mode of postal delivery, and some showing the mail bag exchange system used on the Travelling Post Offices, rail services on which mail was collected, sorted and dispatched on the move.

'London Postal School. T.P.O. Bags in Position. Net down' - Lantern Slide (2012-0049-27)

‘London Postal School. T.P.O. Bags in Position. Net down’ – Lantern Slide (2012-0049-27)

Finally, there are a variety of slides showing sorting offices and the various technologies employed there such as chutes, the “Creeper” conveyor belt system (below), and the stamping machine and facing table. What the trainees made of all this we’ll never know!

'London Postal School. Mails being conveyed by ''Creeper'' from/ the Landing Stage to Customs Baggage Room' - Lantern Slide (2012-0049/40)

‘London Postal School. Mails being conveyed by ”Creeper” from/ the Landing Stage to Customs Baggage Room’ – Lantern Slide (2012-0049/40)

Visit our Flickr site to see the London Postal School lantern slides.

Sports and Participation in the Post Office

As a summer of sport draws to a close, we take a look at sports and participation in the Post Office, through the research carried out by six students during the BPMA and University of the Third Age (U3A) Shared Learning Project at the beginning of 2012…

The U3A students

The U3A students

In the course of his research, Gwyn Redgers found that the Post Office has had a long history of participation in sports – much of which was initiated as a way of coping with split shifts. Postmen in the late 19th Century worked long hours, and often found their duties split into three or four attendances in a single day – meaning that many would start work at 6am and not finish until 10pm. Whilst some postmen took to the pub, others took up sports.

Members of the Gloucester Post Office Recreation Club, 1898.

Members of the Gloucester Post Office Recreation Club, 1898.

By the 1930s, most large towns had Post Office football, cricket and tennis teams and were starting to develop the more recent spread of sports and recreation Associations. Sheilah Lowe scoured the sports pages of The Post Office Magazine (1933-1966) for records of both these groups and of sporting individuals, and discovered a wealth of information – including stories about staff who competed in Olympic Games.

In 1952, the magazine notes that a Mr. K. A. Richmond, Night Telephonist (London Telegraph Region Directory Enquiries) was selected for the Heavyweight Wrestling at the Helsinki Games and took a bronze medal. A little online research revealed that Ken Alan Richmond was a former whale ship crewman in Antarctica, turned wrestler, with another significant claim to fame: he was the shirtless man seen banging the enormous gong which preceded the opening credits of the Rank Organisation’s films, such as Great Expectations and Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Sheilah also found that race walker Ray Middleton, of Golders Green sub-district Office competed in Tokyo 1964, finishing 12th in the 50km walk. Ray is a notable Post Office athlete, with a career spanning the 1960s and extending into the 1970s, during which he won 2 golds, 8 silvers and 4 bronze medals in British Championships and represented England internationally on 11 occasions. He won silvers at the 1963 Lugano Cup and the 1966 Commonwealth Games, and was the first winner of a postal sporting event that has taken place annually since 1962: the Postman’s Walk.

Sylvia Chubbs researched the history of this competitive speed walk event, which is open to postal workers across the UK, from novices to trained athletes. Covering laps of a one mile circuit around Coram’s Field near Mount Pleasant in London, participants originally wore full uniform and carried a sack. Nowadays, the rules are a little more relaxed – the sack is no longer required and shorts and trainers are allowed.

In 1970, 35-year old Ray Middleton led a team of British postmen to victory in the European Postal Road Walking Championship at Crystal Palace – beating teams of competitors from 13 other countries. An article in The Daily Mirror celebrated the success, whilst Ray was later named as one of the top celebrities of the year by comedian Charlie Chester. In September 2011, Middleton attended the 50th Annual Postman’s walk, seeing Dave Allen win for the sixteenth time – making him the most successful competitor in the event ever.

Ray Middleton at the 50th Postman's Walk, 2011, with BPMA Curator Vyki Sparkes and BPMA Access & Learning Manager Andy Richmond.

Ray Middleton at the 50th Postman’s Walk, 2011, with BPMA Curator Vyki Sparkes and BPMA Access & Learning Manager Andy Richmond.

From postmen stomping around London, we move on to look at stamps – the topic of research for three of the U3A students. Olga Selivanova became interested in a stamp she had collected in her native Russia. It showed the bronze statue “Let Us Beat Swords Into Ploughshares” – presented by the Soviet Union to the United Nations in 1959.

This artwork was inspired by a biblical passage (Isaiah 2:4) describing the conversion of weapons for use in peaceful civilian applications. The sentiment of this quote has obvious parallels with the peaceful ideals of the Olympic movement, with many activities related to combat – such as archery, javelin, shooting, boxing, taekwondo, and judo – practised in the Games, but always in keeping with the Olympic Creed and Values of friendship and respect.

Another such sport – fencing – was the subject of Pat Boumphrey’s research. She found many examples of stamps featuring fencing, including ones from places as diverse as Afghanistan and Vietnam. As a keen fencer herself, Pat penned a little ditty to inspire Team GB’s female athletes in advance of London 2012:

There are bad times just around the corner,
The horizon’s gloomy as can be.
The British male,
May often fail,
So English girls awaken,
And save the nation’s bacon…

It certainly seems to have done the job: the Team GB women won 10 gold medals and 22 in total, making it their most successful Games ever. At least some of that success can be credited to Dame Marea Hartman. Ray Watkins found a stamp dedicated to Hartman, who is credited with the integration of British women athletes into full competition and parity with male athletes. She was Chairwoman of the Women’s Commission of the International Athletic Federation for 13 years, as well as the first woman to serve as President of the Amateur Athletic Association from 1991 to 1994.

Dame Marea Hartman stamp from the Famous Women issue, 6 August 1996.

Dame Marea Hartman stamp from the Famous Women issue, 6 August 1996.

Finally, to bring our story full circle, we return to Gwyn, who found the following quote from an early edition of the St. Martin’s circular. It shows that, as with many things, the Post Office led the way in encouraging British sportswomen:

Not the least of the many medical and scientific discoveries in the 19th Century is the fact that athletic exercise can be indulged in by women without injury to their bodily health. … we have discovered that, as a result of open air exercise, women retain their youth for a longer period than at any time in our history

from St Martin’s 1898, pg. 395.

- Andy Richmond, Access & Learning Manager

Designing the Diamond Jubilee stamps

Earlier this year we marked the 60th year of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign by opening our Diamond Jubilee exhibition. The exhibition includes stamp artwork, issued stamps and other material, and it can be viewed for free by visiting the Royal Mail Archive.

To complement the exhibition we have invited designer Kate Stephens and Royal Mail Design Manager (Stamps & Collectibles) Catharine Brandy to discuss the recent Diamond Jubilee stamp issue at an event on Thursday 27th September. The pair will give a presentation looking at the design of the stamps which will be followed by a question and answer session.

Stamps from the recent Diamond Jubilee issue.

Stamps from the recent Diamond Jubilee issue.

The event takes place at the Phoenix Centre, next to the Royal Mail Archive, at 7pm on Thursday 27th September and costs £3.00 (£2.50 concession). Book your tickets online by visiting our website.

Get an online preview of the Diamond Jubilee exhibition at

Open Day with the Post Office Vehicle Club

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Post Office Vehicle Club (POVC) whose members document, preserve and operate a wide range of postal and telephones vehicles. On Saturday 15th September there is a rare opportunity to see some these vehicles exhibited alongside items from our own collection at an Open Day at our Museum Store in Debden, Essex.

The Museum Store is where we house our larger exhibits, including letter boxes, sorting equipment, furniture and vehicles. Until we are able to provide a full museum experience at our new home at Calthorpe House the Museum Store offers the only opportunity to get up close to our collection. We run regular guided tours of the Store but these are very popular and only a few tickets are available for the remainder of this year. The Open Day will offer a great opportunity to see items from our collection as well as some of the vehicles preserved by POVC members.

Morris series Z telephone utility in original wartime colours with blackout markings.

Morris series Z telephone utility in original wartime colours with blackout markings.

On display will be 18 vehicles from POVC members including a wartime Morris series Z GGY 20 telephone utility (in original wartime colours, complete with blackout markings), the unique Commer Avenger/Harrington mobile telegraph unit SLO 24, a newly restored Minivan mailvan PTV 231M, and a Bedford HA mailvan KCJ 759P. A selection of Morris Minors and BSA Bantam telegram motorcycles are expected, while two Morris JB mailvans from the 1950s are promised along with a restored Dodge Spacevan television detector van CNJ 423T in arctic blue livery.

Dodge Spacevan television detector van in arctic blue livery.

Dodge Spacevan television detector van in arctic blue livery.

The Open Day with the Post Office Vehicle Club is a free event to which all are welcome. For the enthusiast there will be illustrated presentations from POVC members and our Curator Julian Stray, whilst children will be able to enjoy a range of family-friendly activities.

Pillar boxes at our Museum Store in Essex.

Pillar boxes at our Museum Store in Essex.

For further details of the event and information on how to get to the Museum Store, please see our website.