Recently we welcomed the author Andrew Cook to the BPMA to speak about The Great Train Robbery, one of the most infamous crimes in British history. On 8th August 1963, £2.6 million (equivalent to over £45 million today) was stolen from a Royal Mail Travelling Post Office. The bulk of the money has never been recovered, and there has not been a single year since 1963 when one aspect of the crime or its participants has not been featured in the media.
The carriage following the robbery. © Thames Valley Police
But despite the wealth and extent of this coverage, a host of questions have remained unanswered: Who was behind the robbery? Was it an inside job? And who got away with the crime of the century? Fifty years of selective falsehood and fantasy has obscured the reality of the story behind the robbery. The fact that a considerable number of the original investigation and prosecution files on those involved and alleged to have been involved were closed, in many cases until 2045, has only served to muddy the waters still further.
When researching his book, The Great Train Robbery – the untold story of the closed investigation files, Andrew Cook spent a lot of time at the Royal Mail Archive, which holds extensive material about the robbery. In his talk at the BPMA Andrew explained how he did the research and what he found. A recording of this talk is now available as a podcast, which is free to listen to or download from our website, iTunes and SoundCloud.
Our exhibition The Great Train Robbery, the aftermath and the Investigations: A Story from the Archive is currently on a national tour, or viewable online at the Google Cultural Institute.
Posted in Archive, Events, Podcast
Tagged Andrew Cook, crime, free download, Google Cultural Institute, Great Train Robbery, Podcast, railway, railways, robbery, Ronnie Biggs, Royal Mail Archive, the aftermath and the investigations: a story from the Archive, The Great Train Robbery, The Great Train Robbery - the untold story of the closed investigation files, theft, train, trains, Travelling Post Ofice
Curious Addresses are the name given to envelopes where the address is presented in a different format, such as a poem or a picture. These are fascinating and beautiful works of art to view, but probably less of a joy to the poor postman or postwoman who has to decipher them!
The address has been scattered across and combined within this image. (E3243.10)
To mark the release of our latest podcast The Curious Culture of Letter Writing with Emma Harper, we’ve added seven curious addresses from our collection to Flickr. Can you work out the addresses? When you think you’ve got it out, click on the image to reveal the correct answer.
Read Emma Harper’s blog previewing The Curious Culture of Letter Writing.
In April we invited the writer, broadcaster, artist and musician David Bramwell to the BPMA to give a talk on the history of postal mischief. This turned out to be a fascinating and highly entertaining event, looking at the work of key players in this field including the ‘King of Mail Art’ Ray Johnson, Victorian prankster Reginald Bray and musician Genesis P.Orridge, who inadvertently changed the postal laws (owing to the ‘colourful’ nature of his homemade postcards).
Colourful mail art referenced in David Bramwell’s talk.
David also shared his own exploits in mail art, which saw him and a friend post unusual objects to each other – much to the amusement of local Post Office and Royal Mail staff.
Post Office staff were amused when this set of false teeth came in to be posted!
You can now listen to or download David Bramwell’s talk as a podcast via our website, iTunes or SoundCloud. And if David has inspired you to engage in some postal mischief do let us know about it!
A tropical leaf which was posted to David Bramwell.
Find out about our upcoming talks and other public events on the Events page of our website.
Posted in Philatelic, Podcast, Postal History, Talks
Tagged art, artists, David Bramwell, eccentric, false teeth, Genesis P.Orridge, letters, mail art, mailart, Post Office, postal service, postcards, posties, postmen, postwomen, pranks, prankster, Ray Johnson, Reginald Bray, Royal Mail, Throbbing Gristle, W. Reginald Bray
Oliver Carter-Wakefield, a research student at Kings College London, gave a talk at The Royal Mail Archive recently on disease and occupational illness amongst Post Office staff during the latter half of the 19th Century. It may not sound like the most interesting of subjects but Oliver’s talk generated a great deal of comment from our audience, and you can now hear a recording of it on our podcast.
Oliver’s findings were discovered through his research at The Royal Mail Archive. Consumption, necrosis and mental derangement were just some of the conditions Victorian postal workers suffered.
This and other previous talks we’ve presented are available to download for free from our website or from iTunes. Amongst the speakers you can hear are Tony Benn and the designer Brian Webb. Other podcasts cover topics including wartime, poster design, women’s suffrage and the production of stamps.
Chris West the author of First Class, a History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps gave a fascinating talk here at the BPMA in February which is now available to download for free as a podcast.
Drawing on his book, Chris showed how stamps reflected our history and vice-versa. The abdication of Edward VIII and the Thatcher era are just two of the subjects covered.
First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps by Chris West (cover)
The British Postal Museum & Archive podcast makes available recordings of our evening talks programme. Episodes can be downloaded from our website or via iTunes.
Find out more about our talks and other public events on the Events page of our website.
Buy Chris West’s First Class, a History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps from the BPMA online shop.
BPMA’s Digital Content Development Manager Martin Devereux gave a talk in June as part of our photography exhibition The Post Office in Pictures. This talk is now available to download for free as a podcast.
The talk looks at the foundation of the General Post Office Photograph Library in the 1930s, its subsequent development and re-establishment when the Post Office became a statutory corporation in 1969, through to its closure in the 1990s. The Photograph Library’s contents are now part of BPMA’s archive collection (aka the Royal Mail Archive), and in recent years Martin and other members of BPMA staff have been working to make the photographs more accessible.
Cow of Knockcloghrim – A photographer working for The Post Office Magazine in the 1930s tried to make this photo of the village post office more exciting by posing a cow which was grazing nearby in the foreground. Unfortunately the cow kept moving out of shot, hence this rather unimpressive result.
You can find the photos dotted about our website, available to browse on our online catalogue, and uploaded to social network sites such as Flickr and History Pin. The photos have also found new lives as greetings cards and print-on-demand products, and been used in several of BPMA’s recent exhibitions including Designs on Delivery, Empire Mail and, of course, The Post Office in Pictures.
In his talk Martin Devereux discusses some of his favourite images from The Post Office in Pictures exhibition and the wider collection, and tells some of the stories behind them.
Noel Edmonds promoting television licensing via a helicopter.
Download The Post Office in Pictures and the BPMA Photography Collection podcast for free from www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast.
Posted in Archive, Collection, Podcast
Tagged archives, archiving, archivist, archivists, Designs on Delivery, Empire Mail, Flickr, free download, General Post Office, General Post Office Photograph Library, GPO, GPO Photographic Unit, greetings cards, History Pin, Knockcloghrim, Martin Devereux, Noel Edmonds, photo, photo archive, photo exhibition, photo library, photographs, photography, photos, Podcast, Post Office, Royal Mail, The Post Office in Pictures, TV licence, TV licensing
Back in May, Science Museum Curator David Rooney gave a talk here at the BPMA on the Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica. The Collection comprises of stamps, postcards and other material related to powered flight and its social impact which was amassed by aeronautical enthusiast Winifred Penn-Gaskell. A recording of David Rooney’s talk about the Collection is now available to download as a free podcast from our website.
Winifred Penn-Gaskell was a distinguished collector of the early 20th Century who in 1938 became the first woman to be inscribed on the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists. Before her death she arranged for her collection to be left to the Science Museum. The collection includes covers from all of the early transatlantic flights and a great many other pioneering airmail flights, along with disaster mail, material related to early ballooning, prisoner of war mail and other items from the Second World War. A tiny fraction of this large collection is on permanent display in the Flight Gallery at the Science Museum.
Items from the Penn-Gaskell Collection
Flight in powered craft such as balloons and, later, aeroplanes was of huge interest to people in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries. The balloons and aircraft, and the men and women who flew in them, adorned a wide range of memorabilia. In his informative talk David Rooney gives examples of notable memorabilia in The Penn-Gaskell Collection, discusses the fascination with flight and offers an insight into Winifred Penn-Gaskell herself.
The Science Museum website gives further details on The Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica.
The BPMA website offers a number of other recorded talks on the Podcast page.
Read Laura Dixon’s blog on visiting the Science Museum and getting a sneak preview of The Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica.
Posted in Philatelic, Podcast, Postal History
Tagged aeronautica, aerophilately, aeroplanes, aircraft, airmail, airplanes, aviators, ballooning, flight, memorabilia, pioneer aviators, Podcast, postcards, power flight, prisoner of war mail, Roll of Distinguished Philatelists, science museum, Second World War, stamps, winifred penn-gaskell
We have recently uploaded a new podcast, a recording of our Curator Julian Stray’s recent talk Disaster at Sea! In his talk Julian Strays looks at the handful of mail ships (and one mail train) which never reached their destination.
Amongst the famous maritime disasters discussed are:
HMS Lutine, a naval ship lost in a storm which had a large quantity of gold bullion on board
The Antelope, a packet ship operating in the West Indies which surrendered to the French and had to sink the mail it was carrying
RMS Leinster, a mail boat torpedoed in the Irish Sea by the Germans at the end of World War I
RMS Titanic, the famous passenger liner whose mailroom staff all died when she sank in the Atlantic on her maiden voyage
Also discussed is the Tay Bridge Disaster, in which a railway bridge collapsed during a storm while a train carrying mail was crossing it.
A print representing the Perilous situation of the Crew of his Majesty’s Packet Lady Hobart (2009-0014)
You can listen to Disaster at Sea! on the BPMA podcast webpage, or subscribe to the BPMA podcast with iTunes. BPMA podcasts are available free of charge.
Posted in Podcast, Postal History
Tagged HMS Lutine, Lady Hobart, mail ships, mail train, maritime disaster, packet boats, packet ships, Podcast, railway, railway bridge collapse, railways, RMS Leinster, RMS Titanic, ships, Tay Bridge Disaster, The Antelope, Titanic, train
We have just uploaded a new podcast featuring Michael Sefi speaking at the BPMA about the Royal Philatelic Collection. Michael Sefi has been Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection since 2003 and he, along with several assistants, cares for and describes the collection, as well as enabling public access to it.
Bermuda ‘Perot’; one of only 12 surviving examples of this locally-produced stamp.
The Royal Philatelic Collection is Queen Elizabeth II’s private collection and includes material collected by her ancestors over the past 120 years. The majority of the holdings were collected by King George V, aka the philatelist king, but since his death the collection has been added to. It is considered to be the finest collection of its type, and consists almost entirely of British and Commonwealth material, including stamps, covers and stamp artwork, some famous errors and oddities, and a number of unique and highly valuable items.
‘Post Office Mauritius’. This item from the Royal Philatelic Collection is considered to be the finest of the four surviving examples of this stamp.
In his speech, given here in February, Michael Sefi described the history of the Collection and discusses some of its highlights. These include George V Silver Jubilee covers from almost all Commonwealth Countries, stamp artwork from the era of Edward VIII (some of which was repurposed for George VI), and the rarities illustrating this blog.
2d Tyrian Plum on a cover sent to the Prince of Wales the day before he became George V. The Tyrian Plum was never issued, and this is the only used example.
Items from the Royal Philatelic Collection are often shown publically. Upcoming displays include Masterworks Museum, Bermuda – 19 to 28 April 2012, Planète Timbres (Stamp Planet), Paris – 9-17 June 2012, and Australia 2013 World Stamp Exhibition, Melbourne – 10-15 May 2013. In 2010 the British Postal Museum & Archive and the Royal Philatelic Collection collaborated on Empire Mail: George V & the GPO at the Guildhall Art Gallery.
Download the Michael Sefi podcast from www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast or subscribe to the BPMA podcast on iTunes.
Posted in Philatelic, Podcast
Tagged Bermuda Perot, George V, Michael Sefi, philately, Podcast, Post Office Mauritius, Queen Elizabeth II, Royal Philatelic Collection, Silver Jubilee, stamp exhibition, stamps, Tyruan Plum
Last year our Curator Julian Stray gave a public talk on Mail Trains; this is now available to download as a podcast. The talk looks at the long and often strained association between the Post Office and the rail companies.
Interior of Travelling Post Office, by George Charlton, 1935 (POST 109/375)
Both underground and over, in sealed vans and Travelling Post Offices, mails have been conveyed, sorted and accelerated since 1830. Suffering the occasional mishap or celebrated by film makers (such as in the film Night Mail), the carriage of mail is considerably reduced today. Julian Stray’s talk touches on what went wrong, what changed, and why.
The talk is based on extensive primary research completed for the upcoming joint BPMA/Shire publication Mail Trains.
Download or subscribe to the BPMA podcast by visiting our website or through iTunes.
Visit our website to view a selection of items from our collection on the theme of Mail by Rail.
Posted in Podcast, Postal History
Tagged General Post Office, GPO, mail train, mail trains, Night Mail, Post Office, railway, railways, Royal Mail, Travelling Post Office